April Fool's Day is my least favorite holiday. If I had any doubts about this fact, the fake Knights of the Old Republic 3 announcement confirmed it.
Today GameRant revealed that Knights of the Old Republic 3 is coming to next-gen consoles this fall. But wait, it's not. April Fool's!
Wait, why are you not laughing out loud? Don't you get the humor? You were told something plausible, maybe believed it for five seconds, and were then told it was fake! You should've seen your face for those five seconds! I mean, we can't see your face either because you're reading the article on a website, but let's both assume you made a priceless expression.
At the risk of sounding grumpy: I don't get these pranks. It offers me something I want - a new Knights of the Old Republic game - and then says it doesn't exist. If anything, I'm annoyed.
My annoyance isn't the fault of this specific article, though. It follows the blueprint of an effective prank. First, you're told something untrue that's believable. It's possible, if unlikely, that BioWare would make Knights of the Old Republic 3. They and their parent EA like money and a next-gen KOTOR would sell like crazy. What better way to kick off their exclusive use of the Star Wars license?
It's a subject that I have some emotional investment in, too. Like I said in my April Fool's prediction article, pranks tend to leverage your emotions. My desire for a third KOTOR game is high. My frustration at BioWare for not making it and instead stretching the premise into an samey MMO is astronomical. I want to believe that this KOTOR3 announcement is true.
In other words, I'm the perfect mark for the prank. This should be hitting me dead-on. But it doesn't.
The problem is that April Fool's Day has a crucial design flaw. Pranks rely on surprise but everyone's on guard during a day devoted to pranks. People expect falsehoods on April Fool's Day, just as they expect presents under their tree on Christmas and drunk white college kids on Cinco de Mayo. The task of convincing us to believe a prank is even harder on this day because of how common fake April Fool's stories are now. Nearly every game company - and a few game sites - has a joke to share on this day.
It doesn't really matter how cleverly chosen or designed the prank is, then. Our gullibility has been stripped away by a yearly, full-on barrage of pranks. Maybe April Fool's Day had some power back when there was no Internet and only people with older brothers got pranked. Now we're all too well-versed in their use. We can make Top 20 lists of them with ease.
Maybe that's why some of the best April Fool's pranks aren't actually pranks. They succeed because they made jokes rather than pranks. No one actually believes Blizzard is making a fighting game, but the absurdity of Jim Raynor's dead wife having to fight a Terran battlecruiser in one-on-one combat is funny. The Transformers DLC for Titanfall is obviously fake too but it's entertaining to watch Optimus Prime roaming the battlefield. These developers decided, "Hey, the whole deception part of this holiday is bullshit so let's just make some wacky-ass trailers and call it a day."
Good jokes are the exception rather than the rule on April Fool's, though. Comedy's hard and not everyone can do it well. And that's really my issue with April Fool's day: the sense of obligation to be funny. You must make jokes because this is the Day of Jokes. It's a forced open mic night for people who aren't comedians, with an audience of jaded skeptics like me.
The KOTOR 3 article is far from the worst April Fool's offender and I don't mean to single it out. It's just the latest reminder that this holiday's lost its power over me. People are much funnier when they don't need to be funny and we don't expect them to be.