Tuesday, 21st February 2017 marked International Mother Language Day, a cause to "promote and celebrate linguistic and cultural diversity around the world, especially indigenous, minority, heritage, and endangered languages." For this month's FMF, we're looking for submissions on games and language. What interesting applications of language in games are there? How is the use of language celebrated? And can more be done within games to promote linguistic diversity?
'#MotherLanguage': Games and Multilinguism
As an English-native with a rudimentary grasp on common modern language (German phrases, Italian foods, and French greetings) it doesn’t feel natural to me to write about multilinguism in games. I don’t feel like I’ve experienced what it’s like to be a foreign speaker in another community, even though I’ve been beyond the borders of my native homeland. I don’t even feel like a stranger when it comes to exploring new worlds for the first time: I guess games don’t want language to be a barrier for entry. But at the same time, I wish sometimes games were smarter with language, in its requirements to understand and apply.
An example of what I’m not talking about is Final Fantasy X. The secondary language – Al Bhed – creates a level of multiculturalism within the world: you can only understand the subtitled dialogue by picking up “primers” scattered around the world. Beyond this aesthetic – and being incentivised for your discovery of primers from a merchant – there’s no depth to the second-language. The Al Bhed people don’t particularly warm to you as you learn their language; there’s no impact on the narrative based on how much you’ve learned; there’s no mechanical reason to seek these primers out.
I’d like to bring to your attention Koe. Koe is “an introduction to the Japanese language in a game reminiscent of traditional JRPGs like Final Fantasy and Pokemon.” It plays like many old-school JRPGs: control a hero, traverse a world of random encounters, and become embroiled in a deep story. The difference that Koe introduces is its use of the Japanese language. In order to perform actions in battle, platers must identify the Japanese translation: this is referred to as “communicative language learning.” There’s no alternative to performing actions: you either learn the symbols and the associated skills, or you fall in battle. I think it’s an effective use of what was a mundane and arduous feature in menu-searching. I would go as far to say that I’d never think of jumping in to learn basic Japanese phrases, but the mechanic has caught my attention, and I look forward to giving it a go!
"FMF Vol. 4" Example Topic: 'World TB Day': Games for the Advancement, Awareness, and Education of Science.
Submission Deadline: 31st March 2017
Published: 5th April 2017
Submissions made to: Andrew.Reid@GCU.ac.uk