Computer Game Dialogue Writing|Write Effective Dialogue for Computer Game Characters

Write Effective Dialogue for Computer Game Characters

Does it matter if your computer game protagonist wears a warrior costume that's historically correct and buffed to the nines, yet speaks like a Valley dude who has just lost his skateboard? Matching effective, entertaining, and character-appropriate dialogue is one of the biggest challenges in the computer game design industry. And though most game design programs cover the essentials of dialogue and storytelling, you may have to add real-life experience to your career training by observing characters in the real world first-hand.

First, game designers must recognize that most real people don't speak like trolls or Oddworld aliens. But you can capture the personality and speaking "tics" of real people to infuse life into your chatting 2D and 3D characters. Second, remember that nearly everything said during the course of a plotted or interactive game is dialogue. That means all broadcasts or radio transmissions from imagined military headquarters, police departments, or starships are dialogue, too. Last, remember that while we all speak the same language, no two people speak exactly alike. Give each of your characters a unique voice.

Here are some tips to consider:

Listen to your instructors. How do their sentences differ from those uttered by your classmates? Remember that dialogue is linked to character. (Some say dialogue IS character).

Is the dialogue used by your characters appropriate for their role in the game? Warriors speak differently from priests. People under the stress of combat speak in a louder, more agitated tone than people sitting calmly at a dinner table. Is the language spoken by your characters well matched to their education, maturity, gender, race, etc.? Is it appropriate for your audience's age group?

Do all of your characters sound the same? Do they speak lengthy, hard to understand sentences--or crisp, short ones? Does the language entertain as well as advance the story? Does it reveal clues, add excitement, and develop the game plot?

Revisit your favorite games or model games covered in your art school design classes. Do you like Mass Effect, Monkey Islands, Paper Mario, or Final Fantasy? Chances are the dialogue is as strong as the animation and sound effects. What do you like about the dialogue? Study other games to learn how to craft unique dialogue characteristics that reflect who your characters really are.

Many game designers develop a list of personality attributes for each character: mean, happy, cutting, angry, dull-witted, frustrated, etc. No matter which you decide, remember that dialogue is NEVER simply used to fill space.

About the Author
Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys,, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.

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