How humor keeps us playing, a look at Fortnite and Among Us

(Image Credit: Inverse)
(Image Credit: Inverse)

It’s no secret that Among Us has been my latest go-to game. Likewise, I’ve been following Fortnite more or less since its initial release. While these games don’t really have too much in common, it’s interesting that both rely a good deal on their humor to help players relate to their content. So let’s take a look at how humor keeps us playing Among Us, Fortnite, and many more games.

Is “comedy” a genre for games?

For almost every other type of media, whether it’s TV, film, books, theater, interpretive dancing, TED talks, video essays, podcasts, and so on, comedies encompass those which aim to make you laugh, smile, or feel generally comfortable and momentarily happy. The range within comedies is quite wide, from the cheery and uncontroversial sitcoms to darker and edgier comedies.

Games have employed humor a fair amount on their own, but is it fair to suggest that these games can be considered comedies? A fair number of games have already begun to blur narrative lines between a film and game. Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us series shows that storytelling with drama and character is not limited merely to passive mediums.

But while many games have delved into drama, just look at anything made by David Cage, very few have done the same for Comedy. This is because for most games the humor is simply a flavor added to the game and not the primary reason to keep playing. While Portal is hilarious at times, players are more concerned with solving the puzzle than hearing the next joke.

But some games have since flipped the script on that. The critically acclaimed The Stanley Parable put its jokes and writing front and center as it satirized gaming as a medium. Other games like Goat Simulator, Surgeon Simulator, and to some extent Untitled Goose Game and Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy have only loose gameplay held together by its jokes.

But how does this relate to Fortnite and Among Us?

While Fortnite and Among Us could hardly be called comedies in their own right, they are both a part of the rising role of comedy and humor being used to hold games together. Fortnite has shown that sometimes the most fun you can have in a game isn’t playing it.

Humor in Fortnite extends from its character and level design to its reliance on skins, emotes, dances, sprays, and events which can best be described as “wacky.” If you’ve ever watched a trailer for the next season of Fortnite and chuckled, smiled, or laughed, then you’ve felt firsthand how Fortnite tries to connect with you through humor.

Among Us has a very similar situation baked into part of its design. Much like Fortnite, Among Us lets players dress their character up in a number of different outfits and hats, and have a number of silly pets follow your character around.

Additionally, the highly exaggerated kill animations and corpses lead to situations where players can stumble on a dead body with a single comical bone sticking out of its entire torso, something which at least helps lower the tension of the game and keep it social.

Among Us uses humor elsewhere as well. Anyone who has sat through the medbay scan has noticed that the crewmates in Among Us all seem to be roughly three feet tall, raising some serious questions about their ability to even reach the consoles they’re working on.

How does humor keep us playing games?

During an interview on Hidden Brain, neuroscientist Sophie Scott pointed out that most laughter is “purely social” in its function, having little to do with humor at all. Laughter facilitates social bonds, we laugh to make friends and we laugh to make our friends comfortable.

But Among Us and Fortnite can’t rely on being your friend to get you to laugh. Instead, the humor of Among Us and Fortnite is meant to give you an immediate feeling of happiness. When you play Fortnite and you see a skin in the shop that makes you laugh, you may be more likely to spend money on the skin during that window of happiness.

In Among Us, however, the humor seems to be meant to make the game seem less intimidating to pick up. Among Us relies much more heavily on the social aspect of the game. If watching someone play Among Us gets you to laugh, if it looks like the streamers you watch are having fun, then you’ll be more likely to try it yourself.

Careful application of humor is likely to be a consistent feature of many games, as a game that makes you laugh is more likely to connect with you and keep you playing than one which fails to. Next time you’re playing one of these games, keep an eye out for jokes and see just how many are spread throughout the game.

Edited by Izaak


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