A man walks into a bar and says to the barman: "pwned!"

THE LAST time a game has actually made me laugh, not just chuckle, was when I discovered that Saints Row 2included a minigame for surfing on cars. The last time a game has failed to make me laugh was when I tried the supposedly hilarious point'n'click adventure game Jack Keane. It's not that I didn't enjoy the jokes. I smiled at them, appreciated their cleverness and was particularly happy whenever they showed signs of self-awareness. But they couldn't make me laugh. They certainly weren't enough to make me tolerate point'n'click adventure game mechanics at any rate, so I quit.

Humorous moments in gaming have so far mostly been sit-down-and-watch experiences. When the joke isn't just played out in front of us, the closest thing to interacting with the scene is triggering it. The humour is always prescripted; laid out. But it's also true that interactivity is the very cornerstone of our favourite medium. Yet humour, for the most part, continues to work entirely one way.

This contrast is made even more glaring once you realise that the desire to change this within the gaming community is actually pretty high. Check any of the video sites on the internet and you're bound to find millions of funny clips from games like GTA IV, Saints Row 2 or any game that features enough freedom to allow for their creation. We get to watch Niko Bellic rocket through the sky, crash hilariously or fall flat on his nose. Now, I'm not even taking into account the hundreds of machinima projects within the gaming community, but it should become obvious that we wish to laugh, and to make others laugh too.

That's a desire you should easily be able to relate to, if you ever told a joke successfully. Do you remember the feeling of seeing your friends (and enemies) laugh at your witty comment and applaud your comedic skills? The way you smiled when they cracked up? How you lost tension and began to feel happy? Humour in both its active and passive form is an incredibly emotional thing. Laughing, and seeing people laugh, is virtually designed to make you feel happy. It's shortcut to your limbic system, a direct way of creating positive feelings. In short, it's great.

Gaming has done so much to experiment with all kinds of emotions, ranging from fear to revenge and from hatred to love (and occasional accidental experiments with rage). So much effort has gone into giving us the chance to live out all of our bewildering fantasies, whether it's slaying a dragon, going to space or jumping out of a plane. So why miss out on the incredibly rewarding feeling of being funny?

'I told you we shouldn't have had the beans, cousin!'

Being funny is a complex task, hence why so many people can't even pull it off in real life. One of the first things I realised when thinking this trough, is that jokes are not the form of humour for an interactive medium. There's really no ways to include verbal jokes without having it feel like triggering a prescripted line.

The amount of effort behind a system that would let you create your own jokes would be incredible, and even then you're still just telling a joke. What could one possibly add to a simple joke to make it interesting videogame material? Nothing. Jokes should stay in the real world, at friendly get-togethers or half-serious banters.

There needs to be something about the videogame humour that prevents you from doing it in real life, to make it unique to the medium. In order to stand out, interactive humour needs to be about situations you either wouldn't find yourself in, or would stay serious in. I feel a bit redundant for having to state this, as the great internet hive mind seems to already be well aware of it. At least the GTA IV clip making populace already circles their work around high-speed crashes, genocide and ragdolls.

The next thing on the list is the fact that any game of this concept needs multiple humans, so it's likely going to be an online thing. Machines can't judge the quality of a joke, or at least they won't learn to any time soon. Whether it's a verbal joke or a stunt, trick or prank, humans are the only way to determine whether or not it was funny.

This also solves another problem: Nobody wants to be all funny, all the time. It can quickly turn into a very stressful situation, especially when you begin to feel pressed to say or do something entertaining. The most common reaction is to fret, and that's not an enticing thought. So optimally our game would feature multiple humans, who take it in turns to be funny. So what is the proper way to take all this and form it into a game?

I haven't got a clue.

Perhaps sandbox games that allow for oh so much mischief and "regular" games with an all-around funny atmosphere, like Team Fortress 2, are the best we’re ever going to get. Perhaps the desire I mentioned is already sufficiently filled by recording software and Youtube. But maybe there is a way to tap into this great potential, a way to allow us to be entertaining, and entertained, respectively. I don't know what the future might bring, but I know that whoever might come up with solution is going to be bloody rich. Until then my choice is to stay with gaming-related real-life humour. Do you know why the chicken walked across the street? Just 'Cause.

- Johannes Koeller