Humor on Behalf of the Ridiculous

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Humor, historically a persistent part of human culture, inhabits several different roles in that culture. Among them are the potential to become a subverting tool and a way to give voice to minorities and oppressed groups in order to counter the mainstream culture. My aim to show you that we need more subversive humor in games and why you don’t actually have to be ‘serious’ to be serious. In fact, it might be easier to talk about a serious object and have the audience respond to it, if you present it in a funny way.

In other words, I wish to advocate on behalf of the ridiculous.

Subversive humor is a tool for creating critical subversive games, which tackle serious issues of representations and social criticism, while making the message more approachable to an audience that might be less than responsive to it. Subversive humor can provide an alternative way to express dissent with current trends in the game industry as well as representing new points of view and stories to the general public. This is coupled with the added benefit of making players receptive to new gaming concepts.

In the last few years, I’ve been working on Real Army Simulator, a narrative game based on my experience in the Israeli Army A real account of life in the army, Real Army Simulator tries to show a more realistic view of the army and what it’s like to be part of it. The game presents life in the army as being part of a large bureaucratic and mundane machine rather than the glorified heroic experience often depicted in game. Drawing inspiration from shows and movies, like Blackadder and M.A.S.H, the game uses humor to highlight the absurdity of the situation in the hope of encouraging a new point of view of the army in video games.

The talk will try and address the idea that we can use humor in order to tell and deal with “serious” issues and real life situations, and to do it in a more approachable way. I will give a short overview of subversive humor, the use of subversive humor in game and how you can use humor to subvert ideas and game mechanics. In the 2nd part of the talk I will talk about using humor (and specifically subversive humor like satire) to tell present real stories/narrative which subvert concepts and ideas which are uncommon or present new points of views in games.

This is a continuation of research done in the past, which was presented in Different Game Conference 2015 and was published in First Person Scholar (and later featured on Gamasutra.



Yifat Shaik is an Israeli born game designer and artist, currently residing in CanYifat Shaikada. A Master of Design graduate from OCAD University in Toronto, her work and research focus on online game socialization, political activism in gaming and the creation of unique and evocative game worlds.

When not teaching game design, Yifat creates Unity based interactive art installations and spends her free time on the creation of several personal game projects. Those include a Real Army Simulator, a satirical narrative game about being in the army, and chaotic game about Brutalist architecture


twitter: @yifatshaik