Constructed languages are an exciting thing to bring to games, because they get into the systemic heart of language and manipulate it for artistic and expressive ends. The applications could be as simple as writing dialogue for an alien race, or creating puzzles with secret alphabets, or as involved as constructing a system whereby players can actually learn to communicate using a fictional language.
The norm in games has been for fictional languages to be represented either as ciphers — think Al-Bhed in Final Fantasy X or the procedurally-generated alien language in Out There — or improvised jumbled sounds such as Simlish. Games have also featured constructed scripts, which give fans the opportunity to decode messages, such as the tetris code in Fez. I think it’s possible, and even desirable, to go further than this: games can feature fully-realised constructed languages, built from the ground-up to be fun for superfans to learn, and to contribute to a sense of immersion in a fictional world.
This is a new area that I’ve been exploring over the past year. I’ve created a complex system of magical symbols that transcribes anime-style power moves for a Silverstring project, and I’m working on a solarpunk dating sim written in a utopian language that breaks the boundaries of gender and individualism. I’d love to construct languages for more game projects: get in touch to talk about how I could bring your game project to life.
If you work with partners in Japan, I can help with correspondence, paperwork and documentation. If you want to release a game in Japan, or publish a Japanese game for the Anglophone world, I can help you with localisation. If you have already released a game that has attracted attention in Japan, I can translate the press coverage and fan discussions to help with your PR efforts.
Over time I have developed a unique set of skills based on my understanding of social and technical systems in history. What does that mean for game development? Very often, a game’s fiction is about worldbuilding, whether it’s a D&D-style fantasy scenario, a cyberpunk post-apocalyptic future, or a nostalgic look at the recent past. As a writer and consultant, I come in and look at a text from that historical and systemic point of view: I think about different ways that an AI might talk about relationships, or how the magical objects encountered in a world would be understood by its users.
My goal is to make sure that a game’s writing doesn’t just tell a story, but makes the player feel like they’ve accessed a window into another universe. I work with the consultants at Silverstring Media to make sure that all the bases are covered: Lucas Johnson is an expert at plot development and characterisation, and Claris Cyarron has an unmatched insight into narrative architecture in game spaces.