Harold “Egon” Ramis Talks About Working on Games and Making Them Funny

Ghostbusters: The Video Game is out at long last, and to help commemorate the event, Games Radar has interviewed Harold Ramis, who helped write the original film and returned to help make sure that the video game would be all that it could be. They talk about a number of subjects, and we’ve pulled an excerpt or two for your reading pleasure below.

GR: What did you learn about the process of creating videogames through Ghostbusters?

HR: A lot of it was technical and it had to be technical, which was something we could not do because we weren’t doing the game design. It’s an interesting process. It would be like if you were writing a film and one person was assigned the physical action and you had to write dialogue to it. As a screenwriter, they’re linked together – the action and dialogue. In a way, it’s like writing a scenario without dialogue. Watching the process was interesting to me. I learned something, although I don’t know if it’s something I can actually apply.

GR: What are the challenges of making a videogame funny, especially given the repetitive nature of gaming?

HR: You would think comedy dies with repetition. Once you’ve heard a joke, you’re not going to laugh the second time. And yet people keep revisiting their favorite funny films that they see over and over again. I hear this all the time, usually from unhappy wives who will tell me their husband has watched Caddyshack 100 times and they say it with a worried look on their face. Why do people keep watching Ghostbusters or any comedy film? It’s not for the surprise. It’s something that tickles them deep down and makes them feel good. Maybe there’s lots of subliminal social or psychological messaging. Maybe it’s empowering? Maybe it’s more fun than dwelling in their real lives? I don’t know.

In videogames, it seems like the attraction of playing any videogame is that it gives you control over a world that you have no other access to. I read something interesting about the psychology of videogames and why they’re addicting. It’s about the learning curve. Gamers are happiest and most excited on the up side of the learning curve. Once you’ve mastered a game, you kind of lose interest. Repetition in a game, you’re not only dealing with the repetition of the comedy, but you’re dealing with the repetition of the gamers mastering the game, itself. To make a game so funny with so many comic alternatives, that would be like writing three hit movies. The scripts are impossibly long. That would be a considerable investment. And I was thinking if you wrote that much comedy, chances are you would put it in a feature film.

There’s plenty more to see in the full GamesRadar interview, and you’ll be able to catch more of Ramis’ work in the movie Year One, which opens this Friday, June 19th.