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Parody In Games: Balancing Homage With Innovation
Posted on Sunday, April 24 2011 @ 18:54:36 PST

I love a serious story in a video game. It helps the world open up and often helps add some emotional weight to itself and by extension usually establishes a more personal relationship with the player and a game. After playing games consecutively though, it can get a bit tiring, especially when games are simply following cookie cutter formulas to tell their stories. Around that time, a good parody of a game or a game that acts as a parody of a game genre in general can be quite refreshing.
However, simply because a game chooses the vessel of parody or satire-parody to deliver itself does not mean the game should simply stew in the fact that it represents itself as a parody or satire or simply tongue-in-cheek homage. A good example of this would be in 3D Dot Game Heroes, which, over all, I actually liked quite a bit. The game is a strident homage to old-school classic RPG’s and adventure games, most particularly conveyed through the medium of Zelda, with an overlay of good-natured parody all about it. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t get much further past that. The jokes and classic game references struck all the necessary nostalgia chords to keep me playing the game, but it does not drive the game itself forward. When all is said and done, I had fun with it, but only in the same way that I’ve had fun with the majority of the classic Zelda games. The game essentially was an old-school Zelda game, but dressed up with just enough references to other games to prevent potential copyright infringement.
I’m not saying that parody should be considered anathema to being applied to games; it’s simply that developers need to make something more when applying parody. All games, not matter how formulaic, should at least strive to do something new or better for itself, its genre and advancing games as a whole. For example, if I were going to make a game that was parodying the various Koei Warriors games, while I would want utilize some properly timed jokes at the expense of those games, and likely would be, to an extent, trying to mimic the style of those games, I would not only want to be poking fun at that style of game and the individual games, I would also wish to refine the game itself so that it would also be the best of the bunch (though that may or may not mean much depending on who would be looking at it). Also, having theparody better executed than the game being parodied would make the humor in the game all the more effective. Even the most blatant parodies and satire can benefit from a little bit of underlying subtlety.
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