How to do comedy in a videogame
A veteran of the Saints Row series talks us through the fine art of interactive hilarity
1 Teach Kinect swearwords
It was just one of the funniest things, to record someone doing those voice commands for the ratings board. “So here’s one of our associate producers swearing violently at the TV while the player demonstrates moves.” It’s pretty great to think that this is all completely legitimate work.
2 Stay plausible – just
We try to make sure that everything stays ‘logical’ – you know, with an asterisk. We wanted to have superpowers in Saints Row IV, so we put you in a Matrix where you are hacked and have these powers given to you. And in the case of the most recent one – you’re in hell, so of course you have supernatural abilities.
3 Embrace spontaneity
Whether it’s Steve Jaros coming up with the background, or a designer coming up with any given mission, invariably what we’ll do is we keep it wide open in terms of what kinds of jokes we want to include, or what broad type of humour we want to do. We tend not to be very restrictive upfront.
Mod the guns
We have a pistol you can charge up, through killing, for a ton of punishment – so, a fun weapon in and of itself, but what really makes [the gun] cool is that it’s constantly talking to you. It’s almost like your mini companion when you get this weapon out, and he’s just yelling at everyone.
5 Be politically sensitive…
Quite honestly, early on in the franchise, certainly with Saints Row 1, it just wasn’t something we gave a lot of thought to, but as time has gone on… As irreverent, silly and overthe-top as this game is, the team takes a lot of pride in the fact that it’s darn near the most inclusive game around.
6 …but not po-faced
We think [being inclusive] is the right thing to do, but we try to do it in a way that’s still funny and entertaining. For the detractors who might say we’re just bowing to political pressure with our characters, it’s always our goal to try and do it in an amusing way.
7 Spoof other games
Gat out of Hell’s romance options started off with: “Hey, this would be a fun gag about the Mass Effect system where it’s so intricate, it takes so long before you can seduce a member of your crew. Wouldn’t it be funny, more Saints Row if you walked up, pressed the button and suddenly you’re with them?”
8 Avoid total zaniness
A lot of times when people look at our games they think, ‘Clearly anything goes!’ But it’s actually taken a long time for us to hit this very specific sense of humour. We want the characters to be larger than life, but we want you to take them seriously. Our humour is a serious, controlled sense of humour.
9 Mix up genres
We laughed a lot about Gat out of Hell’s musical scene, you know? “It’d be funny if we did the whole game this way!” But we figured that it was probably better placed as this amazing moment, rather than the whole game. And also because – as we learned – it’s an incredible amount of work to write musicals!
10 End with a dance
We do this ‘Soul Train’ dance for the Saints Row IV credits with the characters in the game. Originally, we talked about that being a Bollywood dance – that was our grand vision. But we just ran out of time and budget. We wanted to do it right, but that would have meant we had to choreograph it all. OXM
If you've not played Saints Row, know that this is pretty pedestrian by series standards.