I’d like to still use this. Why not? This can still be a place for writing about games. So I will.
I have returned, the least of us is back.
I’ve been giving feedback on a new development I have alpha access to. It’s an odd experience being on the outside of a design team, whispering nothings into the void and having official responses back. I don’t mind it, it’s encouraging that I get responses and some of my feedback leads to changes and some of the things I’m responding to offer me an opportunity to focus on bigger ideas about design and games in general.
Just today I responded to some new voice acting that has been added to the tutorial of this game in progress. I didn’t like the voice acting, the sound of the actors, their cadence, whatever. But what I really responded to was what having voices meant for the game. It gave these talking heads, these images, this specificity that they had lacked. They became less like how I imagined them and more like how they were.
They had been these vague story elements, this cast of characters that I could add to or ignore. A turn of phrase I didn’t like, I could ignore, but a voice is way too concrete, too definite, to not acknowledge. The more specific the characters are, the less I get to imprint on them and imagine how they might be different. It was kind of a big thing, actually. Even just having the first few sentences of a string of dialogue read out meant that all of the dialogue was in that voice. A weird frog looking alien has a Brooklyn accent. A Brooklyn accent, how am I to ignore that? How am I to integrate that into my imaginings of this world he inhabits? It’s a thing.
I think voice acting has the potential to generate a lot of genuine feeling, to be a meaningful addition to a game. But that’s just it I guess. It’s a meaningful addition to a game by necessity of what it is. It’s unignorable, it’s significant.
Though it’s just voice, it’s an aspect of a character that leaving out means leaving in the audience’s mind for them to imagine. Written dialogue, like any writing, has this wonderful imprecision that allows one to state exactly what is said but without actually saying it so the reader has everything the writer wants to convey but is left with the most important part, the actual interpretation, the actual imagining. It’s powerful.
It’s those kind of thoughts that I really like out of giving this feedback. It’s this opportunity for me to think about games in general through the lens of looking at one particular game that’s the most invigorating about this.