We’re not sure what came first — the name Jersey Shouroboros – or the concept of a giant snake eating the cast of the recently-cancelled Jersey Shore and then eating its own tail. Either way, Robert Yang’s crowd favorite from this year’s Global Game Jam is the stuff of nightmares.
Humor is difficult in games. Set-up requires controlling viewers expectations and then subverting them as Louie CK does with cult hit FX show Louie. Huff Po tv critic Danny Lanzetta points to Louie’s expecation-subverting performances in arguing that Louie qualifies as literature. Lanzetta’s point is simple — television always feels like television because it’s always trying to bring you back week after week. So no matter how affecting Mad Men or Homeland might be, the episodic nature is a stumbling block to telling good stories that aren’t contingent on “To be continued.” Lanzetta continues:
You get the feeling C.K. doesn’t care if I come back, as long as I’m totally invested in whatever he’s showing me at that moment. Sometimes the moment is the torturously beautiful declaration of love to Pamela, an almost embarrassing, nakedness of feeling reminiscent of a Shakespearean sonnet, or La Vita Nuova. C.K.’s language – sample line: “I don’t have enough time in any day to think about you enough” — is far more shocking, and moving, than the ultimately inevitable development in the story arc of Louie and Pamela’s inequitable relationship.
Louie CK is aware of the limitations of his form and then abandons them anyway and perhaps that’s what Yang is point to with Shouroboros. This was developed in a 48-hour game jam, but the punchline approach is pitch perfect. Games may never be capable to long-winded subtle humor of Wes Anderson or the delriously analytics of Woody Allen, but they are capable of capturing the absurd and Shouroboros is proof. I’d be content if the humor games looks a lot more like Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup.