Gaming Scripts series:
Language and Aggression over time
A game from the 30,000 foot view, with its intricate battle mechanics, handcrafted scenery, and illustrative storytelling leaves an impression with the player.
Over the past few days, we’ve looked closer and closer at the storytelling portion, the words and transcriptions that are used and the impression that it leaves on the game.
We’ve only previously looked the words that have been said but not about how difficult it was to hear.
So this is how a game’s script reads. At least looking at the Flesch Kincaid Grade scale, it says that even the more difficult of scripts can be read by a 6th grader; 3rd and 4th graders can manage with the majority of the script as well.
But looking at the SMOG scale, it says that many of these scripts sit around the high school reading level, so why the big discrepancy?
The first is to understand how these scales come up with their grading systems
The Flesch Reading scale looks at the average number of words per sentence and the average number of syllables per word. The more words in the sentence, the harder it is to keep the sentence in your head. The more syllables in the word, the harder it is to pronounce and making it harder to comprehend. Think of those dense Biology books from high school and Whitepapers that grad students have to read. Full of long and complicated words that people try to invent to segregate their ideas for originality. Makes it plenty difficult and tiresome to read, right?
The Smog test takes a completely different approach. Assuming that a kid can read most sentences, we really only care about the number of high syllable count words per sentence, in this case 3 or more syllables in the word. The more of these high polysyllable words in the sentence, the more dense the writing is.
The last is an estimate of how easy a piece of text is to read. High scores are easier and low score are harder, weighing may syllables in a word more harshly than more words per sentence.
What does this matter to games? Let’s keep in mind that much of a game’s story isn’t being read by the player like a novel, but lectured and spoken to you through the various characters in the game. Dialog tends to be short, interjections to the events that are happening. And most dialog doesn’t come in the form of a long winded lecture, though you might be the mute sitting in on a drawn out conversation with others.
Dialog in its nature tends to have short words. It’s easier to say and the vocal economy is shortened so the game’s pace can stay high. This why the Flesch Grade is so low, because you aren’t typically in a lecture.
A game does have its own lore to keep track and plenty of people and places and other Pronoun Ex Machina to keep track of as well, which accounts for the SMOG tests high polysyllable count.
This probably shows the mechanics more closely for these two tests, charting the average number of letters per 100 words (top), the average number of words per sentence (middle), and the average number of sentences per 100 words (bottom).
Looking at our old case-studies, Call of Duty tends to have a lot of short sentences thanks to it having very dialog delivery with its low sentence length and high number of sentences per 100 words.
Bioshock and Skyrim tend to be very long winded, lecturing the player with the prose of self-sufficiency or the history of the world that you’ve stepped foot in. This is probably why each game run opposite to the how Call of Duty’s numbers look in the charts.
We been able to see aggression and story in the game, even how easy it is to read. What this kind of analysis can’t see in the difficulty in topics that each game talks about. Concepts of self-identity; of the difficulties in war that paint it in disgust and tragedy just as often as it does in thrill and glory; criticism and sarcasm gets tossed around and the reckless mayham that you toss yourself into. If I even revisit this topic, I probably be aiming for identifying what a game’s message is actually try to instill rather than the way it instill it. Looking past the emotional context to find the real meaning behind it.
Blaugust Day 7