[GDC24] Blending Humor and Gameplay: Insights from Dave the Diver’s Session

At the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2024, held in San Francisco, California, a fun and insightful session captured the attention of game developers and enthusiasts alike (whom the speaker joked he was happy they chose over the session related to Baldur's Gate 3). Jaeho Hwang, the Game Director behind Nexon MINTROCKET's successful title, Dave the Diver, took the stage to share the intricate journey of meshing humor with gameplay to introduce complex game mechanics to players. His session, rich in knowledge and dotted with lighthearted moments, provided a comprehensive look into the creative processes that define the unique charm of the title.


Dave the Diver stands out in the gaming landscape for its unique combination of two seemingly disparate themes: underwater diving and sushi restaurant management. Hwang began by sharing the initial skepticism faced by the development team, notably regarding the game's uncharted territory. Critics had expressed concerns over the game's breadth over depth, suggesting it attempted to juggle more than it could handle.



Hwang, however, viewed this not as discouraging, but as a validation of the team's desire to break new ground in game development. He candidly recounted the evolution of the game's concept, initially inspired by the simplistic notion of the deep sea as a dungeon and fish as loot, which then matured into the sophisticated gameplay loop that players enjoy today.


Addressing the potential monotony of the game's core activities — diving by day and managing a sushi restaurant by night—Hwang explained the strategic inclusion of varied side activities. Drawing inspiration from Sega's 'Yakuza: Like a Dragon' series, the team introduced additional features such as crop farming, seahorse racing, and a collection guide. This diversification of gameplay was designed not just to curb potential boredom, but to enhance to help create a rich, engaging world for players to immerse themselves in. 



A significant part of the session was dedicated to the challenge of conveying the game’s detailed mechanics to players in an engaging manner — the biggest way being through humor. Hwang detailed the limitations of standard tutorials, which were often ignored or found to be boring by players. This feedback prompted a pivotal shift towards leveraging the game’s characters to guide players through learning processes.


Characters in Dave the Diver were crafted not just for their narrative roles but as conduits for tutorial guidance, blending instruction with entertainment. This approach, as Hwang illustrated, allowed players to familiarize themselves with complex systems through the natural progression of the game’s story and character interactions — having fun the entire time.



Humor, Hwang stressed, was a key ingredient in making this educational process enjoyable. By adopting elements of Japanese comedy dynamics, the game presented instructional content in a light-hearted, memorable manner. This not only made complex concepts more digestible but also ingrained them more deeply into players' experiences. Additionally, Hwang highlighted the use of cutscenes as a tool for enhancing player commitment and engagement, enabling characters to showcase their personalities and stories in a way that resonated with the audience.


Reflecting on the global reception of Dave the Diver, Hwang shared insights into why a game that demands both strategic thinking and quick reflexes was perceived as comforting and enjoyable by its player base, and why it has won many awards. He suggested that the approachable nature of the game, fostered through relatable characters and humor, played a crucial role in its success. By drawing parallels to titles like Animal Crossing, Hwang emphasized the power of games to create a sense of comfort and community, even amidst challenging and sometimes stressful gameplay.


In concluding his session, Hwang underscored the importance of creating memorable, engaging moments within games—those that spark joy and encourage prolonged engagement. He showcased fan art of Dave the Diver from around the world, illustrating the strong connection between the game and its community.



Hwang's presentation at GDC 2024 was more than just a case study on Dave the Diver; it was a perfect example of innovative game development. By artfully combining humor, character-driven storytelling, and intuitive gameplay mechanics, Hwang and his team have helped chart a course for future titles to follow. One could not help but notice the parallels in Hwang's effective delivery of the session — balancing humor throughout to make for a more engaging monologue. 

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