Game Studies, Games and Comedy

Call for chapters: Games and Comedy

From July 2017, I have been working on the Games and Transgressive Aesthetics project at the University of Bergen. As that project is slowly wrapping up, there are new endeavors that are inspired it. Comedy and humor has a lot in common with transgression – and a new book on games and comedy is in the making, co-edited by a GTA project member (Jaroslav) and a contributor to the Trangressions in Games and Play anthology (Tomasz), along with Krista Bonello from the University of Malta.

Please check out the Call for Chapters below:

Call for chapters

Krista Bonello Rutter Giappone (University of Malta)
Tomasz Z. Majkowski (Jagiellonian University)
Jaroslav Švelch (University of Bergen)

To say that games, humour, and comedy have a lot in common would be stating the obvious. The affinities between the ludic and the comic have been remarked by scholars in various fields. Wittgenstein (1980, 83e) likens a shared sense of humour to the reciprocal understanding of the rules of a game. In his book The Game of Humor (1997), Gruner sees a fundamental similarity between humour and games in a shared competitive dynamic, closely bound up with ‘winning’. From an evolutionary perspective, laughter – today associated with humour – has been a signal of play (Gervais and Wilson 2005). Moreover, the English word ‘joke’ likely shares its etymology with the Italian word ‘gioco’ for ‘game’ and ‘play’, deriving from the Latin ‘jocus’ (OED).
Despite these links, there is surprisingly little academic work on humour and comedy in games. The existing literature has charted the possible avenues of research. Humour has been analysed as a tool to make games more engaging, and to contribute memorable scenes and characters (Dorman and Biddle 2009; Fernández-Vara 2009). In-game comedy can also arise from the self-reflective commentary on the games’ form and structure (Bonello 2015), or constitute a part of a broader set of grotesque and carnivalesque aesthetics (Majkowski 2015). Moreover, the joys of excessive movement, collisions, and playful destruction link games to slapstick comedy (Švelch 2014; Hudson 2014; Garin 2015).
While game scholars researching the topic often draw from traditional theories of humour and comedy, comedy and humour scholars have employed theories of games and play. Dramatic comedy has been associated with ‘timelessness’ and a lack of severe consequence (see Sypher, 1980; Garber, 2004), a space opening onto play. Quirk (2015, p. 208) has suggested that stand-up comedy “creates a playground, in Huizinga’s sense, both physically and ideologically, which operates in accordance with joking’s rules of challenge and negotiation. This is both a force for societal good and a potential source of harm.” In his classic study, Bakhtin ties his concept of the carnivalesque with both playfulness and laughter (1984).
Apart from these largely isolated instances of cross-pollination, there has been little dialogue between the two fields of comedy and game studies, and a lack of scholarship that would rigorously explore the relationship between comedy and play in relation to digital (and non-digital) games. The seemingly obvious affinities between games, humour, and comedy are only rarely illuminated. This volume, therefore, aims to fill this gap, map the overlaps between games and comedy, and build a long overdue foundation for interdisciplinary dialogue.

What we are looking for

We are currently looking for contributors of individual chapters. We recognize the breadth and diversity of approaches to, and contrasting or overlapping definitions of, humour, laughter, and comedy (see for example: Milner Davis and Roach Anleu, 2018). This volume will therefore not be limited to a single framework or approach. Instead, we embrace different facets of that most elusive quarry – the ‘comic’ – as ‘‘this little problem, which has a knack of baffling every effort, of slipping away and escaping only to bob up again” (Bergson 1980, p. 61).
We welcome explorations of the applicability and limitations of comedy- and humour-related theoretical frameworks related to digital (and non-digital) games, as well as case studies of particular games, and research into reception of humour in games. We also welcome contributions on the functions of comedy and humour in games, its impact on gameplay, and its political implications.

The possible topics include (but are not limited to):

• Rethinking the relationship between humour and play/the comic and the ludic
• Theories of humour and comedy and their applicability to games
• Videogames as vehicles of satire [as ‘serio ludere’? – Lucian]
• Irony and parody in games
• Structural analyses of humour in games
• The comic in game design
• Humour as meta-commentary of game mechanics
• Non-diegetic and paratextual humour (HUDs, menu screens, achievements, Easter Eggs)
• Slapstick, humour, and violence
• Glitches and bugs as comic events
• The comic in player experience and engagement (or disengagement)
• Humour and power in games and game cultures
• Humour in games and game culture as a tool of resistance and critique
• Collective laughter (inclusionary/exclusionary) in MMOs and other multiplayer games
• Stand-up comedy simulators

If you are interested in contributing, please send a 500 word abstract to: We will read through all the abstracts and invite authors of selected abstracts to write full chapters for us. Please contact us at this email if you have any questions.
The volume is not signed to a publisher at this point, but we are discussing our project with several leading publishing houses. The final title of the book will be decided in cooperation with the publisher.

Important dates

Deadline for abstracts: August 31, 2019
Deadline for full chapters: March 31, 2020
Projected date of publication: 2020/2021


Bakhtin, M. (1984). Rabelais and his world. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Bergson, H. (1980). Laughter. In Wylie Sypher (Ed.), Comedy: ‘An Essay on Comedy’ by George Meredith, ‘Laughter’ by Henri Bergson (pp. 61-190). Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.
Bonello Rutter Giappone, K. (2015), ‘Self-Reflexivity and Humor in Adventure Games’, Game Studies 15(1).
Dormann, C., & Biddle, R. (2009). A Review of Humor for Computer Games: Play, Laugh and More. Simulation & Gaming, 40(6), 802–824.
Fernández-Vara, C. (2009). The Tribulations of Adventure Games: Integrating Story into Simulation through Performance, Doctoral Dissertation (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Garber, M. (2004). Shakespeare After All (NY: Anchor Books).
Garin, M. (2014). ‘Super Mario, the new silent clown: Video game parodies as transformative comedy tools’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, 18(3).
Gervais, M., and Wilson, D.S. (2005), ‘The Evolution and Functions of Laughter and Humor: A Synthetic Approach’, The Quarterly Review of Biology 80(4), 395-430.
Gruner, C.R. (1997). The Game of Humor: A Comprehensive Theory of Why We Laugh (New Brunswick and London: Transaction Publishers).
Hudson, B. (2014). ‘Funny games: understanding videogames as slapstick and the experience of game-worlds as shared cultural references’. Engaging with Videogames: Play, Theory and Practice, eds. Stobart, D. and Evans, M. (pp. 109-120). Inter-Disciplinary Press. [eBook].
Majkowski, T. (2015). ‘Grotesque Realism and Carnality: Bakhtinian Inspirations in Video Game Studies’ [in:] New Perspectives In Game Studies, ed. T. Bártek, J. Miškov, J. Švelch, Brno: Munipress, pp. 26-43.
Milner Davis, J. and Roach Anleu, S. (eds.). (2018). Judges, Judging and Humour (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan).
Quirk, S. (2015). Why Stand-up Matters: How Comedians Manipulate and Influence (London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama).
Švelch, J. (2014). ‘Comedy of Contingency: Making Physical Humor in Video Game Spaces’, International Journal of Communication 8, 2530-2552.
Sypher, W. (ed.). (1980). Comedy: ‘An Essay on Comedy’ by George Meredith, ‘Laughter’ by Henri Bergson (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press).
Wittgenstein, L. (1980). Culture and Value (Oxford: Blackwell).

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