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Bad Language in Games

The other day I was playing the Point Lookout Add-on for Fallout 3 and there is this one main quest where you go to inspect an area named Calvert Mansion just to run into a ghoul named Desmond. He seemed very busy trying to defend the mansion against Tribal intruders and without asking me directly he made me help defend the house. At first I thought Desmond seemed to be a cool guy, after all he wears a suit and appeared like some sort of gentleman (as far as a ghoul can appear as a gentleman anyway).

But after we finished bouncing off the intruders and I’ve started a dialogue with him it turned out that he’s not such a gentleman after all. In nearly every second sentence in his dialogue he makes use of the notorious ‘F word’! No exaggeration! After a short while listening to his insults (calling me a moron several times) I got fed up of his overuse of nasty language and started to loathe this guy. Note that it turns out that he’s supposed to be an unlikable character but this could have also been very well transported without the overuse of bad language. … *Spoilers ahead*!

[ad#ad_content]There are few things that I hate in computer games and I’m among the last people who would complain about oodles of gore, violence, pixel-blood and naked boobs in games but one thing makes me sick: The excessive use of foul language to the point where it hurts the game’s atmosphere!

For what reason does Desmond’s dialogue need to have these many bad words in it? It could have been much more acceptable without them. The dialogue writer apparently overused bad language to the point where the dialogue sounded poor and unimaginative. Of course this isn’t the only situation in Fallout 3 where explicit words are used. There are other characters who (over)use them rather often and it’s no less annoying. Then there are factions like for example the Raiders, evil and dirty outlaws who use the occasional nasty word and guess what? I think that’s ok because it fits into their context.

This is what Desmond's dialogue looks like if you compressed into one sentence.

This is what Desmond's dialogue looks like if you compress it into one sentence.

Likewise there are other games that use tons of bad language and in some it obviously supports the theme as in the Grand Theft Auto series. In some others it doesn’t support the theme and is overused to the point where I abort playing the game completely (Crysis anyone? Great graphics but horrible story if you ask me). Again other games make use of dialogue that is more tailored towards adults but they do it in a very well written way. The excellent Vampire Bloodlines: The Masquerade would be one of these.

In my opinion all the exaggerated overuse of bad language is much more harmful to players than any blood and guts orgy because the dialogue is the first thing that affects most players. Game developers should be aware of that there are some more intellectual players existing than the average YouTube commenter!

I appreciate it if a game has a very well written dialogue and I don’t mind the occasional use of nasty words in the right context but the recent trend that more and more games go is not only pointless but downright cheap style! On the contrary often subtlety makes a game so much more precious!

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  1. Arno
    August 18th, 2009 at 19:00 | #1

    the guy that has written the dialogs watched too much Quentin Tarantino movies

  2. August 18th, 2009 at 19:00 | #2

    There’s a difference in rating and target. An entertainment product might be rated 13+ but still target a sophisticated and clearly adult audience, like Tarkovsky’s Stalker. Then again, a game may have a 18+ rating and target the juveline market, like Fallout 3 – which I personally believe is pretty messed up and not Fallout’y at all. Too much “cool shit” and bloom.

    The right amount of profanoty accents a character’s speech. Take Hartmann from full metal jacket. However overdoing profanity makes the character appear confused and lacking words.. and by extension it applies to the designer as well.

    Usually a well accented fuck, as in “And what makes you think I give a flying fuck about your problems?” is much better than a repetitive barrage of incoherent curses “Fuck you fuck shitting dicknipples goatfucking rimjob fuckartist”.. then again even if I try I can’t come up with anything less inspired than Fallout 3.

  3. September 30th, 2009 at 01:03 | #3

    I’ve not actually played the game, but the use of bad language here does sound quite ridiculous. As you say; the occasional use of obscenities is fine if it fits with the context of the game, but using bad language for the sake of it is just a bit stupid really. Don’t think I’ll be bothering with Fallout 3!

  4. September 30th, 2009 at 12:13 | #4

    Games World UK, FO3 itself isn’t that bad. In particular I think the combat is fun. Most quests on the contrary are rather uninspired (unlike in Oblivion which I think had some of the best side quests I’ve ever played). Just don’t bother about the Point Lookout Extension.

  1. September 26th, 2009 at 12:24 | #1
  2. August 5th, 2012 at 20:42 | #2
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