Laughing at the Games We Adore

By Jared Petty

Sometimes this job is a ridiculous pleasure. A while ago, I got to interview Dan Marshall from Size Five Games about Lair of the Clockwork God. And I couldn’t stop laughing while he talked.

It’s hard to make video games funny, but Dan has put a lot of work and talent into creating something that will keep you chuckling: a satirical yet loving take on the games we play and our attitudes toward them. Lair of the Clockwork God is up for pre-order now through January 30th at Limited Run Games. You can reserve your Switch or PS4 copy today.

So, just what’s a Lair of a Clockwork God?

“It’s part point-and-click and part trendy indie platformer,” says Dan. “The idea is that one of the characters is like, kind of stuck in the past with his outlook and his adventuring and his combining objects and stuff like that, and the other guy wants to be an indie darling platformer because he wants to make a load of money. The idea is you switch between the two characters to solve puzzles and advance through the plot.”

“It’s quite weird when you put it into a soundbyte,” he adds. Weird indeed. But it’s in weirdness that Lair of the Clockwork God shines. 

The two protagonists are based on Dan and his best friend Ben, and grew out of their conversations on game design, an intersection of Ben’s desire to create a point-and-click adventure and Dan’s wish to create a platformer. In the end, they settled on combining both, and using the convergence to create slightly-searing jokes about both genres. “You know, like, there are some people that are really into indie games, I don’t mean in a frightening way, but in a really overwhelming way,” said Dan. “We thought the idea of having one of the characters be very much like that was very funny to us.”

“It meant that we suddenly, instead of just making point and click jokes, we could make Sonic the Hedgehog jokes and Mario jokes and we could make jokes about Limbo and Celeste and all these other indie games for the last ten years... we could lovingly take the piss out of them,” he added.

“Ben and I are naturally hilarious, obviously,” Dan tells me, and I think he’s less than half kidding. Ben and Dan have known one another for a quarter of a century, and they’ve spent much of that time telling jokes, driving each other to tears of laughter at long pub-based game design sessions. “Ben will write Jokes about Sisyphus and Shakespeare, and I will write jokes about people’s bottoms,” said Dan. Besides backsides, he draws from a number of video game influences. “I’m a sucker for fourth-wall humor. I love stuff like that. Stanley Parable is extremely funny,” he says.

He’s especially attracted to humor that subverts the traditional structure of games.“Not a funny game is Arkham Asylum, but when it does the fake crash... it’s a Scarecrow thing. the game pretends to crash and plays the intro again and you realize it’s slightly different, I love that. That’s one of the funniest things that’s happened in a video game.”

“You can’t please everyone,” Dan says “but what you can do is write to a very specific person.” Immense amounts of dialogue hide in the game for those who choose to explore. The main flow, puzzle structure, and layout of Lair of the Clockwork God were designed first, and then, in a booze-and-hot tub fueled week-long burst of inspiration at a cabin retreat, Ben and Dan collaborated to populate the world with every joke they could imagine. “We wrote all this stuff in five, six days or so. I don’t want to sound like God or anything, but on day seven, we rested.”

He tells me that one of the hardest things about promoting Lair of the Clockwork God is that it’s hard to talk about a game based on humor, puzzles, and story without spoilers. “I love doing stuff in my games that I think you shouldn’t be allowed to do. That’s the joy of being an indie developer: you can do stuff that people in any other, further up in the industry, a company that’s got an office, they can’t do this, because it’s too much of a risk. I relish doing that stuff.”

He gave some examples and we talked spoilers. I’m not going to ruin anything, so let me say this: there are some incredibly unorthodox jokes and puzzles in this game, gags that you simply can’t see coming, and they’re glorious.

“There’s a bit of a problem with video games: if you do something different from what people are expecting, the conventions of video games, they decide you do it wrong.” Lair of the Clockwork God is built to press these buttons, and make you cackle at that reality.

If you want to laugh along with Dan at the world of video games, reserve your Standard or Collector’s Editions of Lair of the Clockwork God at Limited Run Games by January 30th.

Limited Run Games:

the industry leader in the production and distribution of premium physical video games. Founded in 2015, they have published over 1,000 physical games and soundtracks in addition to winning a number of awards for their bespoke Collector’s Editions. Limited Run is the gold standard in bringing digital games to physical form for casual fans and collectors alike. Visit limitedrungames.comfor the latest offerings, or follow the brand on your social media platform of choice for all LRG-related updates:@limitedrungames.

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