Finding the Funny

posted by Meghan Thornton September 29th 2017

Working at Telltale can be a bit serious. While Tyrion may get a few jokes in, Game of Thrones is generally a grim affair. Any light moment in the Walking Dead is usually followed by an evisceration. And Batman--well, let’s face it. Tall, Dark and Broody isn’t exactly known for his great sense of humor.

So when I found out that I’d be writing on Guardians I was ecstatic. I’m a fan of the funny, and as anyone who knows me can attest, I love trying to make people laugh--even if it’s (often) at my own expense.

Growing up I was a massive fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was the first show I’d seen that balanced humor, drama, and horror on a knife’s edge. The humor never detracted from the drama of the show. If anything, the humor made the characters more vivid, real, and lovable.

Guardians of the Galaxy held a similar fascination for me. Peter Quill is basically a twelve-year-old boy with the sense of humor to match, but the reason he’s like that is quite dark. His mother died when he was still a kid, he never knew his father, and the man who assumed parental responsibility was a ravaging pirate. Who wouldn’t be a little stunted after that? To some degree, humor is a coping mechanism for all the Guardians characters. That, combined with their friendships, is their way of climbing out of their dark pasts.

Balancing the light and dark of Guardians was particularly tricky in episode three. The Eternity Forge has divided the group. Some of them want to use it to bring back loved ones. The others think it's too dangerous to exist. Peter ultimately must decide the Forge’s fate, knowing that the Guardians who disagree might never forgive him. With such a heavy burden on Peter, we needed to have a lot of tension going into the episode’s biggest choice, but we didn’t want the humor to disappear. No one wants to see Guardians content where the team just yells at each other for two hours.

Finding the right balance involved a lot of trial and error, and introducing humor where it was needed was a team effort. For all the jokes that we wrote, there were other, more physical gags that the director and choreography artists put into the game. A simple direction note like, “Drax looks offended,” could become a laugh-out-loud moment. The montage in particular is an example of fantastic visual storytelling--humor that has nothing to do with the dialogue.

At the end of the day I hope we’ve created something that makes the player experience a range of emotions, from laughter to tears. The divisiveness of the Guardians, the conflict between Gamora and her sister Nebula, Peter’s memories of his mother--all provide for great drama. But it’s still a story that can’t be told without cracking a smile, and for that I’ve loved working on it.