Since the first Scooby-Doo video game was released in 1986, Mystery Inc. has seen its fair share of releases, including three in the previous console generation. I fear that it may devalue my credibility of being a fan of the series, but I must admit that I have never played, seen, or heard about any of them, until earlier this week where I was shown a preview of the next Scooby-Doo game “Scooby-Doo First Frights” for the Wii and Playstation 2 (there’s also a DS version, but it wasn’t shown).
During this demo it was brought to my attention that that this game continued in the tradition of the last few releases, as well as the original cartoon, by including something that very few video games have, a laugh track; the prerecorded laughter of a studio audience.
The laugh track kicks in during the gameplay and cutscenes when any of the characters say or do anything of a humorous nature that could, theoretically, evoke a chuckle from a 1970s television audience. Although the characters in the game are visually different from the original cartoon, their voices, mannerisms, and general dispositions are accurately recreated, and because of that, the humor is on par with what you would come to expect from Shaggy, Scooby, and the rest of the gang.
Most of "First Frights"' humor is timeless slapstick that's laugh-worthy no matter how old you are, however, the game is devoid of one always-funny Saturday morning staple, Fred’s neckerchief. Oh, and if hearing other people laugh isn't quite "your thing" you can toggle the laugh track off. Apparently this wasn't an option in previous games, and it drove some players mad.
There’s multiple reasons that laugh tracks have never really made their way to video games, but the biggest one is that humor is a lost art when it comes to games. In addition to that, there isn’t a studio audience sitting there watching you play the game that needs to be faked. It’s simple, subtle, and been done before (in the previous three Scooby-Doo releases), but it manages to connect the game to the original property on a level that few games can attain.
Plus, it acts in the same way that television laugh tracks (or live audiences) do, and it creates a crowd mentality of sorts that reassures the player that its okay to giggle when Shaggy accidentally runs into a wall. Who cares if you find yourself laughing at a kids game based on a cartoon you haven’t seen in years, it’s okay to laugh. Video games are too serious nowadays anyways.