Spy vs. Wacky Investigator

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J.D. Berry

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Nov 27, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/27/00
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Why do comedies (lighter works) fare somewhat worse, overall, in the
annual "Interactive Fiction Competition?"

Perhaps six competitions are not enough on which to base a conclusion,
I'm just throwing this out for discussion. I'm wondering if the trend
in I-F is similar to the movie industry--for every "Annie Hall" that
wins the Best Picture Oscar, there are ten "The Deer Hunter" type
winners.

Possibilities I've pondered as to why this may be:


-- Judges at least on some level equate seriousness of work to
seriousness of quality. (Bleak = hard-hitting, funny = cute)

-- The darker emotions (dread, fear, anger) have more impact than the
lighter (laughter, joy, amusement).

-- The darker emotions are more "agreed upon" experiences. Humor is
much more subject to taste.

-- That "comedy is hard" is all too true.

-- A darker piece can create atmosphere even if it misses with its main
goal. A lighter piece will have its mood ruined if it misses with its
humor.

-- I-F folk tend to be "negative energy" people. Oh, no, this couldn't
possibly be. ;-)


Just some thoughts, of course, and I'd be interested to hear yours.

Jim


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.

pblock

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Nov 28, 2000, 12:37:00 AM11/28/00
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"J.D. Berry" <jdb...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
news:8vum5f$dk1$1...@nnrp1.deja.com...

> Why do comedies (lighter works) fare somewhat worse, overall, in the
> annual "Interactive Fiction Competition?"
>
> Perhaps six competitions are not enough on which to base a conclusion,
> I'm just throwing this out for discussion. I'm wondering if the trend
> in I-F is similar to the movie industry--for every "Annie Hall" that
> wins the Best Picture Oscar, there are ten "The Deer Hunter" type
> winners.
>

I think this parallel is tighter than you may think. For some reason it's
just difficult to take comedy seriously.

The possibilities you've listed are good, but this is a subject that isn't
understood in many mediums, movies, tv, literature, etc.

Why are humorous works usually not taken as seriously as darker, more
seriously toned works, regardless or the actual quality of the works?

I suppose this sort of thing has been happen all the time. Stephan King
prbably still gets asked if he's ever going to write anything serious. Like
he isn't serious about everything he writes.

Like the authors of humors IF don't work as hard as authors of more serious
work. They do, but for some reason humorous works just don't seem to be as
appreciated as bleaker works.

This may actually be a sad commentary on human nature.

Gadget

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Nov 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/28/00
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On Tue, 28 Nov 2000 00:37:00 -0500, "pblock" <eev...@dreamscape.com>
wrote:

>Like the authors of humors IF don't work as hard as authors of more serious
>work. They do, but for some reason humorous works just don't seem to be as
>appreciated as bleaker works.
>
>This may actually be a sad commentary on human nature.

I am working on a (hopefully) humorous game right now and I find it is
very difficult to maintain its 'funnyness' throughout the game. At one
point I actually concidered going through the entire text and redo it
'seriously', to make it easier for me to complete the game. Writing a
good description is hard enough (and even harder if English is not
your first language like in my case) and putting something amusing or
even funny in there at the same time can be a nightmare. Still I keep
going, because the games I remember most were funny. I adored
Hitchhikers Guide and Leather Godesses. And most Infocom games have
much that makes me smile.

The genious about those games is, because they are so well written,
you don't notice they are telling jokes all the time. They flow
naturally throughout the narative

And that is, I guess, why it is so hard to take jokes seriously: It
has to look easy.

I think this is one reason why funny games can be under appreciated at
times. Maybe subcontiously it goes like this: "Ah, the author does not
take his own game seriously. So I should not either". And that is not
realy a bad thing. When you notice how hard the author tries to amuse,
he usually doesn't.

The reader should not think: "Oh, a joke! Funny! How clever!" but
rather: "hahahaha. Darn how do I solve this puzzle/advance the plot?"
It's like when you are on a boring party and someone starts telling
jokes to amuse the crowd: usually there is a polite chuckle but no
roaring laughter: the comedy is forced through everyone's throaght.
But when someone makes a snappy comment about a spontaneous situation,
the laughter is also spontaneous and genuine.

Just my two cents worth ;-)

-
It's a bird...
It's a plane...
No, its.. Gadget?
-----------------
number one Dutch gaming site:
Http://www.villagemagazine.nl/games.php3

Richard Bos

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Nov 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/28/00
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J.D. Berry <jdb...@my-deja.com> wrote:

> Why do comedies (lighter works) fare somewhat worse, overall, in the
> annual "Interactive Fiction Competition?"
>
> Perhaps six competitions are not enough on which to base a conclusion,
> I'm just throwing this out for discussion. I'm wondering if the trend
> in I-F is similar to the movie industry--for every "Annie Hall" that
> wins the Best Picture Oscar, there are ten "The Deer Hunter" type
> winners.
>

> Possibilities I've pondered as to why this may be:
>
>
> -- Judges at least on some level equate seriousness of work to
> seriousness of quality. (Bleak = hard-hitting, funny = cute)
>
> -- The darker emotions (dread, fear, anger) have more impact than the
> lighter (laughter, joy, amusement).
>
> -- The darker emotions are more "agreed upon" experiences. Humor is
> much more subject to taste.
>
> -- That "comedy is hard" is all too true.
>
> -- A darker piece can create atmosphere even if it misses with its main
> goal. A lighter piece will have its mood ruined if it misses with its
> humor.
>
> -- I-F folk tend to be "negative energy" people. Oh, no, this couldn't
> possibly be. ;-)

I think points 2-5 are, more or less, the same point, and hit the nail
on the head. Point 1 is, I think, a consequence of those: too many
almost-but-not-quite funny games make it easier to assume that funny
games tend to be not as good as serious games. Point 6 is, I hope, not
true; I, for one, do enjoy good comedy, though it's true that "good
comedy" is, with me at least, a smaller portion of "comedy" than "good
serious games" are of "serious games".

Richard

Adam Cadre

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Nov 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/28/00
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Jim Berry wrote:
> -- Judges at least on some level equate seriousness of work to
> seriousness of quality. (Bleak = hard-hitting, funny = cute)
> -- The darker emotions (dread, fear, anger) have more impact than the
> lighter (laughter, joy, amusement). [...]

> -- I-F folk tend to be "negative energy" people. Oh, no, this
> couldn't possibly be. ;-)

Interesting that you should use the term "lighter" in reference to
amusement. For, yes, it can be contrasted with "darker" and the set
of dark emotions you list -- but "lighter" can be contrasted with
"heavier," and I think *that* is the crux of the matter. A work of
art can evoke weighty emotions without necessarily being dark. My
favorite game from this year's comp, MY ANGEL, had its downbeat moments,
but the dominant thread running through it was that of deep and perfect
love -- hardly a feeling one could call dark! Many of my favorite
works of art are extremely serious, but far from bleak, carrying
joyful messages: that none of us is alone, that the world is brimming
with beauty and that thanks to the miracle of being alive we can see
it all around us... that a work is serious in no way means that it's
necessarily a depressing angstfest.

And by the same token, comedies aren't necessarily bright and shiny.
Some are extremely hard-hitting, highlighting absurdities at which we
laugh so as not to cry -- look at DR. STRANGELOVE, for instance. Heck,
look at the comedies in this year's comp: GOT ID? wasn't exactly
uplifting. DINNER WITH ANDRE hardly makes one think well of the human
race. (These aren't put-downs -- I thought both games were very funny
and gave some of my highest scores to both.) So the equation of
serious game = negative energy, funny game = positive energy doesn't
really hold up, in my view.

-----
Adam Cadre, Sammamish, WA
web site: http://adamcadre.ac
novel: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060195584/adamcadreac

J.D. Berry

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Nov 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/28/00
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In article <3A23C2...@adamcadre.ac>,

re...@adamcadre.ac wrote:
>
> Interesting that you should use the term "lighter" in reference to
> amusement. For, yes, it can be contrasted with "darker" and the set
> of dark emotions you list -- but "lighter" can be contrasted with
> "heavier," and I think *that* is the crux of the matter. A work of
> art can evoke weighty emotions without necessarily being dark. My
> favorite game from this year's comp, MY ANGEL, had its downbeat
moments,
> but the dominant thread running through it was that of deep and
perfect
> love -- hardly a feeling one could call dark! Many of my favorite
> works of art are extremely serious, but far from bleak, carrying
> joyful messages: that none of us is alone, that the world is brimming
> with beauty and that thanks to the miracle of being alive we can see
> it all around us... that a work is serious in no way means that it's
> necessarily a depressing angstfest.
>

I see what you're saying, of course, I just didn't want to get hung up
on the definition of comedy (which doesn't necessarily mean funny, as
English teachers repeat all too often.) I meant an overall lighter
tone versus an overall darker one.

My Angel, while finishing very well, was not in the top three. Most of
us realize there's not always a one-to-one correlation of Comp placing
and quality. My theory is that Angel was a lighter game (even if it
had its serious moments) and thus had less "universal" appeal. Not
that it isn't a well crafted piece, not that it isn't a wonderful
story, but that it was handicapped in winning because of its "lighter"
nature.

I'm not meaning to suggest winning is the be all, end all, either. I'm
just making an observation and wondering if there's truth there.

> And by the same token, comedies aren't necessarily bright and shiny.
> Some are extremely hard-hitting, highlighting absurdities at which we
> laugh so as not to cry -- look at DR. STRANGELOVE, for instance.
Heck,
> look at the comedies in this year's comp: GOT ID? wasn't exactly
> uplifting. DINNER WITH ANDRE hardly makes one think well of the human
> race. (These aren't put-downs -- I thought both games were very funny
> and gave some of my highest scores to both.) So the equation of
> serious game = negative energy, funny game = positive energy doesn't
> really hold up, in my view.
>

Well, the negative energy thing was a stretch. ;-)

And, yes, a Doctor Strangelove type work can succeed "universally."
I'm just wondering, if all things being relatively equal in a
competition (literary, film, art, whatever), that the darker work will
usually prevail.

Dan Schmidt

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Nov 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/28/00
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J.D. Berry <jdb...@my-deja.com> writes:

| Why do comedies (lighter works) fare somewhat worse, overall, in the
| annual "Interactive Fiction Competition?"

I think one thing that drags the comedy average down is that a
significant fraction of them seem to be intentionally broken in
some way (e.g., 'Stupid Kittens, 'Comp00ter Game', 'Asendent' this
year).

It is also harder to write humor effectively than straight-ahead
prose, I agree.

This year, Being Andrew Plotkin was #3 and Ad Verbum was #4, both of
which I count as comedies (at least when compared with Kaged and
Metamorphoses).

Are there particular games that seem to be out of place in the rankings?

--
http://www.dfan.org

Adam Cadre

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Nov 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/28/00
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Dan Schmidt wrote:
> I think one thing that drags the comedy average down is that a
> significant fraction of them seem to be intentionally broken in
> some way (e.g., 'Stupid Kittens, 'Comp00ter Game', 'Asendent' this
> year).

Yeah. Over on Trotting Krips, comp voters are getting slammed for
having "absolutely no sense of humor whatsoever" because COMP00TER
GAME and the like placed so poorly. But this isn't like submitting
SPINAL TAP or THE BIG LEBOWSKI to a movie contest and having judges
turns their noses up at it because they're above laughing at a comedy;
this is like submitting PLAN 9 and then whining that the judges are
too prissy to realize that stupid equals funny. But it doesn't.
Stupid equals stupid. Making *fun* of stupid often equals funny, but
in that case, the rewards should go not to the games, but to the
reviewers who supply the actual comedy by tearing them apart.

Magnus Olsson

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Nov 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/28/00
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In article <wksnocp...@turangalila.harmonixmusic.com>,

Dan Schmidt <df...@harmonixmusic.com> wrote:
>J.D. Berry <jdb...@my-deja.com> writes:
>
>| Why do comedies (lighter works) fare somewhat worse, overall, in the
>| annual "Interactive Fiction Competition?"

(...)

>It is also harder to write humor effectively than straight-ahead
>prose, I agree.

I was just going to say something similar. And if you try to write
something funny, and fail (or just fall somewhat short of the goal),
the risk is that people will just say "tries to be funny, but fails".

I also think that it may be even harder to write *interactive* comedy,
since comdey so often depends on having just the right timing, which
is hard to achieve when the player can choose to do things in the
wrong order, and so on.

>This year, Being Andrew Plotkin was #3 and Ad Verbum was #4, both of
>which I count as comedies (at least when compared with Kaged and
>Metamorphoses).

I haven't played "Ad Verbum" yet, but BAP is certainly "light" in the
sense of "aiming to entertain rather than disturb".

We must also bear in mind that we don't know whether people are rating
the story or the game-playing aspects. Well, most likely they're
rating some combination, but we don't know if the "comedies" finished
lower than expected because of technical problems.

An interesting thing, by the way: until a few years ago, nearly all IF
was humourous in the sense that the tone was light-hearted and often
ironic, even when the subject was serious. I remember someone
complaining about this on r.g.i-f, basically saying "Why can't IF
authors be serious?"

This has obviously changed. Interesting.
--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se, m...@pobox.com)
------ http://www.pobox.com/~mol ------

Robb Sherwin

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Nov 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/28/00
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In article <3A23DA...@adamcadre.ac>,

re...@adamcadre.ac wrote:
> Yeah. Over on Trotting Krips, comp voters are getting slammed for
> having "absolutely no sense of humor whatsoever" because COMP00TER
> GAME and the like placed so poorly. But this isn't like submitting
> SPINAL TAP or THE BIG LEBOWSKI to a movie contest and having judges
> turns their noses up at it because they're above laughing at a comedy;
> this is like submitting PLAN 9 and then whining that the judges are
> too prissy to realize that stupid equals funny. But it doesn't.
> Stupid equals stupid.


As the Trotting Krip in question, I should probably address the
statement made in the "Comp00ter Game" review. While I pulled out "Pass
the Banana" as a reference because there were three reviews of it on
the site that an interested reader could then read and possibly enjoy,
I think my case is made stronger by looking at the competition history
of some of the really funny games.

I must confess: I'm by no means a guru on the genres of all the comp
games ever entered. But here's how the ones I'm aware of placed
(including the ones I've played; not including the ones I think are
comedies but haven't played, and the one I wrote):

Genuine *Games*, with Humor Added
"Kissing The Buddha's Feet": 5/26 (1996)
"Sins Against Mimesis": 9/34 (1997)
"The Frenetic Five": 13/34 (1997)
"Four In One": 16/27 (1998)
"Rameses": 13/53 (2000)
"Got ID": 29/53 (2000)
"Death To My Enemies": 29/37 (1998)
"Spodgeville Murphy": 25/37 (1998)

Jokey "Games," with Immature Humor
"Acid Whiplash": 23/27 (1998)
"Pass The Banana": 33/37 (1998)
"Stupid Kittens": 44/53 (2000)
"Comp00ter Game": 49/53 (2000)

I would say that in virtually all of the cases above, with the possible
exception of "Buddha," the comedy in question received a lower rating
than it "should" have received, when the games are looked at from a
pure *entertainment* standpoint, and from someone who is a fan of most
humor (be it light or dry, and high or low brow). I say that while
looking at more serious games that placed above and below them.

I can understand why the Jokey Games placed so poorly, although I don't
necessarily agree with it. There's a certain, small percentage of us in
raif that honestly enjoy a game that is completely whack with a high
amount of energy going for it. I am still, to this day, really amused
by somebody like Jota or Rybread and the fact that instead of throwing
up a wacky "rants" page on the web somewhere, they go and code their
comedy routines and funny lines in the form of a .z5 file. This is
probably because I don't look at the IF Competition as the American
Music Awards, or PC Gamer's annual "Best of Year" issue, or high-stakes
professional competitions of that vein. Ideally, I guess we'd all be
cranking out the next Trinity but that's not what I go into the
competition expecting. I was pretty out of the loop, regarding the in-
jokes with the monkey and the corknuts, in "Pass the Banana." But I
didn't care, there's no denying that the game immediately gets in your
head and kicks your head's ass. With the competition, in theory, being
geared for shorter games I thought that "Pass The Banana" was almost
perfect. It was a real *game*. The user could define, in a small
manner, how he or she wished to solve it. There's a inane randomness to
the NPCs present and no explanation given as to why four things are
passing them at all. And *this* game finished below the competition
release of "The Water Bird" (which, if I remember correctly, abruptly
stopped). There were a handful of reviews for "Pass the Banana" that
were along the lines of "this is stupid and pointless. Score: 1." And I
don't know if this is the kind of thing that J.D. was talking about in
his opening message, but it is the kind of thing that would cause me to
say that when taken as a whole, there's a lot of competition judges
with a stifled sense of humor.


As I did not start playing the competition games during the comp until
1998, for all I know the competition releases of "Four In One" and "The
Frenetic Five" were as buggy as "Chicks Dig Jerks" in which case the
answer to why comedies get awful ratings becomes a little clearer:
write better code. (But I don't recall that being the case for those
games and I can't check the discussions with Deja.) I have no love for
the movies of the Marx Brothers, but the depth with which "Four In One"
was coded and the obvious care that it was presented with totally made
me its fan. And to get a guy who thinks that most black and white
movies are arse, and to get him laughing at Groucho Marx in your game:
well, that's pretty cool. I have gone on record stating that "The
Frenetic Five" just blows me away with its game design and I enjoy
comics in the style of THE TICK. As for "Rameses"... well, it's been a
long time since I've been that entertained playing any kind of video
game. I know it's real easy for me to sit back and toss out posts that
say "y'all ain't giving due t'the FUNNY," but I think those games were
hurt because they tried to merge a regular competition game with a good
dose of comedy.

Humor is subjective. I totally get that. With 200 voters in this
competition it's impossible to think that we'd all, say, find a guy
rolling his dead partner across an acidic chasm to be amusing. And I
think when a game is throwing off one-liners and they are not reaching
you, the normal human tendency is to think the game/author is smug, or
that the game thinks it's funnier than it really is. And when a game
does that, and makes its player feel out of the loop, then a low score
is sure to follow. But what I like about the annual IF Competition is
that it is not just experimental in expanding the classic Infocom
style, but experimental in allowing a variety of authors and voices
that I wouldn't otherwise be aware of to get me into their world and
get me chuckling right along with them. In reading the Comp reviews
each year, I think there's a lot of lashing out at authors like Brendan
and Jota because they didn't try to achieve "more" with their wares and
what I really hope does not happen is that they say "screw it" and stop
writing and programming comedies, because there are a bunch of us out
there who enjoy their stuff.

--
Robb Sherwin, Fort Collins CO
Reviews From Trotting Krips: http://ifiction.tsx.org
Knight Orc Home Page: www.geocities.com/~knightorc

Digby McWiggle

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Nov 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/28/00
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In article <8vum5f$dk1$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,

J.D. Berry <jdb...@my-deja.com> wrote:
>Why do comedies (lighter works) fare somewhat worse, overall, in the
>annual "Interactive Fiction Competition?"

Well, my personal experience after authoring two games (both comedies) is 10th
place in 1998, and 9th in this year's competition. So from my perspective
comedies don't necessarily do badly. Two of this years top ten could be called
comedies (Being A Plotkin and YAGWAD), with another certainly in a very
light-hearted vein (Ad Verbum). So comedies don't *always* flop.

>-- Judges at least on some level equate seriousness of work to
>seriousness of quality. (Bleak = hard-hitting, funny = cute)

True. I find it hard to imagine a comedy *winning* the competition, probably
for this reason...

>-- The darker emotions (dread, fear, anger) have more impact than the
>lighter (laughter, joy, amusement).

Not for me they don't - I'll remember Leather Goddesses long after Anchorhead
has faded from my memory. But then, there's a subtle difference between
"funny" and "quirky" - and I personally like quirky and find it very
memorable.

>-- The darker emotions are more "agreed upon" experiences. Humor is
>much more subject to taste.

This is very very true! The response to YAGWAD varied from "the funniest game
I've played this year...The humor is dead on, comparable to Steve Meretzky's
and often better" (Suzanne Britton) to "there's not really much here that's
actually all that funny" (Adam Cadre). And the recent thread about Pokey the
Penguin (where some people were hysterical, while others were left going Huh?)
proves this too.

So I guess it maybe depends on the chance make-up of the IF audience as to how
well they will rate a comedy - if it happens to be the right type of comedy
then it may do well, but if it only appeals to a minority then obviously it
can't.

>-- I-F folk tend to be "negative energy" people. Oh, no, this couldn't
>possibly be. ;-)

No, it's not true, but it may be *more* true for the IF subset that review or
(more particularly) critique games. ;-)

Another point that I just thought of is repetition - IF almost always involves
reading the same text over several times. A creepy description won't be harmed
by that, but a joke certainly will.

On the other hand, IF presents a great opportunity to make humour
*interactive*, but this may not be fully exploited by some games. There's a
million funny things that can happen when you start dropping zoo animals all
over the place from a helicopter, and they player will want to try all sorts
of combinations. Similarly, the wacky things you can do with an inflatable cow
must be endless. Perhaps the comedies that fail are those that rely too much
on the kind of non-interactive jokes that you get in fiction (ie one joke =
one punchline), rather than the sort of running interactive gags that are
possible in IF.

My philosophy is that "funny" is a consequence of "fun" - make your game very
player-friendly (hints, help, well laid out, useful objects well defined,
fair puzzles, not possible to get into an un-winnable state etc etc) and
they'll be more receptive to humour. Noone's going to laugh when they're still
fuming from the random death you just subjected them to (unless maybe it's a
*funny* death involving an inflatable cow). Maybe user-friendliness is where
so many comedies let themselves down...

Cheers,
Digby

Dan Schmidt

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Nov 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/28/00
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Robb Sherwin <robb_s...@juno.com> writes:

| I must confess: I'm by no means a guru on the genres of all the comp
| games ever entered. But here's how the ones I'm aware of placed
| (including the ones I've played; not including the ones I think are
| comedies but haven't played, and the one I wrote):

I'm just going to add what I know about the games in question.

| Genuine *Games*, with Humor Added
| "Kissing The Buddha's Feet": 5/26 (1996)
| "Sins Against Mimesis": 9/34 (1997)
| "The Frenetic Five": 13/34 (1997)

If I remember the comp discussion accurately, in general people liked
this a lot but it was pretty buggy.

| "Four In One": 16/27 (1998)
| "Rameses": 13/53 (2000)

Hmm, I wouldn't put this into the 'humorous games' category. In any
case, I think people had issues with the interactiveness of it, not
the humor. (And it did end up in the 75th percentile!)

| "Got ID": 29/53 (2000)
| "Death To My Enemies": 29/37 (1998)
| "Spodgeville Murphy": 25/37 (1998)

Death and Spodgeville were both really short, and Spodgeville had a
critical bug. I don't know how much that affected their rating.

--
http://www.dfan.org

J.D. Berry

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Nov 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/28/00
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In article <90153c$8j0$1...@news.akl.netlink.net.nz>,
digby_m...@liamtoh.moc (Digby McWiggle) wrote:
jdberry@my_deja.com babbled:

>
> Well, my personal experience after authoring two games (both
> comedies) is 10th place in 1998, and 9th in this year's
> competition. So from my perspective comedies don't necessarily do
> badly. Two of this years top ten could be called comedies (Being A
> Plotkin and YAGWAD), with another certainly in a very
> light-hearted vein (Ad Verbum). So comedies don't *always* flop.
>

Oh, I didn't say they always FLOPPED. I just think in a case where two
games are similar in overall quality (whatever subjectively THAT means)
that the darker game will win.

And I'm the last to whine about comedies not doing well, because my two
Comp entries were darker in nature (or not light comedies certainly.)
I dread to see how I'd do entering a comedy. :-)

>> >-- Judges at least on some level equate seriousness of work to
>> >seriousness of quality. (Bleak = hard-hitting, funny = cute)

> True. I find it hard to imagine a comedy *winning* the competition,
> probably for this reason...
>

And that fits into my main point. A comedy could be a masterpiece, but
people who don't "get it" (and there always some) will mark it down
more than someone who wasn't scared in a "thriller."

> >-- The darker emotions (dread, fear, anger) have more impact than the
> >lighter (laughter, joy, amusement).
>
> Not for me they don't - I'll remember Leather Goddesses long after
Anchorhead
> has faded from my memory. But then, there's a subtle difference
between
> "funny" and "quirky" - and I personally like quirky and find it very
> memorable.
>

I'm more that way, too. Ad Verbum got my #1 Miss Congeniality vote.
As stated previously, perhaps 6 Comps isn't enough to really base
conclusions on. But I wonder if we're in the minority.

> >-- The darker emotions are more "agreed upon" experiences. Humor is
> >much more subject to taste.
>
> This is very very true! The response to YAGWAD varied from "the
funniest game
> I've played this year...The humor is dead on, comparable to Steve
Meretzky's
> and often better" (Suzanne Britton) to "there's not really much here
that's
> actually all that funny" (Adam Cadre). And the recent thread about
Pokey the
> Penguin (where some people were hysterical, while others were left
going Huh?)
> proves this too.
>

My walkthrough in Djinni has (what I thought, at least, obviously) is
an amusing part to it. And indeed some people enjoyed it immensely.
But I got one feedback letter using the phrase "the supposedly humorous
walkthrough."

I'm thinking of a line from "The Life of Brian"--"there's no pleasing
some people."

> So I guess it maybe depends on the chance make-up of the IF audience
as to how
> well they will rate a comedy - if it happens to be the right type of
comedy
> then it may do well, but if it only appeals to a minority then
obviously it
> can't.
>

This is true. If you avoid the judges who are not in line with your
sense of humor, you will avoid the ones and twos.


> Another point that I just thought of is repetition - IF almost always
involves
> reading the same text over several times. A creepy description won't
be harmed
> by that, but a joke certainly will.
>

And of course, repetition. ;-)

I fully agree here.

> On the other hand, IF presents a great opportunity to make humour
> *interactive*, but this may not be fully exploited by some games.
There's a
> million funny things that can happen when you start dropping zoo
animals all
> over the place from a helicopter, and they player will want to try
all sorts
> of combinations. Similarly, the wacky things you can do with an
inflatable cow
> must be endless. Perhaps the comedies that fail are those that rely
too much
> on the kind of non-interactive jokes that you get in fiction (ie one
joke =
> one punchline), rather than the sort of running interactive gags that
are
> possible in IF.
>

I think it's Adam Cadre who often stresses "I want amusing responses to
everything I want to try."

One definitely does need to know one's medium.

> My philosophy is that "funny" is a consequence of "fun" - make your
game very
> player-friendly (hints, help, well laid out, useful objects well
defined,
> fair puzzles, not possible to get into an un-winnable state etc etc)
and
> they'll be more receptive to humour. Noone's going to laugh when
they're still
> fuming from the random death you just subjected them to (unless maybe
it's a
> *funny* death involving an inflatable cow). Maybe user-friendliness
is where
> so many comedies let themselves down...
>

There are probably many areas where they do so. Being a comedy fan,
I'd love to see strides made. And I think we have. There were some
nice comedies (yours included) this year.

They just don't win. :-)

I like Magnus' point, too, that awhile ago people were complaining
about the lack of seriousness in games. How about a happy medium?
<insert jolly seeress joke here>.

Jim

Alex Watson

unread,
Nov 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/28/00
to
"Gadget" <gad...@SPAMBLOCKhaha.demon.nl> wrote in message
news:3a2373c1...@news.scarlet.nl...

> On Tue, 28 Nov 2000 00:37:00 -0500, "pblock" <eev...@dreamscape.com>
> wrote:
>
> >Like the authors of humors IF don't work as hard as authors of more
serious
> >work. They do, but for some reason humorous works just don't seem to be
as
> >appreciated as bleaker works.
> >
> >This may actually be a sad commentary on human nature.
>
> The genious about those games is, because they are so well written,
> you don't notice they are telling jokes all the time. They flow
> naturally throughout the narative

i.e. They read like a Douglas Adams novel :) Seriously, though, DNA* books
are packed with jokes, which seem to flow through them almost constantly.

--
Alex Watson (WatsonA on JRChat)
http://www.watson1999-69.freeserve.co.uk/
http://www.h2g2.com/U103477
Remove kill.the.spam to reply. (Usenet-wise)

*Douglas Adams

Stephen Granade

unread,
Nov 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/28/00
to
Robb Sherwin <robb_s...@juno.com> writes:

> I must confess: I'm by no means a guru on the genres of all the comp
> games ever entered. But here's how the ones I'm aware of placed
> (including the ones I've played; not including the ones I think are
> comedies but haven't played, and the one I wrote):
>
> Genuine *Games*, with Humor Added
> "Kissing The Buddha's Feet": 5/26 (1996)
> "Sins Against Mimesis": 9/34 (1997)
> "The Frenetic Five": 13/34 (1997)
> "Four In One": 16/27 (1998)
> "Rameses": 13/53 (2000)
> "Got ID": 29/53 (2000)
> "Death To My Enemies": 29/37 (1998)
> "Spodgeville Murphy": 25/37 (1998)

"Arrival, or Attack of the B Movie Cliches" was 4 of 27 in the '98
comp. Responses I got ranged from "this is the funniest thing I've
ever played!" to "for a game about cliches this was pretty cliche and
not that funny."

My guess? It helped that the game was solidly coded and had a
relatively limited scope. I happen to think I'm a funny guy; clearly
some people agreed and others didn't. Should it have placed higher?
Well, *I* certainly think so, but then, Photopia, Muse, and The Plant
were darned good games.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade | Interested in adventure games?
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | Visit About Interactive Fiction
Duke University, Physics Dept | http://interactfiction.about.com

Dan Schmidt

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Nov 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/28/00
to
J.D. Berry <jdb...@my-deja.com> writes:

| I think it's Adam Cadre who often stresses "I want amusing responses
| to everything I want to try."

One thing that I highly recommend, and I think it's even more
important for funny games, is to have beta testers send you 100%
complete transcripts of their playthroughs, and then pore through
the transcript, constantly saying to yourself, 'How could I have made
this particular playthrough more enjoyable for the player?'

Which means fixing bugs of course, but also coming up with snarky
responses, reacting to failed attempts to solve puzzles (either by
adding it as an alternate solution or just reacting in some way
(including a hint towards the real solution, perhaps)), etc.

If you take five playthroughs, and make little twiddly changes to your
game so that all of them would have given you a 10 if that were the
version they had played, you're in business.

This does require handing your beta testers betas, not alphas, but
that's a subject for another rant.

--
http://www.dfan.org

Stephen Granade

unread,
Nov 28, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/28/00
to
Dan Schmidt <df...@harmonixmusic.com> writes:

> J.D. Berry <jdb...@my-deja.com> writes:
>
> | I think it's Adam Cadre who often stresses "I want amusing responses
> | to everything I want to try."
>
> One thing that I highly recommend, and I think it's even more
> important for funny games, is to have beta testers send you 100%
> complete transcripts of their playthroughs, and then pore through
> the transcript, constantly saying to yourself, 'How could I have made
> this particular playthrough more enjoyable for the player?'

This is an important point which I failed to mention in my previous
message. I had my beta-testers do this, and it improved Arrival's
response-to-no-response ratio immensely. Mind you, I had to pore over
reams of transcript sent to me by Michael "Michael" Kinyon....

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