One year ago today, the topic was Funniest Game You’ve Played. I really haven’t played much since that post, so the answer will remain the same.
The thing about humor in games is if it’s forced, it’s not funny. That’s why I don’t go for comedy games. I prefer the humor to come up naturally within a game. To put it in movie terms, you know Michael Bay’s Transformers? The first one? There’s the government agent guy and he’s the forced humor in the movie: an overacting cartoonish insult to the audience’s intelligence. But there he is, somehow stripped down to a Superman-like-logo t-shirt that he’s wearing and goofy boxers! Isn’t that hilarious? Oh, and now he’s being peed on by Bumblebee. Haw haw.
That type of thing is just painful.
That’s been my experience with comedy RPGs. Instead of the funny just happening, it’s pointed out.
Some of the funniest bits have come from games where people are playing it straight and serious. Eric vs. the Gazebo. The Head of Vecna. That one thing where two Call of Cthulhu characters wound up being eaten by a ghoul because they kept fighting over who was going to use a shotgun on the advancing creature until it was too late. All stories from games that were played straight.
Too many funny moments come from non-humor games, like in our serious Blue Planet game where our down-on-her-luck waitress, who was built out to be incredibly observant (like Shawn Spencer from Psych) never, ever, ever once succeeded on notice or spot or observe something roll. All these points, all this effort to fit a character concept and the dice constantly betrayed her. Each time Amy rolled to notice something, the table cracked up in laughter.
Or the Shadowrun 4th edition game where a rigger using a drone with twin machine guns firing, firing, firing at a ghoul jumping off a building to the street – and every dice I rolled for the ghoul’s dodge comes up a success. We pause the game as we recover from the ninja ghoul breaking the game.
Amidst a carnival in Lacuna, where cockroaches are pouring out of exploding balloons and clowns and someone says something completely that fits right in with the situation but those of us around the table, a step removed from the action, suddenly realize how bizarre that comment is and we laugh, louder and longer than we would in, say, Toon.
No, give me a serious drama and the sparks of humor shine a bit brighter. Give me a Game of Thrones episode and a contemptuous smile by Tyrion at just the right moment. That’s what I like.