I live near Stratford-upon-Avon, home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and I’ve been to see very many plays there over the years.
And the peculiar thing is that most productions of Shakespeare’s tragedies are a lot funnier than his comedies.
In the tragedies he uses comedy as a counterpoint to the disasters that are happening so as to emphasise the drama, whereas the comedies tend to be convoluted pun-laden tales of twins, gender swaps and mistaken identity. He even ladled humour into his histories with spurious comic characters like Sir John Falstaff strutting the stage.
So why did Shakespeare, who never wasted a word, go to so much trouble to put humour in all his plays? The answer is that he was an entertainer and he knew just how important humour was to the entertainment that he provided.
This is why, 400 years later, he is still entertaining us. And it is why, as an industry, we can learn from him.
In my travels I once met a guy who was a full time, professional, comic writer for television. I have since seen his name on many programme credits.
He told me that when they have finished the script for a big Hollywood film they send it to several comic writers. These writers then get paid $10,000 (this was several years ago) for every one of their gags that ends up in the final film. They are, quite literally, living by their wits.
We see the resultant humour in all genres of film. Hollywood knows how to entertain so even all action heroes like Terminator have lots of funny lines. Once again, as an industry, we should be learning from this.
So what should we do? I don’t think that games designers, programmers or producers are the right people to come up with gags, no matter how much of a comedian they may be.
I think this is a job for the professionals, using the Hollywood model, though obviously at a much lower rate per gag. Also, I cannot think of a genre of game that wouldn’t be improved with more humour. The people playing the games are all humans, after all. Humour is also a brilliant way to bring a range of human emotions into games as discussed in this article.
Your comments on this don’t have to be funny! Any input to these articles is always much appreciated.