« New Daedalus Content | Main | No See Ums »

May 11, 2005

Comments

1.

I played on the same server as 'My Little Pwnies' before moving on from WoW. My biggest beef is that the truly l33t know that 'pwn' is pronounced 'own'.

I prefer 'Ghouls Gone Wild'.

2.

on Thunderhorn, European Server, we have a gnome-only guild called 'Gnomes Lives Forever'! :D

3.

Of course, the pinnacle of the "you had to be there" humor is the recent Star Wars Episode 3 http://www.flapdoodle.org/sw/SW_ep3_trailer_captioned.wmv>l33t trailer. So much MMOG jargon in there that the humor was largely wasted on my non-gaming friends. If you don't know what "LFG" means, or what "TK'ing" is, then the reaction to the trailer seems to be "Whaa..?"

I'm just glad I'm married to someone who gets it. =)

4.

I think this ties directly into the previous ideas of ingame languages. Much of this humor is difficult to understand if you don't know what certain words or acronyms mean.

World of Warcraft is perfect for creating humor. I have seen more than a dozen movies that made me laugh so hard I cried. And I still laugh at some of the ingame jokes when you type /silly.

I especially like the human (i think) joke poking fun at The Lord of the Rings.

5.

WoW does hold some good potential for humour. Maybe the slightly cartoonish nature of the art encourages this, but there are players with an excellent sense of humour.

My funniest moment was an Uldaman instance run, 3 gnomes and 2 dwarfs...it looked funny to start with, but one of the gnomes insisted on trying to get the gnomish-shrink ray to backfire on a boss so the whole group would get even smaller. The amazing thing is, with no advance planning or discussion, and really little point because nobody else would see it outside of the group, we were all totally for this. Even when we ran the risk of a wipe trying to pull this off.

When it succeeded it was a priceless moment. Try explaining 5 seconds of miniature-midgets battling a giant rock being worth it to a non-gamer.

6.

I've been appreciating the insightful content on Terra Nova for several weeks now and would like to set my lurking aside to add that the most recent guild name to elicit a grin, particularly as it came on the heels of a discussion on international politics, was "Gnomeland Security".

7.

The lesser known MMOG "EVE Online" has a daily grind based around mining ore, refining the ore into minerals, then using these minerals to manufacture various items for spacecraft. So, round about the time of the Iraq War, I was most amused to find a guild nicking the US Army's catch phrase. They thus took on the name... "Shock and Ore"

Such types also delighted in telling people to watch their language on chat channels, because there were "miners present".

There's my two cents.

8.

I'd like to play devil's advocate for a moment. And nothing of what I'm going to say should be construed as a personal attack on anyone's sense of humor.

From the very beginning computer game creators have always been partial to a winking, self-referential style of humor. It was very funny to me in Colossal Cave and early Infocom games to have the designer stick in a bit of dialogue or a descriptive phrase that I recognized as refering to the game, me the player, or the world outside the game. In a small way it made me feel smarter for recognizing the reference. These were not games all that concerned with immersion. The player base was small and the demographics were limited.

However over the years as games have reached out to the mainstream; as graphics, sound, voice-acting etc. have all drawn them closer to other media, that style of humor has never really changed. It is not the prevalent style of the sitcom, comedy films, or comic strips, all enjoyed by a far broader audience than games.

Also, immersion depends on the careful maintainence of the fourth wall. This style of humor shatters that wall. The players' willing suspension of disbelief is challenged, not supported.

Now, it's a very easy style of humor to work in, which is we see so much of it, and why players are able to participate in it. It is reactive to some other original creativity. Most of the humor of the general populace is reactive in this way. They are not out there inventing new jokes, they are repeating them. They are not creating new absurdities, they are re-positioning old ones. There are no Robin Williamses or Jim Carreys out there designing computer games.

This style is all well and good for that portion of the current MMOG player base who are uninterested in virtual worlds as worlds, but only as games to be beaten. And these certainly form the current core of our audience.

I would submit though that this style of non-immersive commentary-as-humor is just one of many reasons why the mass market doesn't take to our worlds with quite the enthusiasm we might expect. It's even more dangerous in worlds like Star Wars Galaxies and Matrix Online based on IPs where the parameters of the worlds allow for humor created in the context of the universes they inhabit.

Explicit numbers to track; the rigid level and loot paradigm; and yes this style of humor, work against all that effort we put into immersion with our graphics, sound and fury. For a few easy chuckles now we may be yet again thumbing our noses at the mainstream, and condemning MMOGs to their little niche that even after 10 (?) years is barely more than a faint blip on the extreme edge of the mass market's radar.

Lee

9.

I dunno, Lee. Sure, the mass market isn't going to get "My Little Pwnies" (man, that's funny), but then every niche has its own humor as it has it's own jargon.

Personally, in terms of things limiting us from the broader market, I suspect an over-geeked sense of humor is somewhere around #135 on the list -- well below classics like derivative settings and themes, tedious and overly aggressive gameplay, difficult interfaces, steep learning curves, obscure or irrelevant goals, high time requirements, a culture that disparages new or part-time players, blatant adolescent sexuality, and poor characterization, among others.

10.

(Argh, a misplaced apostrophe, and in a response to Lee! I'll be flayed alive at e3!)

Oh, and for more geek humor fun see G4TV's ad for their E3 coverage.

11.

In Star Wars Galaxies, there is a Pilot Profession in which you are flying for the Empire called the "Imperial Inquisition" and of course the Devs just had to sneak in the phase "Nobody expects the Imperial Inquistion".
(Monty Python skit if your not in the know)

I got a good chuckle out of it!

12.

Lee said, It was very funny to me in Colossal Cave and early Infocom games to have the designer stick in a bit of dialogue or a descriptive phrase that I recognized...

I think it's important to point out that almost all of the humorous bits posted here have been created by players, not by developers. Sure, WoW has a lot of humor built in (such as the /silly that makes your character say "I like large posteriors and I cannot prevaricate"), but I think the majority of game humor that makes us laugh so hard we cry are things like the fan-subtitled Star Wars trailer and the photo journal of the army of girl gnomes with pink hair. The humor placed by developers on purpose has never gotten more than a "har har" out of me; its the things making fun of our gaming culture, by others that share that culture, that really get me laughing. I don't think that we as developers should be worried about the things players do to break their own immersion. And as for other players breaking your immersion, well, that's what RP servers are for.

Beyond that, should we think twice before putting in a joke like the SWG quote Oracomm posted? Probably wouldn't be a bad idea to limit the amount of immersion-breaking humor we ourselves put into our games, but we have to keep in mind that even if we don't break immersion, players will all on their own.

13.

When anyone talks about humor breaking immersion, or almost anything involving the phrase 'magic circle', I wonder what games they're playing. I've tried most of the big MMOs to come out since UO, and while I enjoyed many of them at least for awhile, none of them ever do anything like 'suspend disbelief'. Maybe if I never interacted with anyone. I really find the prevasive culture to be 180 degrees away from that.

Perhaps I played games that were too big. The only game I've ever felt comfortable roleplaying for more than two minutes was Achaea.

14.

1. I tried to use the Star Wars trailer thing (which I found out about through TN) in one of my classes to demonstrate how closely characters, issues, relationships, and drama (and drama queens perhaps) map from gamer/gaming cultures to other, more broadly appealing characters, issues, relationships, and dramas -- such as those exemplified by the Star Warish versions. Neither gamers, nor Lucas, nor Shakespeare (Macbeth) hold any special or original ownership of the concept of team-killing, for instance.

But I don't think I got through. All the non-gamers in class continued to think of leet lingo as serving the same function as all the ecret-say anguages-lay of other juvenile sorts.

There's a joke there to be sure. And it's laugh-out-loud funny, certainly. But it seems to always take the form of an inside joke, or an elitist joke, or a joke that depends upon maintaining boundaries between those who get it and those who don't.

Which brings up point 2.

2. I very much like to see acknowledgements of self-referential forms in digital play. Call it geek humor or whatever, but such forms must, due to the necessities of self reference, originate within the play rather than the design and, thus, within the players rather than the designers. There is, however, something about the digital medium itself -- the peculiar *representations* involved -- that evokes self reference. And humor itself is ultimately self-referential, beginning with puns and ending, perhaps, something like Andy Kaufman.

He is really dead, right?

15.

I think Andy Kaufman is a griefer in UO. Anyway, I especially enjoyed the treason/EULA bit in the StarWars trailer spoof. (Thanks Sam!) Having tapped into and created my own darkside powers, I could really relate to the spoof.

Jokes and humor do require some type of common knowledge or experience shared among the joke teller and the listener. If the listener has no idea on the content, the humor is lost. Dennis Miller comes to mind here. Non-gamers are just not going to get humor based or derived from MMOGs, but dang it is funny when you can appreciate it.

For the record, I don’t always get Dennis Miller's humor, I don’t think I will ever be as well read as he is.

16.

As a designer, you have to be very careful about humour in virtual worlds. The thing is, you can't just outright put in things that everyone will see that you think are funny. Even if everyone agrees with you that it's hilarious, it won't be funny after the 20th time they've seen it. If "funny" is all you've got as your USP, your virtual worlds is doomed.

Now, there are some caveats to this. Firstly, just because something ceases to be funny that doesn't mean that the overall experience has to be "about" funny. A VW may us comical-looking artwork to attract players, for example, but once the "humour" wears off players can still become immersed; indeed, losing the humorousness may be the first step to immersion. The key is that the humour must not be intrusive.

OK, so if VWs can't have a humorous setting, does that mean any humour in them is immersion-breaking? Well, not necessarily. You can use humour in response to players' attempts to do humorous things (we called these sillies in MUD1). You can even push humour at them if they're so immersed that you feel a small link with reality might help them. So long as it doesn't happen so often as to grate, it should be acceptable.

The main effect that a designer can have on humour, though, is to set up the conditions for the players to be able to do humorous things themselves. A whimsical world puts players into a different frame of mind than does a gritty world. Monsters that die slapstick deaths give a different overall impression than when they die in splats of visceral blood. Gnomes are funnier than elves. If a designer wants players to build a culture where humour plays a part, this can be encouraged through design; if they don't, it can be discouraged.

Oh, one last thing: if the designer boasts about the humour in their virtual world, don't play it. It's going to be the most embarrassingly unfunny experience you've ever had.

Richard

17.

Some of what Richard calls "sillies" don't necessarily depend on insider humor--they can be funny for anyone playing the game. Say, for example, what happens in the original Warcraft and its successors when you click on a unit too many times.

I think Lee has a point, though, in two ways. First, that the way some MMOG designs place humor in their worlds is aesthetically slipshod, that it emphasizes the closed loop of the player-developer culture, and also that it grates, as Richard observes, on multiple encounters. One thing I like about the humor in World of Warcraft is that it's aesthetically pretty consistent with the overall mood of the game, rather than a strange intrusive presence in the overall mood of the virtual world.

Second, there aren't a lot of really great comedic computer and video games where the comedy gets outside of geeky or adolescent-male themes and sensibilities. There are some games that have a consistent feel of whimsy to them, like Nintendo's house line-up of Mario & Co., but that's not quite the same thing.

18.

Mike:

"...every niche has its own humor as it has it's own jargon."

It's not really the jargon I was addressing. It's the consequences of using the jargon out of context simply for an easy laugh.

"Personally, in terms of things limiting us from the broader market, I suspect an over-geeked sense of humor is somewhere around #135 on the list -- well below classics like derivative settings and themes, tedious and overly aggressive gameplay, difficult interfaces, steep learning curves, obscure or irrelevant goals, high time requirements, a culture that disparages new or part-time players, blatant adolescent sexuality, and poor characterization, among others."

Heh, well yes maybe, but then this thread wasn't about any of those or the 100+ you didn't mention!

Lee

19.

Samantha:

"...we have to keep in mind that even if we don't break immersion, players will all on their own."

Well, as long as you're satisfied that the only paradigm for our worlds needs to be the one that encourages players to treat the experience like a game of Monopoly with the kind of semi-serious banter that produces, I could agree. If on the other hand, there may be someone interested in developing virtual worlds who recognizes that those elements that have attracted the mass market in other entertainment media are conspicuously absent in MMOGs, things like: consistency of style; artistic choices in the writing as well as the art; or content in context. Not to mention simple things like one element supporting others (quests supporting over-arcing story; guild "systems" supporting community; NPCs supporting the fiction of a "real" world etc.) that are more common to our corner of the entertainment landscape.

I'm not opposed to humor in games, MMOGs or otherwise. You can find it throughout my work. I am opposed to out-of-context humor (or anachronisms of any sort) in any medium when they work against the stated entertainment goals of the product. (Monty Python for example consciously and enthusiastically embraces anachronisms, so no problem there.) I'm also annoyed by anyone who creates entertainment who goes for easy answers without wrestling with the consequences of those answers.

Lee

20.

Timothy:

"...the way some MMOG designs place humor in their worlds is aesthetically slipshod, that it emphasizes the closed loop of the player-developer culture, and also that it grates, as Richard observes, on multiple encounters."

Precisely.

"...there aren't a lot of really great comedic computer and video games where the comedy gets outside of geeky or adolescent-male themes and sensibilities. There are some games that have a consistent feel of whimsy to them, like Nintendo's house line-up of Mario & Co., but that's not quite the same thing."

Yes, and as long as people are perfectly content to remain entertainment for the geek in all of us, there's no reason to consider other alternatives. Consider this: the next generation of consoles is going to put us one step closer to the "entertainment center" convergence both Hollywood and Silicon Valley have tried to hammer together for years now. Our products will truly sit side-by-side other entertainment products in the same box.

And while competitive media--mass media-consider things like consistency and context as a matter of course, we don't even acknowledge a problem. The PR excitement over the XBox 360 is still all about more pixels and faster processors. The audience doesn't care. They are only interested in the final experience, not how we got there. We're supposed to be the industry that is interactive; that puts the player inside the action. But all the beautiful graphics in the world won't help, and the mass market will continue to not notice, if we don't start thinking about some very basic rules competing media understands inside and out. The nature of humor is just one of those.

Lee

21.

Lee: "I am opposed to out-of-context humor (or anachronisms of any sort) in any medium when they work against the stated entertainment goals of the product. "

I agree, but oftentimes people will misidentify something as an anachronism when it isn't necessarily so.

For example, in the first month of EQII's release, some players on the Lucan D'Lere "roleplay preferred" server made notable clamor regarding the "inappropriateness" of the guild named "Fluffy Bunnies."

In the course of the debate, a number of arguments supporting the name were made-
- Based on the naming styles exhibited for the various races in the game, such a name would seem fitting to the nature loving elves, halflings, or even gnomes, particularly for a noncombat organization.
- Even in the grim reality of battle, many warriors tend to take a self-depreciating humorous view of life, enjoying contrasting characteristics. It's not just other jealous units that call the 101st Airborne's "screaming eagles" the "puking buzzards" and I know plenty of the 82nd Airborne's "All American" (Double a on their patch) that jokingly call it "acloholics anonymous."
- The names of a number of medieval guilds/organization include: Prancing Ponies, Rainbow Rabbits, The Plain Brigade, Evil Weasles, Hop-along Toads, The Smile Bandits, The Hobbled Hillgoats, and Red Wig Raiders.

What at firsthand might seem out-of-context humor may not be so out-of-place. What "destroys immersion" for some might seem entirely acceptable by others.

22.


I'm not certain you actually had to be there for everything..

There are any number of people at my work who have no invovlment with MMOGs, and still found the subtitled SW trailer to be a riot.

Also the WoW video cut of Weird Al's Amish Paradise it close to a masterpiece of MMO muor, but with the ties to external sources would probably get a laugh from most people still.

23.

Has Kingdom of Loathing been mentioned in this discussion? If you haven't played it, you owe it to yourself to do so.

It's very funny, simple, and both geeky and not. It doesn't depend on geek-humor to be funny, but if you've played a few RPGs it helps. There's more going on there than might first appear too; it's both funny and sly.

24.

Mike Sellers> "Has Kingdom of Loathing been mentioned in this discussion? "

We did a bit on KoL here a while back: http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2004/12/an_adventurer_i.html

(I don't care what anyone says about the problems with humor in MMOGs, I'm still chuckling over "My Little Pwnies".)

25.

it's schadenfreude. please correct.

26.

For any WoW players who have ever experienced Upper Blackrock Spire, check out:
LEEEROYYYY

This is definitely one of the funniest WoW videos I've seen, but you really "had to be there" (at least been to UBRS) to see the humor in this. I suppose it's funny on its own, but if you've been to UBRS...lol.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find updated links to various hosts.

The comments to this entry are closed.