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All of the games Tim Schafer has worked on can be categorized as games in an established genre, laced with comedic elements. Brutal Legend is an action-adventure with a hilarious storyline and characters. Psychonauts is a platformer that makes you (if you're sane, anyway) laugh out loud. Could a comedy genre exist in video games, a genre whose sole intent was to make you laugh? Schafer pitched this idea during a panel discussing humor in video games at GDC last week.
"I think it's useful to have genres," he said. "Sometimes you feel like watching a comedy movie -- you know in some ways it's going to be funny. Sometimes I cynically think that the games business is like any other business and it's very imitative and if there was just a huge, blockbuster game that was known as a comedy, then there'd all of a sudden there's be tons and tons of them."
The problem, he pointed out, was that because there's no benchmark for the industry to look towards, no publisher can justify spending a massive budget on a genre that hasn't been established.
"No one sits down at a meeting," he said, with the sarcasm we've come to expect from Schafer, "saying 'how can we mitigate risk on this new title we're spending millions of dollars on?' and [then says] 'a new comedy game, because those are always huge!'"
No one else on the panel agreed with Schafer's hopes for a comedy genre. Both Overlord writer Rhianna Pratchett and Telltale Games writer Sean Vanaman viewed comedy as a writer's tool.
"I don't think comedy games is a genre or should be a genre," said Pratchett. "I think comedy is just a very broad tool in writing."
Schafer countered by arguing games are missing out on an audience who might like to pick up a game just to laugh, rather than the current structure, which is a game with the added color of humor.