If I had to put my finger on it, I think the first exposure that I had of Podcast 17 was through Ross Scott of Freeman’s Mind and Civil Protection, two of the most consistently hilarious Half-Life machinima series out there.
I learned of Ross Scott through Christopher Livingston, creator of the amazing webcomic Concerned, which told of the hapless wanderings of Gordon Frohman (Combine sympathizer, unwilling rebel, and definitely not the Sausage King of Chicago).
Podcast 17 itself is hosted by a group of fellas who, me excluded, have an amazing rapport with each other and have all sorts of jokes ready at their disposal. Even Valve themselves have taken on a humorous tone with TF2 and Portal, and the success of both demonstrates the community’s appreciation of a good laugh.
My entire reckoning of the Source Gaming/Modding community has been centered completely on humor. But, if you had to put a gun-with-a-flag-that-pops-out-and-says-“BANG!” to my head, I can’t really think of too many mods that are laugh-out loud hysterical.
Look, I’m not saying that I’ve played mods that have tried and failed miserably. I’m just saying that they aren’t out there.
The only mod that I am aware of that tickled me was Davey Wreden’s The Stanley Parable, though the effect of the humor dissipated for me over time. While the writing of the dialog was delightfully Douglas-Adamsian, repeated playthroughs would tend to drown out the humor in order to tease out the hidden meaning that wasn’t even there in the first place.
Now, I’m not really sure where this dearth of humor is coming from. A strong possibility is that it’s just hard to write humor well. I’ve learned this in my own writing time and time again: making someone laugh while trying to tell a story is very challenging. It really does take concerted effort, and a lot of practice, to try and make it work.
The second possibility is that the tone of the Source Modding community tends to be more stoic. Whether it’s an artsy-fartsy message mod or a rip-roarin’ murder silmulator, the Source Mod tends to take itself seriously in ways that can be both good and bad.
I think that this tone was adopted from Half-Life 2 itself. While the game did have some genuinely funny moments, they were seasoning in a story that was far more tragedy and action rather than comedy.
This set an example for the community as a whole, I feel. Mod developers tended to hone in on the action and serious storytelling, HL2′s strengths, because that is what Valve themselves had done in their magnum opus.
I’m not saying that the stoic approach is bad. I enjoy a great drama as much as the next self-appointed literary critic, but I think there’s a void to be filled here. There’s been a lot of talent seen in this group of people, and I think there’s a huge potential for them to show it off in new ways.
And if you, good reader, are aware of a mod that tickled your funny bone, then name it below in the comments!