I had too many mornings in a row where I'd pull my phone out from under my pillow, flip to Twitter, and immediately begin feeling stressed and miserable. Politics. Pop culture hot takes. All of it spewing at me from the literal hundreds of people I was following. At first I tried to cull my follow list. Mute anyone talking about things that stressed me out. But soon I realized that the source of stress wasn't linked to the topic being discussed - It was just straight-up, 100%, linked to being exposed to all that talking and thought-traffic at once. I'm ultimately a pretty solitary and reclusive person - I don't do parties, and I've had more than my fair share of crowd-induced panic attacks - and I'm starting to realize that Twitter is the psychological equivalent of standing in Shibuya Square during commute hour.
When we were in the planning and preproduction phase of writing Minecraft: Story Mode Season 2 I wrote up a document detailing some of the stylistic guidelines for how to write the characters, what kind of language was appropriate, etc. One of the sections that I spent the most time on was a section titled "On Comedy," which I thought might be fun to share below - It's a combo of thoughts on comedy specific to the MCSM universe, as well as some of my thoughts about interactive comedy on the whole. Hope you enjoy!
Comedy is an inherent part of MCSM, but the tone can be a little tricky for some folks to nail right away, which is why I wanted to do a section about Comedy in Minecraft: Story Mode --
Oh gross. Like a “How to Jokes” section?
Not exactly, but a section about some of the best practices for comedy when writing Minecraft: Story Mode. See, in a movie or TV show you could just pack every possible second full of gags, wordplay, etc. but in an interactive game it starts to feel like you’re just “along for the ride” if it’s a never-ending spree of jokes.
For example, imagine the player chooses to say “I want to go into the spooky house.”
JESSE: Come on everyone. Let’s go get up in that spooky house’s business.
IVOR: Ohh I know all about the spooky house business. Back when I was a real estate agent they were my speciality.
The player choosing to say “I want to go into the spooky house” became the setup for a funny line from Ivor which could probably get a laugh, but it kind of took the player’s input hostage. They hit a single button expecting to go to the spooky house but instead got an entire conversation between two NPCs. (A funny conversation, but not exactly what they were expecting from that button press.)
So what should you do instead?
It has been a very full start to the year so far.
After months of stress about giving a talk, GDC 2018 has come and gone. People tell me the talk was a success, so that's really nice because, man, I was nervous. My memories of the whole thing are hazy, but it felt especially good at the Monday session - That was for the Narrative Summit so we had a great crowd that was at GDC specifically for that kind of narrative-focused talk. Should be getting the video from that within the next week or so, which will be fun to see and share with the rest of the Internet At Large.
My lovely partner in crime, Molly Maloney, and I are giving a talk at GDC 2018! We're going to be talking about the difference between writing and narrative design at Telltale, how the two work together to make a great story, and how the relationship between the two roles isn't that different from a romantic relationship... Should be fun I hope!