Boston GameLoop 2016: How To Make Funny Games

Boston GameLoop is an annual game development unconference. I’ve been going for years, and I’m always impressed by the sheer wealth of knowledge available. I’ve written up my notes below, but I haven’t fleshed them out this year and they’re more than a bit incoherent (apologies for that!) I hope they’ll still be useful.

GameLoop participants: I have not attached anyone’s names to these writeups, and I’ve mostly scrubbed personal anecdotes out to maintain the privacy of attendees. Please contact me (carolyn at if:

  • I included something you said that should not be included, or
  • I quoted you without attributing (when you would prefer attribution), or
  • You think I got something from the discussion wrong


How to Make Funny Games

(To a large extent, this is a list of citations. On the plus side, if you play the citations, they are funny.)

Some ways to bring humor into video games:

  • Breaking character, especially in deadpan/serious moments
  • Referential humor
  • Subversion of tropes
  • Sarcastic narrator
  • Dialogue-driven humor (LucasArts everything)
  • Physics humor (Octodad, QWOP, etc)

Overcooked <– restaurant management

Stay committed to the joke (Saint’s Row 3 zombie voice)

Pit of 1,000 Snakes; Jazzpunk

NASA moon exploration game <– search for the video; players took a really serious game and made it really funny

Multiplayer games produce social humor

Humor can be interpreted as a reaction to transgression; games are a rules set that players can transgress against

WoW – the disease that spread (Corrupted Blood incident)

Pac-Man 2 <– look up smug Pac-Man (dramatic irony)

The Sims <– simulation and variables and chaos

Catlateral Damage <– physics

Most comedy-centric games come from indies. AAA is frightened of humor, and humor is risky.

Level design: subverting expectations

The Narrator Is A Dick

Saint’s Row 3: absurdity

Flip side, humor can come when something super light pitches to dark (uncomfortable laughter)

Parody: Press X to Not Die

Situational awareness: What does your audience expect?

  • Time to crate (article)

Dangers of humor: will your audience want to buy your game if they’ve already seen it played on Twitch?

  • Modern world of game as TV show

Portal 2 <– humor and gameplay, people want to watch and play

Goat Simulator <– played for humor value only, not really played as a game

Procedural generation: leverage for surprise, streamers won’t see all content

Branching humor and content: streamers won’t see all content

The Stanley Parable <– demo didn’t match the game; also, changing voiceover while keeping set in places allowed for more bang for buck

Unlock additional content <– achievement system to expand horror

Call of Duty – DLC announcer packs add humor

Rick and Morty VR humor game (upcoming), Justin Roiland – Squanchtendo

Tim Schaefer everything


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