There’s not much I can say about Poker Night at the Inventory that you probably don’t already know. It’s a comical poker game with a bunch of weirdos, what more can I say. One good point I can mention though, is that it does have good timing and delivery with jokes and doesn’t impede anything the player is doing. It also uses the player’s state of play as a way of delivering some jokes.
The characters in play are Strongbad from Homestar Runner, Tycho from Penny Arcade, Max from Sam & Max and The Heavy from Team Fortress 2 (my favourite game). The characters personalities are reflected through gameplay, Strongbad is the player that always bluffs, the Heavy doesn’t fuck around with weak cards and Tycho is a sneaky, cunning bastard (the Heavy dislikes him, because he is like a Spy). The character’s are well preserved and unfiltered.
When the jokes are delivered, they are usually tied in with the state of play. The characters make comments on how they are doing and also try to put off the player through aggressive egos. “Call, fold, call, fold, I’M INSIDE YOUR HEAD!” says Strongbad. Having the jokes fit in with the state of play and addressing the player in second person, allows some really lame jokes to still be rather funny. Most of the jokes in Poker Night wouldn’t be anywhere near as funny, if they had been delivered to a protagonist and the player is merely an observer.
Stand up comedians use words to deliver punchlines, filmmakers utilize sound, visual and dialog cues to do so. Poker Night at the Inventory utilizes the player’s input and state of play to prime the player into a punchline. It’s not much, but Poker Night is one step further to utilizing games as a comedic medium. One other exception I can think of, would be in Left 4 Dead. For some reason each time I play Left 4 Dead as a survivor and we lose, I can’t help but burst into laughter.