Everyone enjoys a good laugh now and then, right? Probably so, and if there's something people want, you can bet any form of media will try to capitalize on it. Books, stage shows, movies and television have all given their respective audiences big laughs, from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream serving as a parody of general ideals, to the relentless self-mockery and deconstruction presented in The Lego Batman Movie.
So with #videogames recognized as another form of mainstream media, it should come as no surprise that the game industry would eventually take a crack at humor. Parody games like Goat Simulator, Zombies Ate My Neighbors and the #Lego games are far from uncommon and fairly successful offerings. However, how often do these games parody and mock the medium they're a part of? Most gamers will likely say Conker's Bad Fur Day — in which the game's plot must adjust itself for gameplay mechanics instead of the typical vise versa — or perhaps Saints Row IV, where certain jokes will only trigger if the player performs certain actions. But the humor present in these games (i.e., the humor that exists within the story and the story-related events) could easily translate to books or movies.
Enter Dead Rising
At first glance, one may not see how the zombie survival-horror of #Capcom's Dead Rising is a comedy game. Its plot is relatively straightforward and serious, with only the occasional joke or humorous one-liner thrown in for levity. So what is it about Dead Rising that could possibly make it a comedy? Is it the gameplay? Well, yeah, the gameplay alone has its humorous elements, and the frontrunner of those elements is how the game is basically a survival game taken to its logical extreme; the main character in any given entry can pick up literally any object to use as a weapon and eat anything remotely edible to recover health. However, if Dead Rising's sense of humor ended there, this post would be irrelevant.
What makes Dead Rising unique with its humor is how gameplay and story interpretation is handled. The game's main character Frank West is portrayed as a freelance wartime photo journalist, part-time jackass who is determined to discover the truth about the #zombie outbreak while saving as many people as possible. At least, that's one possible interpretation of Frank. Depending on how the player decides to tackle side quests and story quests — both of which can be cleared, failed, or ignored to minimal consequence — will likely impact Frank's portrayal in the cutscenes.
The player has full control over the main character's actions and the game will never penalize the player beyond occasionally making certain missions unavailable if a character needed for said mission should die. As such, the player can often save or kill anyone they want without being placed into a failure state. This can result in the playable character looking different in cutscenes. Is your Frank West the heroic journalist who is willing to work with condescending D.H.S. agents? Or a cross-dressing sociopath hellbent on murdering everything that walks outside the security room? The player could in theory take either of these options and still be playing the role of hero in Dead Rising.
Tone It Up
And this is where #DeadRising as a franchise is unmatched. The games are as funny as the player wants to make them. If you want Dead Rising to be a straightforward story of zombies and government conspiracy, or a super-wacky happy fun time with Sir Sexy Servbot and his bisexual harem, it can be done. The ability to make the game's tone as funny as the player wants through their actions is unique to this series alone, and there is no other medium that can use humor quite like Dead Rising does.
Indeed, while Choose Your Own Adventure books give the reader a series of options that lead to different outcomes through different storylines to follow, the tone is rarely if ever changed. I've yet to read one of these books where my choices affect not inertly the story, but the tone itself.
Dead Rising: Watchtower, the mediocre film spinoff of the game series, tries to interpret a Dead Rising narrative for the screen. Scenes featuring mainstay Frank West tend to be lighthearted and rather silly, while the main characters the plot focuses on are serious and straightforward. Try as it might, this film in no way match the humor of the game series, since in the series the player has to actively create that humor themselves.
Dead Rising has always been a noteworthy, different series, and I find the apparent lack of public opinion in support of its unique approach to humor a crime I could no longer let stand.
Are there any horror-survival games you find particularly humorous? Sound off in the comments section below.