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Lost Laughs in Leisure Suit Larry (shamusyoung.com)
367 points by smacktoward on Oct 6, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 166 comments



I was about 9 years old when I first played Leisure Suit Larry at my friends house in the 80s. We were like ninjas with a lookout and everything, most of the time failing to guess the age test questions.

I recently played all the way through for the first time ever, and I thought it was a great game. I giggled at some of the jokes that my younger self didnt get, and the exploratory nature of the text parser really holds up. I could see how the updated versions would ruin it... Now I want to make a game in this style.


You can make a game exactly in this style, please google "AGI interpreter"; basically, all these Sierra games run over a runtime called "AGI" (Adventure Game Interpreter), and currently there are many tools that allow you to design a similar game, with the same graphics and gameplay.


In later versions of Leisure Suit Larry, they use SCI ( "Script Code Interpreter" and later "Sierra's Creative Interpreter")[1]. If people like adventure games then I strongly recommend ScummVM: a collection of reimplantation of adventure game engines [2].

[1] http://wiki.scummvm.org/index.php/SCI

[2] http://www.scummvm.org


The trick I figured out was to select age 99(the oldest permitted). The reason why is that the questions for that age bordered on historical facts. Empire State Building and whatnot.

The questions would have been written by middle aged men who were as unfamiliar with the pop-culture lives of 99 year olds as I was with theirs. So the questions were really low ball, and in a pinch, an encyclopedia could provide the answer instead of mom.


It would have been funny if they adapted the rest of the gameplay to your given age.


Yeah, that would have been great.


we had them all memorized as kids, until we realized there was a key combo that skipped it.


I lost a lot of time in the age test too. I was about 8 years old and we just started to learn English in school (am a native Dutch speaker). I remember keeping a list of correct and wrong answers so I could get in more easily.

Great times and awese game back then. I agree with the article though, the remake of the game is nothing like the experience of playing the original.


Same for me. At that time, the 'drm' of games often consisted of a physical thing that let you solve some sort of puzzle at startup. For example, for monkey island, there were two discs you had to rotate to a certain position and then enter a certain symbol it would produce.

Anyway, for many years, I just assumed that it was the same for leisure suit larry; and that I was just missing the papers. Many of the questions didn't make sense to my (Belgian/Dutch) parents. At some point, they started questioning why we were asking all these questions, so we had to find another way to figure them out.


Same for me. I remember discovering that it was a very limited number of questions and that brute forcing them was feasible.


That is exactly what I did too. My friend had a much older brother though and he totally helped us out. Bless him!


There's a whole genre of "Interactive Novel" players and creators out there. In percent it's a small community, but I bet as with everything of old times, the sum of all people in there might be bigger than the whole amount of computer users in 1987.

You'll enjoy it. They have game creation engines, standardized grammar for dialogues, compilers that build your game even for smart phones and all operating systems.


A subset of "Interactive Fiction".

The latest in language: http://inform7.com/

"Inform is a design system for interactive fiction based on natural language. It is a radical reinvention of the way interactive fiction is designed, guided by contemporary work in semantics and by the practical experience of some of the world's best-known writers of IF."


I also played this in its early days, and recently played it through in DOSBOX. The thing I've found is that, humour and text parser aside, these games really aren't that playable in 2017 because you follow this pattern.

Play for a bit. Look up solution to problem. Continue. Even if you swear you'll only use a walkthrough when you're really really stuck, you end up finishing the game in 45 minutes.

And it really made me really, we sank weeks into this, and never got past the first few screens in those days.


Playing games was different back then (for me at least). I would visit different places in the game as some kind of “virtual tourist” to explore and just enjoy myself. It’s not like there was anything else to do with a computer that wasn’t totally boring.

It was quite nice watching the vector backgrounds being drawn and filled in one polygon at a time too.


I had an instance a few years ago where I had to use an emergency/backup computer that I couldn't network in any way (very old laptop (AMD K6-2 :D) that only had a USB port, my modem's Wi-Fi was broken and I had no USB Ethernet adapters).

And... using that thing was really really nice. Getting data into it was enough of a small chore that it was remarkably focusing.

At one point, the only bootable CDs for i586 in the house were a couple old half-scratched Slackware discs. A lot of things refused to install, but sed did... um.

I can't remember why but I ended up reinstalling quite a bit (I think from "no I don't like this partition table layout") and so I wanted a simple package selector/installer. So I tried writing one using bash and way, way too many regular expressions. I started getting a (literal) headache after staring at screenfuls of modem line noise for about a week and had to give up. But I know how to left- and right-justify text using sed now (and I frequently use sed's full command set), which is kind of cool.

It's quite sad that our brains are so easy to distract with "and through this door we have A PURE STREAM OF ALL THE WORLD'S INFORMATION". It's sad because we live in a hyper-connected age, and yet we just can't mentally scale to cope with it.


I just dont look at the walkthrough. Unless I already beat it, and I'm going for maximum points


I was maybe 10, and I remember that I was so pissed off by the age test that I found the way to bypass it simply using CTRL-Z. After that point I wasn't really much interested to the game because I didn't know what the hell to write and what to do. But at least cracking the age test was fun.


I actually remember the (impossible!) age test a lot more than I remember the gameplay, though I think my friend and I played it quite a bit on his dad's 3-foot-tall 486 tower. I think we were ~5th grade at the time. We also kept a list of correct age test answers.


Such a great article. I absolutely loved all the original Sierra games. There was something magical about them and this is the best explanation of this that I've ever seen. I was 8-9 when I started playing the first Police Quest, such a great game. I went back and bought the remake on Gog a few years back and it just didn't have the same play ability and uniqueness. I remember I always loved knocking over all the motorcycles outside the bar.


Your comment reminded me of how my friend and I would play that game. It felt so mischievous and exciting. It's nice to hear about it again and I agree, a similar game would be a blast.


I love Adventure games. I was more of a Lucas Arts fan, I believe both for the richer narrative (as in Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion and Indiana Jones), but also because for a non-english speaker point and click was easier than writing.

But I was always fascinated by the potential of writing anything in King's Quest. The problem is that I never could play it properly. The frustration from the "find the synonym" game for english speakers is a complete block for non-english speakers. That with the Sierra game choices where you could die or get permanently stuck, made it impossible for me to play it. I remember me taking days of trial to find out how to "pick up a cup" on one of the first scenes because I only knew about take or get things.

But specifically LSL never was more than a curiosity to me. Maybe because I got to know it before puberty. The objective of getting laid did not look as interesting for a full game as facing a dead pirate or finding Atlantis. The nuances the author points out were all lost to me.

In the end it was just a curious game to know about like X-Man, the Atari's porn game


I don't want to diminish your experience at all. But here's my story:

I learned to read and write by playing Sierra games. I played them with my dad. And I guess I wanted to be able to play them alone.

So the crappy text parsing forced me to learn written English. "Get knife" -> "What is a knife?", "Get sword" -> "I don't see a sword", "Get dagger" -> "You have the dagger". Over and over with many different circumstances. So I also learned to type.

I entered pre-school already knowing how to read and write, much to the chagrin of some teachers.

I am not saying this style of gaming was overall good. But it hard a weird unique impact on my development.


Hopelessly intrigued by Chrono Trigger, I learned English by playing it back to back on ZSNES, banging my head as I was looking for some place, object or task I hadn't quite fully grasped, progressing from frankly mediocre to seriously nice reading skills by the end (or rather, 10+ ends) of the game. Next stop was DOTT, and since the Full Talkie novelty was only available in English, well, so be it! With all the wit and puns and accents, 5 min in I was like "Holy crap what have I got myself into?", but that was too late, I was hooked, there was no way I would not beat this game. With no other guide than a Harrap's I made it through the hard way. A delightfully painful experience it was to go way beyond my comfort zone with such good games, to which I owe to be fluent in English today.


Very similar here. To this day I can remember the frustration of trying to type "use handcuffs" in Police Quest, which was one of the few timed actions. (I think you got shot of you took too long) Single digit pecking at the keyboard made this extremely hard.


wow, that is amazing

I'm actually surprised that to this day, learning reading, writing and math has not been very incentivized/gamified.


There's plenty of gamified learning out there. It's just not something most educators want to use for some reason. Learning has to be boring and dull after all!

Meanwhile, I started learning english (not a native speaker) at age 5 because all the broadcasted cartoons were in english, with subtitles. I remember my dad loading up gamified math puzzle games on the Commodore 64 for me to play. And this was some 32 years ago.

I don't know why it's so underused. Perhaps educator are afraid they'll be seen as lazy or not serious about their teaching if they use such measures?

What I do know is that gamification was one of the best ways of being educated as a kid.


Gamification is used a lot in UK education, at least PBL appears everywhere.

The problems with gamification centre mainly around intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation. Some studies strongly suggest that you're teaching kids to seek the rewards of games rather than helping them to find fulfillment in their education.

Gamification works well if you're looking for mechanical responses; it might work better for deeper thinking if the game element is well designed.

Kids feel that fun education is better, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is/isn't the best method.

Some things in studies - money - turn out to be bad motivators for tasks, with larger sums interfering more in people completing more complex tasks. PBL probably follows a similar model.

https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation/ is worth a look.


> helping them to find fulfillment in their education

This did not happen to me or my friends until university. I doubt anything would've fooled us into liking school, but learning games at least would have passed the time quicker.


Makes you think about the nature of learning and education a bit, and that modern schools aren't designed to teach people anything. Reminds me of PG's essay about why nerds hate school: http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html


The point and click ones taught me english a lot, as the verbs and dialogs were in english as well, with no translations.


tvtropes had a good write-up of the "guess the verb" phenomenon with several Sierra examples including the infamous case of needing to "press" (but not "push") a button

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/YouCantGetYeFlask


Day Of The Tentacle FTW


"Friend of yours Bernaaard ?"


I think i have played Maniac Mansion like 300 times... truly an innovative game!


What about Willy Beamish?


The name was only kind of familiar, so I googled it and WOW! I remember playing it and loving it. One of those things I would never remember spontaneously. Thanks for that!

I remember mostly because of the frog! Although, judging by the screenshots I saw on Google, I didnt go very far in the game. Only a few looks familiar.


"Hoopa Coiler Agamemnon!"

That was one of my favorites even though I can't stand the load times on Sega CD to ever play it again.


DOS PCs were the lead release for Willy. There are two versions as well, the floppy original which supports the soundtrack on MT-32, and a CD "multimedia PC" release which is basically the Sega CD version in 256 colors(no MT-32 sound, just SB/Adlib).

The game has some clockspeed bugs on DOS, though. The animations play at the correct rate, but timers that use the in-game clock will fire too fast above about a 66mHz 486 speed. This left me stuck on a puzzle for a few years, since I first got to play the game in the late 90's and it wasn't obvious that I had a bug.


Relatedly, I have certainly had the experience of remembering something as being hilarious only now to be turned off by how clearly sexist it is (which I never noticed at the time). This is especially uncomfortable when recommending content to a friend that I haven’t watched in a long time.


>Relatedly, I have certainly had the experience of remembering something as being hilarious only now to be turned off by how clearly sexist it is

That's part of the humor.

Plus a lot of people conflate sexual with sexist -- thinking about sex and working towards humping is considered automatically sexist in protestant-derived cultures (who'd rather we were all asexual and only interested in sex and in the other sex under very specific situations -- marriage, back in the day, a relationship, today).


Agreed, though the game is quite sexist and not merely sexual.


It is about someone who is sleazy. I don't really understand the modern trend that if story that is about (or includes) a character that is sexist/racist/etc, that then makes the story or it's creator sexist/racist/etc. It's quite absurd.

Lolita is about a pedophile, does that make Vladimir Nabokov a pedophile? Othello's Iago was incredibly racist, does that make Shakespeare racist?

That's not to say this game is on the same level as Shakespeare, but the point applies to any number of movies that include contentious character motivations.


I look so forward to humilate all those culture warriors with there unripe opinions on cartoonish over the top humor. If history taught us one thing it's that those without humor are bad company


I recently had to turn off Eddie Murphy's stand up special and a series of Norm MacDonald SNL skits because of how homophobic and sexist they were. They were iconic when they were made so I tuned in expecting some laughs.

Comedy keeps pulse of social norms. We've made progress over the past 30 years.


As a gay person born in the early 80s, I vividly remember how "normal" gay jokes were in movies all through my childhood and teen years. Although I didn't fully realize I was gay, a subconscious part of me did, because I remember how uncomfortable it made me each and every time. It was such a standard trope:

Gay joke happens in movie

Entire theatre groans, goes "Ewwwwww"

It was just standard formula. It started changing right at the end of the 90s / early 2000's with televisions shows like Queer as Folk, and Will and Grace, that treated gay people like normal human beings.


I probably laughed at some of those jokes and as a person who (much later) majored in psychology and realized that "appeal to disgust" is a fallacy (also that almost EVERYONE's secret sexual fetish grosses almost everyone else out... that's just the peculiar nature of sexuality), on behalf of all 80's teens, I apologize.


Never heard of the "appeal to disgust" fallacy before, looked it up. Interesting. :)


now that you know of it, you'll see it everywhere. I'm sorry, in advance. :)

Closely related is the https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Appeal_to_shame which is part of a general category of fallacies called emotional appeals. You'll also note they're used constantly in debate ("pathos", it's called), because (unfortunately) they are effective, despite being wrong (as far as rational arguments go, at least). The only way to immunize yourself and others against these sorts of tactics is to understand these fallacies so that you can recognize them before you are irrationally swayed.


The worst, looking back on it, is the first Ace Ventura. Possible spoiler I guess, but near the end Ace realised he’s kissed a trans woman; cut to a 1m long scene of him burning his clothes and screaming in a shower. It’s really bad in retrospect.

https://youtu.be/alPQgx7SGms


That scene is a pastiche of a sequence in The Crying Game though, so that's the actual joke.


Norm Macdonald is one of my favorite comics, and you're right, a lot of his older material hasn't aged well. He doesn't do that kind of material anymore either, so he's making progress along with everyone else.


Norm recently did an interview with Caitlyn Jenner on his YouTube channel [1]. I found his candor and willingness to see humour in the situation was actually more respectful than the typical white-gloves approach, and it lead to some pretty interesting stories and answers to questions.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuldL1m6FAs


Eddie Murphy was considered offensive back then as well the only thing that changed is a different group of people are offended for different reasons. That's why its art.


This. Eddie was never mainstream but he was not offensive for the homophobia jokes. He was offensive because he said shit fuck pussy in a time this was not considered socially appropriate. It wasn’t until this became more “normal” that the underlying message could be considered offensive.


> Eddie was never mainstream

SNL, 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop series, Coming to America, Golden Child, Trading Places, Nutty Professor, PJs...

He wasn't "mainstream" with respect to G and PG audiences, and wasn't on "regular" TV shows much. He did tours and cable specials like "Delirious" and "Raw" for the 'adult' market. But he was pretty much everywhere in the 80s, in multiple hit movies and cable specials (and radio charts!) in pretty much every year of the 80s in the to 90s.

Another way to put it - he was about as 'mainstream' as a black entertainer was allowed to be in the 80s. That he dealt more in 'adult' stuff vs 'family' stuff (like Cosby) was his own choice, of course, but he no doubt broke a hell of a lot of barriers in those years.


>Eddie was never mainstream

Oh please. I had a "Raw" poster on my closet door I got from the video rental place in Portsmouth, Rhode Island in the '80s. He was pretty mainstream at that point. It's hard to tease apart the fact some of "Delirious" is about how crappy he was as a comedian at the start because he just made poop jokes vs. him talking about Mr. T rodgering people.


Eddie was as mainstream as mainstream can get, how old are you?


Not really in his prime. You are conflating popular and mainstream. I’m old enough to have watched delirious and raw when it was released on video. Eddie was popular but the mainstream didn’t embrace him until the dr Doolittle years. That’s well beyond his prime.


Popular is literally a synonym for mainstream, they aren't being conflated. He went mainstream before Raw with Beverly Hills Cop, by the time Raw came out he was already a star. Doolittle was long after his prime, and long long after he went mainstream.


What are the odds that after several additional years you will look back at today and think, "wow, how was I so overly sensitive to humor?"


Ironically, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/05/matt-l...

The comedians themselves are contradicting you.

Re-watch many comedians from the 80s and 90s and they're just being close-minded rather than actually being funny.

The worst I remember was when in the office we'd all call each other gay for silly things. "You not coming out tonight drinking? Are you gay?".

Then we hired a homosexual.

For months we still all made 'gay' jokes. He said he didn't mind. They would just slip out, that's how we talked to each other. "ah man, who would write a function like that? It's so gay!".

I still feel ashamed today thinking back on actually how hostile that workplace actually was to him. Even if he really didn't care, we were still basically constantly saying Gay Is Wrong. We were idiots. We were wrong.

It's not being sensitive, it's simply being close-minded.


There is a lot of irony in accusations of close-mindedness when they come from people who think all the past generations and everyone outside of Western middle-class left-wing cultural sphere are "wrong" about humor.


>Re-watch many comedians from the 80s and 90s and they're just being close-minded rather than actually being funny.

Obviously not a Carlin fan! Its very easy to be open-minded and completely insensitive. Emotional sensitivity is not a desirable attribute, despite its current popularity.


This is life. We should do our best to be right even though we are probably not. It's that or throw our hands up and quit trying.


I agree. But it's also folly to have the too-common attitude of "wow, that thing I did in the past was wrong -- and I know it because today I'm 100% correct."


Okay, but if I find something I enjoyed in the past now makes me uncomfortable, I'm not going to force myself to feel comfortable with it out of some sense of pride. Similarly, I would likely be bored today by many of the TV shows I used to watch as a kid. Tastes change.


I rewatched the original Blade Runner earlier this week in preparation for the new movie and the love scene between Deckard and Rachael is surprisingly rapey (he overpowers her). It doesn't hold up well over time, and wouldn't be written like that today.

Totally agreed that societal mores change over time and you can retroactively realize that something wasn't OK.


The reason he overpowers her is because she's a thing, not a person. Deckard doesn't kill replicants, he retires them.

The guilt, along with his confrontation with the other Nexuses and the (ambiguous) realization he's the one doing the dangerous work because he too is not a person, is what changes him.


One possible introspection is to ask what fundamental change happened between then and now. The difference can help amplify life's progress. Just a thought.


Whoso belongs only to his own age, and reverences only its gilt Popinjays or smoot-smeared Mumbojumbos, must needs die with it. - Thomas Carlyle


Every time I read, chew, and fully digest a Carlyle sentence, I feel full.

Most contemporary writing feels like cotton candy that dissolves easily in the mind, when compared to the rack of lamb you take in from Carlyle.


Well said.


I have this feeling too, especially around the sci-fi of my teenaged years (Niven, et al). It's important to remember that this is the expected result of progress; it would probably be worrisome if middle-brow media from a generation ago didn't seem sexist.

It also seems like we apply current-generation standards most acutely to the N-1 generation. Somehow, a 1980 novel where a woman needs a man to save her from a monster is more offensive than a 1780 novel where a woman needs a man to have an identity or own property or leave the house. Perhaps that's just a matter of emotional distance.


I think that's true. The 1780 stuff can usually be dismissed as being something that no-one seriously believes any more. The 1980 one can't.

It's not just the cultural stuff, though. I read Dream Park and the Barsoon Project when I was a kid. Loved them to bits. Recently I found a copy of The Voodoo Game in a second hand book store and finally finished the trilogy. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but it was like watching an original series BSG episode and expecting it to be as good as... modern BSG.


I remember after reading Ringworld on a friend's recommendation, saying that it had one too many alien species with non-sentient females for me. One, okay, interesting idea I guess, two, now you're doing a thing.


Ringworld: Adventurer Louis Wu visits the titular megastructure along with three amazing aliens - Nessus, the two-headed Puppeteer, Speaker-to-Animals, the felinoid Kzin, and Teela Brown, the Wo-Man.


For the Puppeteers, both the sperm and egg producing sexes are sapient, it's their surrogates (a different species) that are non-sapient. Doesn't seem much different to humans hypothetically developing artificial wombs and losing much of our sexual dimorphism over time. If humans gestate their young in non-sapient artificial wombs in the future, would that make us sexist?


Well, except they explicitly call the non-sentient ones female (also stupid, and property), and the sentient ones are both referred to as male.


Well that's a semantics issue. Niven might argue that since the egg-producers don't gestate the young they're fulfilling a "male" role of merely producing gametes. But I'd argue that the female role is defined more by producing egg cells than by gestation: female fish produce eggs but don't gestate their young, and we still call them female. Therefore the "male" puppeteers that produce eggs are still truly "female".


The sentient ones are famously docile, cowardly and manipulative. I don't think calling them female would've been striking a great blow for progressive literature.


This is an interesting subthread. Humor and social taboos have a fascinating relationship. A lot of old Monty Python sketches spoofed British uptightness and reverence towards Queen and country in a way that may have been somewhat subversive at the time, but the taboos have disappeared to some extent. Meanwhile, other taboos have been introduced into our society that make humor from previous times more uncomfortable.

We’re also developing bubbles, to the point where a comedian like Dave Chappelle, whom no one would consider to be on the right hand side of the spectrum, releases a comedy special that’s uncomfortable to watch for those of us who grimace at rape jokes.

Maybe we just need to forgive creative works that came from less enlightened times, and realize that we ourselves are in a less enlightened time than someone else will possibly be.


Remember, in King Lear the Fool was the only one able to speak truth to the King.

You're allowed to try to be funny about anything. Whether or not you succeed is dependent on how good you are. A non-funny joke is not funny. However, any joke is funny depending on how you execute it.

If you don't like a game, stop playing. If you don't like a TV show, stop watching.


It is not in fact generally the accepted standard among professional comedians than it's legitimate to attempt to be funny "about anything" so long as you have a decent chance of getting a laugh.


I've seen professional comedians joke about the holocaust, war, abortions, slavery, cancer, kids dying, pedofillia, incest, serial killers, 9/11, torture, religion, and lots of other things besides.

What's exactly off limits?


Really? I'm not sure if I could think of a single off-limits topic in standup comedy.


any recent tragedy. eg, the vegas shooting would probably not fly too well.


Sure it can. One joke was about how there was a video of the vegas shooting, and there was a guy running out of the frame with a full beer, as if shielding the beer was the most important thing in that situation. "The beer must've been pretty expensive... But the shots were free."

It's tasteless, yeah. But it's comedy. It's hard to say there are limits.


If someone tells a joke and nobody laughs, was it a joke?


Well, judging by the upvotes, I'd say it got a few. :)


IIRC Gilbert Gottfried made a 9/11 joke very soon after it happened (though that was generally agreed to be in poor taste).

[edit] It was 18 days after 9/11 at the Friars club roast of Hugh Hefner

Also, I recall a celebrity had a dead crocodile hunter costume for Halloween (Irwin died in September).

[edit] It was Bill Maher.


> IIRC Gilbert Gottfried made a 9/11 joke very soon after it happened (though that was generally agreed to be in poor taste).

So it didn't fly?


Norm McDonald also made a routine about Steve Irwin's death in the Daily Show a couple days after it happened.


I think that bit was awesome. Norm MacDonald is a great comedian, and he can deliver everything just perfectly.

That's a perfect example of a comedian taking something supposedly solemn and turning it funny. Kind of like when a chef takes an off-cut of meat and turns it into something delicious.


There are many. The Holocaust is definitely off-limits. That's just one example.


Really? Tell that to Mel Brooks and Sarah Silverman. [1][2] Comedians routinely joke about the holocaust, and have for decades.

1: https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/national/the-thing-abou...

2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8z5wBwY5Zw


What about child porn? Pedophilia? Human trafficking?


I'm utterly confident that if I looked I could find examples of comedians telling jokes about those subjects and audiences laughing.

For example, I just searched Google for "comedian pedophilia joke" and the first result is about Louis C.K. doing one during an SNL monologue.

Nothing is off limits in comedy. Plenty of stuff is in bad taste, but as long as the comedian is actually trying to be funny I think most or at least many other comedians will back them up.


There’s plenty of jokes about the abuse of children by the church.



You've definitely been added to a list somewhere for all those searches, lol.


There's a long-running Holocaust denial joke in most episodes of Norm Macdonald Live that's hilarious. You're just not watching enough comedy if you don't think anyone makes Holocaust jokes.


Mitchell and Webb sketch about nazi SS death squad is one of the best one, and often quoted by other comedians.


George Carlin and his sketch about rape would have begged to disagree.


Gilbert Gottfried would beg to differ.


Everyone downvoting this doesn't understand comedy. So some comedians make (for example) Holocaust jokes. They are careful about doing it in a way that doesn't disparage Jews, even though it might be shocking, off-the-cuff sounding, &c. Professional comedians can do this because they're experts at telling carefully crafted and targeted jokes in a way that sounds natural. It might be very shocking, but not shocking in a way that fosters racist feelings in the audience.

If a comedian showed up to a mic and started making the sort of Holocaust joke that an insensitive person would make after a few beers, they might get some laughs, but laughs aren't the goal--the goal is to have a good set that people like and remember. Their set would likely flop and they would likely not invited back. I dabble a bit in comedy and, yes, I have seen this happen.

This example holds for most sensitive subjects. So no, it is not acceptable in comedy to say anything for the sake of getting a laugh.


Actually, take a look at this Patrice O'Neal clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cwk-BQ4Mc0Y

His point is that you're allowed to try to be funny about anything, and if you bomb, you pick yourself up and dust yourself off. You should be allowed to make the attempt.

I will agree that the more sensitive a topic is, the funnier you gotta be. The joke should have an insight and good timing and delivery and all that. If you're just saying shocking things for the sake of saying shocking things to try to elicit a reaction, sure, you won't get asked back.

However, that shouldn't be a reflection on how sacred the topic is, but how unfunny you are.


The rape-by-deception scene in Revenge of the Nerds immediately springs to mind.


He's a sleazy dude trying to get a date. As others have said it is part of the humor and part of the difficulty.


As long as the friend you suggest it to isn't actively discriminated in the content you suggest there shouldn't be problem big enough to bother. Are you this kind of person who likes to overthink things?


oh man, such memories of trading disks at school and downloading them at 1200 baud all night (once having to go into hiding having rung up an obscene long distance bill).

i think one thing that the author missed is the fact that there was a distinct brand of low-brow humor that permeated all sierra games. in the early days, they weren't professionals, they were a bunch of weirdos hanging out in the foothills of the sierra nevadas making weird stuff with computers. all the jokes were lame in all of their titles, everything was corny, but people loved it because there was a sense of camaraderie in the weirdness of having and playing pc adventure games. you bought that damn soundblaster, it's gonna play that cheesy midi music and you're gonna love it because you're into this weird computer stuff made by other weird computer people and this corny faux-hollywood-wannabe thing validates your weird hobby. (and all that money you spent on video cards and modems and all that other stuff and all that time you spent chatting with weirdo sysops)

so yeah, objectively it's crap... but the same thing could be said of star wars. i never saw it until 2001 and i never understood it, i guess you just had to be there.


Re: "bunch of weirdos hanging out in the foothills of the sierra nevadas", part three in Steven Levy's excellent book "Hackers" is about this -- mainly about Ken and Roberta Williams and Sierra in the 80s. Very much recommended.


Loved Levy's book on Google, I'll definitely be picking this one up. Thanks for the reco


1) Video game humor is typically way worse than the humor in non-interactive media (interactivity has a price).

2) Humor evolves/improves over the years

Combine the two, and you would be hard-pressed to find ANY game that old which is still considered funny. Maybe "Day of the tentacle" ? I'd have to load it up again to check. it stuck out for me.


> Video game humor is typically way worse than the humor in non-interactive media

Perhaps, but I had a lot of laughs finding great humor in Leisure Suit Larry I/II/III/V, Space Quest III, Monkey Island 2, and Day of the Tentacle.

I think adventure games enable different ways to create humor.


Played DoTT when new, hysterical. Played recently, still funny.

That’s just me though.


And me. I also still laugh about all the silly jokes in Sam'n'Max and You don't know Jack.


A lot of the Fallout dialog holds up with its absurdity and gallows humor but I think you're right overall.


This is probably something games are still exploring as a medium, but I think designers are finding ways to show humour with game mechanics. An example might be a funny setting in Halo's Forge mode, or something crazy resulting from random elements in the new Zelda, or messing up in Surgeon Simulator. The interactivity makes the comedy personal in a special way, and I don't think books or film can quite repeat that.

I'll admit that older games don't quite have that je ne sais pas though. It seems like a thing we're more keen on nowadays, especially with stuff like streaming or roguelike elements coming back into vogue.


DotT holds up, played it a few months ago. Grim Fandango, too!


>The joke isn’t the joke itself, the joke is that this joke was told in this context.

Unrelated, but I think this is where a lot of The Onion's appeal comes from.


Biggest influence adventure games had on me was teaching me how to type - when you're stuck in police quest and keep changing locations to find a missing clue and banging "open door" (sometimes with infuriating typos) for the 100th time in the last 5 minutes - that's a skill-forming exercise. I've never learnt the classical touch-typing, but I'm good enough thanks to Sierra.


Funnily enough I noticed this playing FPSs online like rogue spear. Teamspeak wasn't really viable on a 56k so text was the only method of comms for me and my friends at the time.

I remember my dad being proud that I could type without looking. He asked me to demonstrate to his friend - I was in a rogue spear lobby at the time.


I worked with a guy who Leisure Suit Larry was based off of, appearance wise. His name was Nick Medici (sp?) and he actually was a really nice, gracious guy, but looked exactly like LSL. He told us stories of the Sierra days and the husband/wife that ran it. He also cooked really tasty food for us!


Sort of tangentially related:

I recently read a book about ocean-crossing by private boat that turned out to be written by Ken Williams, the cofounder of Sierra (i.e. the husband you mentioned). It turns out that being ultra-rich from founding and selling a major software company can open doors to cool, expensive hobbies.

https://www.amazon.com/Crossing-Ocean-Under-Power-Williams/d...


Is there a picture of him to compare?


Like this: https://www.wired.com/images_blogs/photos/uncategorized/2007...

But real ;)

I haven't been able to find a picture of him, and this was about 15 years ago...


did anyone actually read the article?

This should be the take-away quote:

> So that was the original Leisure Suit Larry. It was a game that provided an absurdist joke about sexy pixel women that entertained an audience of people frustrated with text parsers by subverting genre expectations.

The new versions of the game destroyed the essence of the game by moving away from text parsing to mouse-based, and by moving away from pixel graphics to rich graphics.


The Apple ][ version of SoftPorn (written in Applesoft BASIC) lets you bet negative amounts of money in the casino and then lose on purpose, to easily make lots of cash!


MtGox had the same bug


I was one of the early kickstart backers of the game, yes one those that waited a long time to get my hand on the game on day one (plus a shirt to remember the event) and when i was finally able to play the game, i got frustrated... with the new age verification questionary, it was harder than when i was a kid, got me at least 20 attempts to get in the game (i could probably cheat those question searching them with google but it didn't feel right at the moment) and by that time, i lost interest and just left the game there on my library then the reviews came and totally forgot about it, would probably play the game just to get on the same track as this article.


sierra games were definitely the best back then, king's quest, space quest, police quest, quest for glory, and leisure suit larry were the ones i played a lot, interesting and humorous, definitely on the same wavelength back then, i would spend hours exploring these worlds and marveling at the different ways i could have fun. i remember playing these games on my 286 compaq computer, 4 MB ram, would have to spend 5-10 minutes installing from 5-6 3.5 inch floppies, the nostalgia! can't imagine what the remake versions look like, but i can relate to what the author's saying, i'm sure there's some emulator where you can play the 16 bit versions somewhere. the first time i played leisure suit larry 2, the first thing to do is to check out these binoculars, you look in and see some woman undressing with some huge knockers, then the shades go down or a pelican blocks your view. the music was corny as hell, but so fitting, saxophone, electronic keyboard, really bad lounge music from 70's porn. i also vaguely remember shaving some piece of green wood into some phallic like symbol which some babe wanted, but once giving it to her, she goes off somewhere with the toy on her own and larry gets nothing.

this was all before nintendo and the consoles took over, man, i wonder how much money they made, such innovation back then.


Here's the real successor to Leisure Suit Larry - "Become a Pick-Up Artist". Available for iPhone.[1]

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNpq3l6gxlI


And then there's Scott Foe's educational mobile game, "Douche Defender"!

http://www.develop-online.net/press-releases/big-head-mode-d...

San Francisco, California: From games industry legend Scott Foe, Big Head Mode announces the debut of Douche Defender, a fun game that helps women to identify real-world pickup artists, free-to-play for iPhone and iPad in the Apple App Store.

“I’m always trying to bring something new, something that people have never seen before, something from the way-way out-there machine, and we have definitely achieved that uniqueness with Douche Defender,” said Foe.“There is a huge subculture of seduction lurking out there on the internet and this is both the first game that I have designed with female players as the targets and the first game that I have designed with real-world implications outside of the game, and so I am very excited to see how Douche Defender is received.”


LSL along with Manhunter 2 and Space Quest 3 have fantastic graphics. Something about them just gets my imagination going.


> 16 colors

Try 4 colors, on CGA. http://www.agidev.com/images/shots/cga_larry2.gif


I wonder what it looked like on a CGA Composite monitor https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niKblgZupOc


Holy sh*t, this totally blew my mind! My first x86-based PC was a Sinclair PC200, which had CGA, and I had a RGBI monitor, and while online references of that PC suggest it had a composite output, I never used it. I thus had to endure the crappy output mode, and never knew it could have been so much better (and that a lot of the games I played were optimized for that better output).

I wonder if some emulators have a filter to get something like the composite output...


Six installment was my favorite - everything was perfect form music to graphics (at that time) and there was amazing mood in the game I could play for hours trying to figure it all out by myself instead than from manual. I wish someone would write a contunuance of #6 with new missions in the same theme I would definitely pay monthly to get new mission but I'm sure there is simply not enough of us :(

This and Dune 2 were my favorite games of young days and most memorable moments with my family still all together.


Just reading your comment made LSL6 hotel theme play in my head.

I should add, LSL7 was a great game. On top of that, the recent remake of LSL1 (Kickstarter-funded, with tracks by Austin Wintory) is a good addition if you're a fan of the series.

Still, the graphics, feel, music, story and feel of LSL6 make it my favorite game in the series.


Dune 2 was a fantastic game. It's essentially the progenitor for RTS games like the Warcraft and Starcraft series.


I tried playing Dune 2 after playing Command and Conquer, and I found it almost impossible.


My favourite was LSL2 because it was so absurd and LSL3 because it was so complex for a game at that time (and also absurd).

But yes LSL6 was a masterpiece. Finding the “Where’s Dildo?” items was a stroke of genius.


Threads like this always make me wonder who might be mining it for age hints to associate with usernames.

There are lots of Reddit threads like "what's the crime you got away with" that feel like extremely blatant examples of that type of profile mining.


I'm surprised no one has mentioned the text adventure documentary "Get Lamp", so I will. http://www.getlamp.com/


Gave a copy of Leisure Suit Larry to a friend in early high school. Their parent called my dad and gave them an earful, and my dad laughed and didn't understand why. Hahahahaha.


Oh so true. However, working in software companies my whole life I also see that without being a team leader with a long list of successes you could never convince your colleagues to go a different route with such kind of remake. Easy UI, newer graphics, exactly the same joke by word not by context. That's the only way such a remake can go. I guess if at all one could decide whether to start such a remake or not, if that set of "changes" is not acceptable.



Hopefully we are on the verge of a new series of text games that can use machine learning. It would be really cool to have pretty much any wording be understood, along with an engine that can respond with more intelligence.


aah, Tay.


I found the original graphics of this game hilarious. Ive never heard of of the game, nor would buy it, but those graphics are timeless. They got me immediately laughing.

"Another thing to kill the laughs for me was the move to better graphics."

There's something to this. Some things don't need updated graphics?


>Some things don't need updated graphics?

I think the underlying theme of the article is the game was an organic whole. It wasn't just a good idea they put together in the technology available at the time, it was of the time. The best example is:

"once they started looking like actual pin-up girls, that dimension of the humor was lost. It gradually felt less like a joke about a guy who wants to hook up with sexy ladies and more a vehicle for actually looking at sexy ladies."

the improved graphics and the point-and-click interface completely change what the thing is. It stops being some wink-wink "You're playing video games because you can't find a date but we're such losers we had time to make a game for you" and something commercial and knowing. If you knew about any of the Sierra titles you were almost part of a family. You could write to the people there or at Infocom or wherever and reasonably expect a response. Now video games are an industry and every possible niche is filled to bursting.

Then again, there's always some indie game or single-A title that drags me back.


"a vehicle for actually looking at sexy ladies"

So... google?


It ties into context, I think. This game is funny because it subverts the expectations of the adventure game genre. Improving the graphics weakens this association.


Worth pointing out that, regardless of the context, comedy rarely ages well. For example, if you watch popular standup comedy routines from the past, they're often unfunny, even when performed by comedy legends.


I love the Marx Brothers, both the slapstick and the double entendres and asides and retorts. Their amazing foils in their straight-men and women helped make their comedy timeless imo.


One obvious exception is physical comedy. Buster Keaton is timeless, and in just one Three Stooges short, the contrast in how physical and other kinds of comedy age is apparent.


Agreed: I watched Singin' in the Rain recently. Donald O'Connor's physical comedy is really the standout element in that movie.


There's a special on Netflix right now where Jerry Seinfeld goes back to roots and repeats (one of) his first standup routines.

I found it fantastic, but a friend hated it. We both were very perplexed by the other's perspective.

Anyway, worth a watch! Or you'll hate it!


Oddly, I find them funnier--times change, tastes change.


Perhaps since standup comedy particularly relies on edginess and cultural context, as opposed to some other mediums?


Certainly. Undertale is a perfect example. Better graphics would kill it.


Brilliant - I haven't really read the article yet but....

I was discussing this last weekend with a mate. Neither of us have actually played the game but it was around when we were about 10. We were trying to imagine how bad this game could possibly have been that it was taboo, and yet it was around in his (and my friends) fathers collections. We speculated that it would probably be pretty horrific sexist geek humour.

I did a bit of Wikipedia research and it seemed like it pretty interesting game. Probably terrible, but ground breaking at least (though the wiki article and related material didn't make it sound terrible). Interestingly, apparently it sold well even though nobody wanted to admit to having it, due to the lewd nature.


The game is humor focused, and the humor is about on the same level as Mel Brooks or Steve Martin films from that time period.


I think this is the best description.

Steve Martin and Mel Brooks still have their audience today. I think that kind of humor is timeless, just out of fashion; I think it will always have its audience, but it's almost surprising that it was mainstream at some point.

In the same vein, you won't see "dad jokes" going away any time ever.


> same level as Mel Brooks or Steve Martin

That's overly generous. The game was funny (I played the Apple II version), but not on the same level.




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