Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.
While I’ll admit there is humor in Jazzpunk that is referential (not all of it is), I feel it rises above that by framing the game as a loose series of non-sequiturs. Part of the fun is looking for the next gag. There are so many jokes that some are bound to fall flat, but if you look around the next corner, you’ll trigger another one that might be darn good. That’s really tough to do in comedy when you have a player who doesn’t necessarily follow your script. The developers smartly weave that randomness into the gags so that continuity doesn’t matter as much. It’s jazz! It’s just an excuse to make a series of interactive video game-based jokes, but it’s exactly that discovery that makes it compelling.
To Steve’s point about “Leave them wanting more,” I think Jazzpunk’s structure is such that it discourages long play sessions. If you just stick to the story, there isn’t much to do. But if you take your time, there’s a natural “small doses” stopping point as you complete each mission. Exploring it from head-to-toe in one sitting would wear on you just from the absurdity of each task blending into a hot mess of confusion. I’ve found that taking a break after each section or two eases that. It’s a game to be casually enjoyed and appreciated. It’s not something to be rushed through in haste, or conversely a time sink of activities like an open-world game. I see it as a form of comedic art, and it’s got a style I appreciate. Between this and Octodad, we’ve seen some interesting strides with funny games being made as of late. I hope the trend continues because self-serious games are so common and can be such a downer. You need a nice palate cleanser like Jazzpunk to wash away some of that drama. It’s not perfect by any means, but at least it’s fresh.
Further down the thread, The Space Pope graced us with an astro-papal appearance and a story about working on a game that had its own problems with referential humor:
I once worked at a company that made a game with a similar “reference = joke” mentality. It was a browser game in which you fought and recruited celebrity caricatures. So for instance, you’d pit fake Arnold Schwarzenegger against fake Lady Gaga, and they would say their catchphrases or something. They invited me to suggest content for the game, but all I got around to doing was trying to talk them out of their idea for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle characters. See, they’d be drawn as realistic non-mutated turtles, but still wearing the masks and all, and one of them would be gay.
That was the joke. One of them was gay. His name was “Fellashow” (I feel at this point the need to stress that this story is 100-percent true), and he had dialogue about going to the club to hang out with “Ricky,” i.e. then-recently-outed celebrity Ricky Martin. I tried so hard to convince them it was a bad idea. It’s lazy, I said. It’s not clever. It’s just a stereotype with no actual joke, and an offensive one at that. But no. They simply could not wrap their heads around the idea that Fellashow the Turtle (God, the boss told me his name with all the pride of a father announcing that his son made Eagle Scout) was not a stroke of comedic genius.
I made no further attempts to contribute to the game. It wasn’t the main reason I quit a couple months later, but it was a factor.
Anthony John Agnello brought us a review of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, a game about a warrior sent from God to save people’s souls and wear crazy outfits. Some commenters expressed concern about the needlessly skimpy nature of many of the costumes, and Just Another Day confirmed those suspicions:
The game does make some fun of some of the more ridiculous outfits, but for the most part the whole battle-underwear thing goes unexamined. And no, I’m not female, but my biggest beef by far about the game is the lingerie. It’s really a screw-up. The game is tight, smart, fun, creative, and well-designed, but I just can’t bring myself to wholeheartedly endorse it because about half of Lightning’s outfits are just plain embarrassing.
She’s in many ways the model of what a good female hero can be. She has strengths, flaws, extraordinary badassery, a sense of humor, isn’t hobbled by an infantalizing romantic hang up, has well-realized friendships with people of both sexes, and is a well-developed character. I even think her designs in the first and probably even the second game, while a bit sexed up, are pretty reasonable looking compared to the outrageous anime looks of other Final Fantasy characters of all genders in recent years. But some of the outfits they put her in in this game are just over the line. It undercuts the character and makes it really difficult to point to her as a good example of a female character in games. It’s a shame.
LilyWhite had another take on the skimpy situation, appreciating even the more revealing outfits for their aesthetic design:
The variety of styles and designs is one of the things I love about Lightning Returns. There’s not just full-body garments and armor, but also not just skimpy swimsuits. There’s both and everything in between. In all honesty, when I look at something like Watery Chorus, I don’t think “Hehe, look how much skin is showing.” I think “Ooh, this has a nice exotic look, and I can imagine how nice it’d look in all kinds of different colors”. I love the look of almost all of the garbs, whether they’re skimpy or heavy armor. It’s even entirely possible to play the game without using the skimpier garbs.
The Logic Of Our Sex Jokes
Yesterday, Derrick Sanskrit gave us an illustrated history of dating shows, from their humble beginnings with The Dating Game to their more angry and exploitative modern incarnations. NakedSnake lamented the loss of innocence and sexual innuendo in dating shows:
Feel free to accuse me of regarding the past with rose-colored glasses, but from an entertainment perspective, at least, I really feel like we’re not better off today for being able to talk about sex in starkly literal terms. The problem with sex jokes is that they’re not that funny. Sex is always interesting, exciting, or surprising. It’s hard to write something funny about sex, since it’s far too easy to rely on obvious observations and then hope that audience titillation will do the rest. Seriously, I think that sex jokes are routinely among the weakest material in a given comedian’s set. The old innuendo-focused model is a lot funnier simply because you are both laughing at the joke (assuming it’s funny) and laughing at the comedian (because it’s so lame/awkward). It better mirrors how humor works in everyday life. You need to risk being laughed at.
Newton Gimmick looked at the change another way:
I think talking openly about sex has just changed the way we find humor in it. Twenty years ago, just acknowledging the existence of sex was a little edgy. Even obvious innuendos and wordplay were funny, and anything more specific was hilarious. (Seinfeld was the king of this in 1992-1993: “Master of your domain,” “Delores,” etc.)
Now, our openness with sex has demystified it. Sex is no longer this magical thing that is always perfect; it can be clumsy and awkward. The punch-line is no longer “Sex exists!” but “Sex isn’t always sexy.”
Pgoodso disagreed with Derrick’s choice for the most memorable moment on Flavor Of Love:
The thing I remember most on Flavor Of Love isn’t the “one” time someone spit on someone else, but that one episode where a young lady named Sumthin’ crapped on the stairs.
And on that note, this wraps up another week in Gameological! Thanks for reading and commenting, everybody. We’ll see you next week!