it's not fire…
Before I started working on video games I was a writer and a performer — and I’ve always had a fascination with comedy. How it works. How it’s structured. How to get the unexpected laugh. That sort of thing. One of my favorite comedic devices is the callback.
A callback is a joke that works because it refers to an idea or event that happened earlier in the same script, or — more commonly today — an idea or event that came up in an earlier episode or season of a show, or in a previous film in a series. The joy is in the connection. The audience gets to put the pieces together in real time and feel the thrill of making the association (“I’m wicked smart to get that!”) and the thrill of sharing the inside joke (“the writers were wicked smart to put that Easter egg in for the loyal fans!”). A well-crafted callback can also add to an audience’s sense that the fictional world is vast, living and persistent.
One of my favorite examples of this is in Dan Harmon’s Community where a character notes that fire can’t go through doors because it’s not a ghost and then — half a season later — a different character remarks on how ghosts can’t go through doors because they’re not fire. Neither joke is a particular gem alone. Together they’re gold.
There are a couple of different styles of callback in HRO: Adventures of a Humanoid Resources Officer. The most obvious is in the conversations the player has with various characters. They’ll remember your responses and refer to them later in the interaction, and you’ll sometimes be given unique response options based on what you decided to say earlier. There are also several running storylines that play out only in your inbox messages as the game progresses. And, of course, there are inbox messages which are callbacks to conversations the player has had or events that they instigated in the course of play (I will only say the word “hamster” here).
We hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed building them. HRO’s development cycle is coming to a rapid close — release date is May 21! We’re so excited to share this with all of you.
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Worthing and Moncrieff, LLC is an independent developer of video game stories founded in 2015.