What 1990s Computer Games Can Teach Writers And Comic Makers About Why Humour Is Important

Although this is an article about writing fiction and/or making comics, I’m going to have to start by talking about computer games for a while (again!). As usual, there will be a good reason for this that will become obvious later – and it’s not just because I’m going through a bit more of a retro gaming phase than usual at the moment.

Anyway, at the time of writing, I’m playing two games from the 1990s that – despite many superficial differences – have one thing in common.

One game is a fiendishly difficult sci-fi first-person shooter game from 1998 called “SiN” that features a tough action hero called John Blade who fights hordes of henchmen. The other game is a fairly non-violent fantasy “point and click” adventure game from 1993 called “Legend Of Kyrandia – Hand Of Fate” which is about a magician called Zanthia who has to go on an epic quest to stop her world from disappearing.

On the surface, these two games seem very different. Yet, they have something in common with each other. It doesn’t come across that well in these screenshots, but see if you can spot it:

This is a screenshot from “SiN” (1998)

This is a screenshot from “Legend Of Kyrandia – Hand Of Fate” (1993)

Yes, you got it! Humour! Even though these are games from five years apart, in radically different genres (both thematically and in terms of gameplay), with very different graphical styles, with different characters and different target audiences – they both include a lot of humour! Both games are filled with hilariously sarcastic and/or witty dialogue, silly background details and the refreshing sense that they aren’t meant to be “100% serious“.

And, the surprising thing is that this seriously improves both games in so many ways! Whether it distracts from the constant cheap difficulty and occasionally terrible level design in “SiN” or whether it distracts from the fact that “Hand Of Fate” is (if my memories of playing about half of it during the early 2000s are correct) filled with frustrating early-mid 1990s adventure game puzzles, the humour does a lot to cover up the shortcomings of both games.

It also makes the audience want to keep returning to the game, just to see what funny things will happen next. In addition to this, it lends both games a lot more personality. Thanks to the narrative humour and character-based humour, both games seem like distinctive and unique things that were actually made by people – rather than designed by committee or anything.

So, what does this have to do with comics and/or fiction?

Aside from all of the benefits that I’ve already mentioned earlier, another great thing about including humour in the things you create is that it makes your stories and/or comics as much about the journey as they are about the destination. In other words, the main events of the story you’re trying to tell aren’t as all-important as they might be in a more “serious” story.

This focus on enjoying the journey (or making the journey enjoyable) rather than racing towards the ending, lends creative works that are sprinkled with humour a much more relaxing tone. They are something where your readers won’t be frantically turning the pages to see what happens next, but will actually sit back and take the time to savour the thing you’ve created.

So, yes, whether it’s masking problems, adding uniqueness or just making your story or comic more relaxing, humour can be a surprisingly useful tool for writers and/or comic makers.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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