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Article - 'Slap to the Head' by Dragomorph

An item about Miscellanious posted on Mar 1, 2004

Blurb

Grammar got Run Over By a Reindeer. Dragomorph expresses his anger towards poor grammar in amateur games.

Body

It's happened to me frequently: I'll see a game that looks interesting. Maybe it's an adventure game, maybe it's an RPG. Either way, I see it's quite popular and well rated, so I figure what the heck: I'll give it a download. So now I've got this file, and it's all set up and everything. I'm ready. I start up my game, and what do I see?

HERO: Someday I gonna beat u evil jerk!!!!one!
VILLAIN: I liek to see u tri ha ha ha ha!!!!!!111!

... *thud*

I don't know about you, but as a writer, there's nothing that pains me more than someone who seems to have forgotten the basics of grammar and spelling. The Internet seems to have fooled us into believing that we can get away with sloppy writing because, well, it's the net, and nobody cares. Perhaps there IS a fundamental shift occurring towards a new grammar; after all, it IS the twenty-first century, and anything could happen. But currently, writing like this will get you absolutely NOWHERE in the real world, so why can we get away with it on the net?

So here is my little slap to the head for y'all: Writing matters. Maybe not so much in games where plot isn't central, but in a game where characterization and storyline can make or break something, it does little to draw people in when your game looks like it was written by a Dragonball Z kiddie with a broken spellchecker and a sugar addiction. So, here are some tips from a writer to a programmer:

1.) Beta-readers are your friend. Once you've finished your game, don't rely on yourself entirely to catch every single mistake you make. Send it to someone who can give it a once-over. It's extra helpful if you can find someone you know will be able to give it a critical overview, rather than give you a thumbs up and send it on your way. Remember, as good to your ego as it may be to get a good review, it's an even bigger boost when you know you're putting out the best product you can.

2.) When writing dialogue, think carefully about how people actually speak. How many people shout half their dialogue, or speak in cheesy catchphrases? Don't overdo it; it's just as possible to ham it up in dialogue as in acting, which is never a good thing unless the character is intentionally meant to be goofy. On the other hand, don't be overly cautious to the point of making your character devoid of personality altogether. If all else fails, think about what YOU'D say in reaction to something, then work from there.

3.) For those of you whom are writing a game in a non-native language, some slack may be given. However, consider this: what is your reaction when someone writes a game in your language, but fills it with all sorts of misspellings, fractured grammar and over-the-top dialogue? My best suggestion would be to find a group which predominantly speaks the language you're writing the game in and ask for some beta advice. They themselves may not be able to catch mistakes themselves, but you'll still be able to get some advice, and maybe even learn the language a little better. Everybody wins!

4.) Exclamation points and question marks. E-gads, some people seem to think they need to add as many as possible to get a point across. In some cases, this may work; however, some people tend to kind of overdo it.

E.g.: YOU FIEND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Get the feeling of being trampled? In general, the most you should ever use is three. TOPS. And that's only if the character's REALLY annoyed. Furthermore, in a stream of such punctuation, don't mix together a huge load of question marks and exclamation points. In the case of a shouted question, only one exclamation mark and question mark is really necessary. Bear in mind that, like "...", this could be considered a very, VERY specific feature to gaming literature, since it used to be harder to depict emotion in video games.

I can't tell you how many promising games I've been put off due to poor grammar and dialogue. Is this a sign of picky-ness? Perhaps, but then again I can't imagine many people who would let a book or a TV show get away with that sort of writing unless they had a very, very high tolerance for camp. In the end, your game will look better for it. Sometimes, good writing can make all the difference between a mediocre and a great game.