Paul Franzen's A Stranger Comes Calling is a game about answering your front door. That's...not a lot to make a game about. That still didn't stop Franzen from creating a sprawling web of choices and consequences surrounding a knock at his door, making something funny out of a tiny anxiety many people have. Through a natural instinct for humor, a smart look at available resources, and a hint of the absurd, Franzen created a game that will leave some laughing while others scratching their heads at why the beardy man is talking into a Game Boy.
"I think A Stranger Comes Calling is the sort of game where either it clicks with you and you're into it right away, or it doesn't, and you just think it's the dumbest thing you've ever seen in your entire life." says Franzen. Humor, in all of its forms, is a challenging aspect for games. What makes one person laugh won't necessarily work on another, and absurdist humor can be especially difficult. Not everyone thinks a grown man cramming himself into a tiny cardboard box is funny, even when presented seriously in stark, crisp black-and-white.
Still, this humor, and the direction of the game in general, felt natural for Franzen. "So much of this game's design was totally instinctual. I knew the game had to be black-and-white; I knew I had to make stupid motions with my face whenever the character 'talked'. It was never so much a question of 'What should the game be"' as it was a statement of 'This is what the game is', period." Franzen didn't spend hours laboring over whether a joke would work with a set audience, but rather let a natural feel for silliness guide his work.
How silly can answering the door be, though" From Franzen's own life experience: very. "I work from home, so I'm always here to answer the door (or not) when someone comes calling. Not long ago, I answered the door for a guy holding a clipboard, and wearing a polo shirt advertising meat. Another time, it was ...