Crazy, I know. But they don’t not pay me here at Jerk for nothing, so sit tight and prepare to be wowed.
A while back, a friend of mine sent me a link to the blog of a band named Gungor. I don’t really know or listen to them, but I do know that they’re openly Christian and refreshingly open-minded in their opinions. Towards the end of a very long yet very insightful post that’s extremely critical of the idea of Christian music and the industry surrounding it, Michael Gungor (get it?) mentions something that a lot of people have told him about his music.
They say it’s “creative”.
Weird, huh? Gungor then goes on to say that such a response, while nice, is really nonsensical — no one calls a building “architectural”, he argues. But that’s because music labeled “Christian”, among other things, tends to put message above art- the words are what’s important, and everything else suffers because it doesn’t come across as genuine. So when an artist puts their craft at the top of his/her list of priorities in the Christian market, it’s guaranteed to sound different. People notice. And they’re surprised. (you can read the whole thing here if you like: http://gungormusic.com/#!/2011/11/zombies-wine-and-christian-music)
People are also surprised when a video game is funny. Not when something funny happens in a game — though I’m sure you and your buddies have some hilarious stories about your late night zombie/nazi/terrorrist/zombie nazi terrorist slaying sessions. No. I’m talking about when a game is actually funny. Maybe even hilarious.
There’s a guy named Tim Schafer who’s been working in video games for a very long time. He’s a very funny man — and someone who can get 3.4 million dollars on kickstarter after only asking for $400,000 (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/66710809/double-fine-adventure).
Mr. Schafer is of the mind that video games should be funny (http://kotaku.com/5895770/video-games-should-be-funnier-says-tim-schafer). Schafer says humor is necessary, not just because it’s another way the medium shows growth, but because narratively, sometimes it’s the only way to make sense of the ridiculous things you’re asking your players to do. It makes games better.
This matters, if only to bring to light how the way we think about games should perhaps change a bit. I’m not proposing anything drastic, just a small adjustment. We think and talk about video games in the same way we would a car — how does it control, what are the specs, does it have a cupholder, etc. Maybe it would be better if we started asking how games make us feel.
And if we did, we won’t be surprised when they make us laugh. Or call them “creative”.