Ben Hudson | University of

VIRTUAL
TRICKSTERS

Kent | Digibury

Videogames as
Slapstick Comedy
Friday, 15 November 13
Slipping on the banana skin of laughter theory

•

In Bergson's view, for the survival of our species, human beings have
e...
Pain and aggression

•

‘The banana peel slip is used as the opening pratfall that instigates the
infamous pie fight in La...
A History of violence

•

The original term 'slapstick' is derived
from the prop carried by Arlecchino (later
known as Har...
Why it’s Funny to ‘FAIL’.

•

Nevertheless, though violence and slapstick go hand in hand, the idea
that sadism is at the ...
The mechanically inelastic game-world

•

Benjamin Woolly, in Virtual Worlds explores the origins of
simulation in Link fl...
Interacting with an Imperfect Simulation

•

TWO REASONS we can engage with the imperfect
simulation of game-worlds:

•

1...
Slapstick behaviour in Counter-Strike (2000)

Fig 2) Counter-strike (2000) Counter-terrorists leaving ‘spawn’.

•

In Coun...
Attacking control: The trickster and the fool

•

The 'trickster' is an ever present character in society and in online ga...
Game Worlds and Shared Comic References:
In Day Z (2012) the phrase
'Anyone in Cherno?', has
become a recognised meme
from...
Videogame Slapstick in
Popular Culture
•

•

Fig 4) Dara O'Briain, Live at the Apollo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=yKI...
Videogames as a Medium for Comic Expression
Fig 5) Ben Hudson,
Live in Virtual Reality
(2009)

•

Videogames are media, ex...
Bibliography

•

Allen, Tony. Attitude: Wanna Make Something of It? The Secret of Stand-up Comedy. Glastonbury:
Gothic Ima...
Bibliography

•
•
•

Lane, Lupino. How to Become a Comedian. London: Frederick Muller, 1945.

•

Mentalfloss. 'How Did Sli...
Bibliography

•

YouTube. 'Ben Hudson, Live in Virtual Reality (April, 2009) - Part One', Viewed 10 May 2013, <http://
www...
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Digibury: Ben Hudson - Virtual Tricksters

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How videogames can be comedies and amusing not just as a result of artistic choice, also unintentionally and can be exploited for comic value, taking us through a brief history of slapstick.

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Digibury: Ben Hudson - Virtual Tricksters

  1. 1. Ben Hudson | University of VIRTUAL TRICKSTERS Kent | Digibury Videogames as Slapstick Comedy Friday, 15 November 13
  2. 2. Slipping on the banana skin of laughter theory • In Bergson's view, for the survival of our species, human beings have evolved to remain flexible and adaptable. Machines are rigid, dead objects, that cannot adapt to their circumstances in the same way as a living creature, and therefore, when people act in a mechanical fashion, it is somehow against nature. • • They have a ‘mechanical inelasticity’ (Bergson, 1911: 10). • In addition, Douglas categorises Sigmund Freud's notion of jokes being a release of repressed libido or anti-social emotions as harmonious with Bergson's claims. For both, writes Douglas, joking represents an 'attack on control’ (1999: 149). This explanation would seem to chime with Mary Douglas's assertion that joking is a 'temporary suspension of the social structure'; an act of establishing 'consensus' in a social group by pointing out some recognisable folly (Douglas,1999:158-9). 2 View, Master, Slide Master to change this text to the title of your presentation Friday, 15 November 13
  3. 3. Pain and aggression • ‘The banana peel slip is used as the opening pratfall that instigates the infamous pie fight in Laurel and Hardy's Battle of the Century (1927), though the pratfall itself has been attributed to 'Vaudeville comedian “Sliding” Billy Watson’ (Mentalfloss). • • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDgnqfepRfI • Aristotle Poetics: ‘worse than average’ (chapter 5, 1449a, quoted in Morreall 1987: 14). Hobbes Leviathan: ‘apprehension of a deformed thing in another’ (1961: 45). Johnstone Impro, on the banana skin: 'funny only if he loses status, and if we don't have sympathy with him' Johnstone, Impro, (1989: 40). Lupino Lane, the Music Hall, theatre and film performer, dedicates a chapter to 'Funny Falls', in his book, How to Become a Comedian, writing 'the 'business' that makes the fall funny also makes it dangerous, for the fall must give the appearance of hurting the performer' (Lane, 1945: 32). 3 View, Master, Slide Master to change this text to the title of your presentation Friday, 15 November 13
  4. 4. A History of violence • The original term 'slapstick' is derived from the prop carried by Arlecchino (later known as Harlequin), a stock character of the Italian, 16th Century comic art-form Commedia dell'Arte –Fig 1. • Arlecchino's 'batocchio', was made of two 'thin pieces of wood... kept apart at the handle' so they would 'slap against each other' imitating the sound of an impact as pretend blows were thrown. (Rudlin,1994: 77). Fig 1) Arlecchino with batocchio. 4 View, Master, Slide Master to change this text to the title of your presentation Friday, 15 November 13
  5. 5. Why it’s Funny to ‘FAIL’. • Nevertheless, though violence and slapstick go hand in hand, the idea that sadism is at the heart of all humour does not ring true. Pain, loss and suffering are not inherently funny. For this reason, video compilation shows such as You've Been Framed, and popular 'Fail' compilations on YouTube always cut away a few seconds after a painful incident has occurred. It is the chaotic of out of control element that remains. • Fail Army, ‘Ultimate Fails Compilation 2012', Viewed 11/11/2013 <http:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvuEFafFhBA> . • Carr and Greeves write that 'laughter is a response to a conceptual shift, a change in our perception of the state of the world around us‘ (Carr and Greeves, 2006: 21). The man slipping on the banana peel is not amusing because it is painful, but because it is incongruous. There has been a shift: control to chaos, organic to mechanical, upright to collapsed. 5 View, Master, Slide Master to change this text to the title of your presentation Friday, 15 November 13
  6. 6. The mechanically inelastic game-world • Benjamin Woolly, in Virtual Worlds explores the origins of simulation in Link flight trainers - early, mechanical flight simulators built to mimic air-craft systems. On the Link trainer, he writes 'It could imitate flying, but it could not simulate flying', suggesting that in order to simulate an experience 'You need a working model' (Woolley,1992: 44). • With computers, mathematical models can be made that allow realistic simulations to occur. But the level of simulation is, logically, tied to the ability of the computer to process these calculations. 6 View, Master, Slide Master to change this text to the title of your presentation Friday, 15 November 13
  7. 7. Interacting with an Imperfect Simulation • TWO REASONS we can engage with the imperfect simulation of game-worlds: • 1) Videogames are a kind of theatre - suspension of disbelief. On Greek Theatre - ‘these creative simulations weren’t unlike the way we use computers today...’ (Pimentel and Teixeira, 26). • 2) Videogames are media – media is an extension of ourselves. McLuhan states that with 'the arrival of electric technology, man extended, or set outside himself, a live model of the central nervous system itself.‘ (1964: 243). 7 View, Master, Slide Master to change this text to the title of your presentation Friday, 15 November 13
  8. 8. Slapstick behaviour in Counter-Strike (2000) Fig 2) Counter-strike (2000) Counter-terrorists leaving ‘spawn’. • In Counter-Strike (Fig 2), for instance, humour has arisen from players attempting to communicate and interact as they would in real-life, using only the limited set of animations and actions that the game-world allows. Players will 'greet' each other at the start of a match, but, given the lack of a 'wave' animation, resort to the few options available to them. 8 View, Master, Slide Master to change this text to the title of your presentation Friday, 15 November 13
  9. 9. Attacking control: The trickster and the fool • The 'trickster' is an ever present character in society and in online gameworlds, where anonymity is assured and there are no real-life consequences to their actions, the power of this archetype is undeniable. Hence, the twisted humour of the team-killer (or 'Tker') or cheater who chooses inopportune moments to cause chaos and go against the rules of the game. As Carr and Greeves describe, 'There's nothing funny about a lot of the practical jokes he plays, which leave a trail of destruction and pain' (2006: 45). • But on a less malicious level, it is this anarchistic desire to use the tools that the game-world provides to perform actions that were 'unintended' by the developers, that lends the subsequent tom-foolery its sense of fun. The 'fool', after all, is cousin to the trickster and 'expresses himself through selfless play. Beyond that there are no rules and the options are endless - it's playtime' (Allen, 2002: 52). And what are videogames for, if not for play? 9 View, Master, Slide Master to change this text to the title of your presentation Friday, 15 November 13
  10. 10. Game Worlds and Shared Comic References: In Day Z (2012) the phrase 'Anyone in Cherno?', has become a recognised meme from the game, with its own cartoon logo appearing on official merchandise. DayZ Official Store', Viewed 10 May 2013, http:// joystickjunkies.com/dayz/ ‘...extraneous variables are the very stuff of what makes us laugh’ (Double, 1997: 247). Fig 3) Image from DayZ Official Store', Viewed 10 May 2013, 10 View, Master, Slide Master to change this text to the title of your presentation Friday, 15 November 13
  11. 11. Videogame Slapstick in Popular Culture • • Fig 4) Dara O'Briain, Live at the Apollo https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=yKIiUsbOO24 • Now, experiences taken from game-worlds have become accepted reference points in popular culture, relatable to audiences of various ages. Performing on Live at the Apollo in 2010, stand-up comedian Dara O'Briain describes his experiences playing Metal Gear Solid, acting out his inability to control the game's hero Solid Snake. In a similar routine, Seann Walsh adopts the physicalities of player characters in Mortal Kombat in order to demonstrate the difficulty of trying to perform a finishing move. By using their own bodies to assume the physical qualities of videogame characters, both comedians lay bare the mechanical and inelastic way in which videogames interpret human input. 'Mortal Kombat - Live from the Apollo', Viewed 10 May 2013, <https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=u5Qnt2GROxE>. (1.24) (5.02) 11 View, Master, Slide Master to change this text to the title of your presentation Friday, 15 November 13
  12. 12. Videogames as a Medium for Comic Expression Fig 5) Ben Hudson, Live in Virtual Reality (2009) • Videogames are media, extensions of ourselves. Players are always on the outside looking in. Conversely, immersed in a game-world, the real world is less contextually relevant as a shared point of reference than the virtual experience of the game itself. Therefore, interfacing with videogames is an opportunity to forge a creative relationship with the media object and to see game worlds as a place of refraction, rather than reflection. 12 View, Master, Slide Master to change this text to the title of your presentation Friday, 15 November 13
  13. 13. Bibliography • Allen, Tony. Attitude: Wanna Make Something of It? The Secret of Stand-up Comedy. Glastonbury: Gothic Image Publications, 2002. • Bergson, Henri. Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic. Translated by Cloudesley Brereton and Fred Rothwell. New York: The Macmillan Press, 1911. • BBC NEWS. 'Game sales surpassed video in UK, says report', Viewed 10 May 2013, <http:// www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-17458205> • Carr, Jimmy and Greeves, Lucy. The Naked Jape: Uncovering the Hidden World of Jokes. London: Penguin Books, 2006. • Dale, Alan. Comedy is a Man in Trouble, Slapstick in American Movies. University of Minnesota Press, 2000. DayZ. 'DayZ Official Website', Viewed 10 May 2013,<http://dayzmod.com/>. • • • • • • • Double, Oliver. Stand-up! On Being a Comedian. London: Methuen Drama, 1997 Douglas, Mary. Implicit Meanings 2nd edition. London & New York: Routledge, 1999. Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1961 Johnstone, Keith. Impro, Improvisation and the Theatre. London: Methuen Drama, 1989. Joystick Junkies. 'DayZ Official Store', Viewed 10 May 2013, <http://joystickjunkies.com/dayz/>. Kramer, Peter. ''Clean, Dependable Slapstick': Comic Violence and the Emergence of Classical Hollywood Cinema'. Violence and American Cinema 102 (2001): 103-16. 13 View, Master, Slide Master to change this text to the title of your presentation Friday, 15 November 13
  14. 14. Bibliography • • • Lane, Lupino. How to Become a Comedian. London: Frederick Muller, 1945. • Mentalfloss. 'How Did Slipping on a Banana Peel Become a Comedy Staple?' Viewed 10 May 2013, <http://mentalfloss.com/article/31135/how-did-slipping-banana-peel-become-comedy-staple> . • • • McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. London: The MIT Press, 1964. Morreall, John. The Philosophy of Laughter and Humor. Albany: State of New York Press, 1987. • Pimentel K. and K. Teixeira. Virtual Reality: Through the New Looking Glass, 2nd Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Inc., 1995. • • Rudlin, John. Commedia dell'Arte: An Actor's Handbook. London: Routledge, 1994. • Woolley, Benjamin. Virtual Worlds, A Journey in Hype and Hyperreality. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992. • YouTube. 'Battle of the Century - Laurel & Hardy', Viewed 10 May 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=XDgnqfepRfI>. Machinima. 'About Machinima', Viewed 10 May 2013, <http://www.machinima.com/overview>. Meadows, Mark. I, Avatar: The Culture and Consequences of Having a Second Life. Berkeley: New Riders, 2008. Online Slang Dictionary. 'Definition of Tker', Viewed 10 May 2013, <http://onlineslangdictionary.com/ meaning-definition-of/tker>. Virtual Worlds Research. 'Understanding Machinima: Applying a Dialogic Approach', Viewed 10 May 2013, <http://worlds.ruc.dk/public_uploads/2011/02/Lisbeth.pdf>. 14 View, Master, Slide Master to change this text to the title of your presentation Friday, 15 November 13
  15. 15. Bibliography • YouTube. 'Ben Hudson, Live in Virtual Reality (April, 2009) - Part One', Viewed 10 May 2013, <http:// www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MdUpljRc7JI>. • YouTube. 'Counter-Strike Funny Plant', Viewed 10 May 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=0DaWsI3XbRs>. • YouTube. 'Counter-Strike: Dust 2 Muck Around', Viewed 10 May 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=_KL4LQwbADA>. • YouTube. 'Counter Struck High Definition', Viewed 10 May 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=mxq2QbMg-H8>. • YouTube. 'CS 1.6 Top 10 Funny Moments', Viewed 10 May 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=h2nrJMiMWR8>. YouTube. 'Dara O Briain Live at the Apollo - I love Videogames', Viewed 10 May 2013, <https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKIiUsbOO24>. • • YouTube. 'Fail Compilation of the Month April 2013', Viewed 10 May 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=J-zac0SYjks> . • YouTube. 'Mortal Kombat - Live from the Apollo', Viewed 10 May 2013, <https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=g4B9F1uCVks>. • YouTube. 'Three Stooges Most Violent Sequence Ever YouTube', Viewed 10 May 2013, <http:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ha0h4ReHy7M>. Ben Hudson is a Ph.D. Practice as Research candidate at the University of Kent, researching and conducting practical investigations into liveness, presence and immersion in mediatized stand-up comedy performance. A selection of his practical and written work can be found at www.benhudson.com 15 View, Master, Slide Master to change this text to the title of your presentation Friday, 15 November 13

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