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Speaking in #, ! and *...Cursing in Video Games

Recent reports have shone that a large amount of the owners of the PS2 and Xbox consoles are in their middle ages, and that tendency is growing every year. Cursing, as it pertains to an integral part of the dialog, has only been around for the past decade (or at least it has been for the mainstream titles). Now, even if you don't listen in on ever word that is said in GTA3, you can catch a few 4-letter words sung out at you when you blow up an ambulance. Although the problem of violence has been attacked in the recent years (ever since the first Mortal Kombat came out, at least), cursing never seems to get many complaints, partly because the manufactures find the need to water down the dialog to make the game "acceptable."

Here is what really confuses me, and drop me a line if you can give me a clear answer. We can have players assassinate people with a sawed off shotgun, snipe people afar, see ruthless torture and commit massive waves of murder all in the same game. Yet, the characters speak in strained voices, trying to sound mature, angry and on the wrong side of the law but dare never to curse. Now imagine what the reaction would be given if Pulp Fiction was recalled and edited so that either substitutions or no cursing would exist. The dialog was drag to a standstill, the characters would be jarred out of place, the mood would be completely spoiled and the tensions would fall apart. This is why we really don't like cutscenes... we have to tolerate bad dialog.

In some games, it is not needed or recommended (Spyro for instance). Even a less cartoonish plot can do without cursing, as a few might recall from DRIVER for the PS1. Good, not great, dialog with no cursing. Now, in the future Grand Theft Auto will have the fifth title, most likely in some places that we rather not mention to friends and family. With this premise, cursing is used as a perfect example. Unlike movies, the dialog cannot use cursing as a crutch in games. But with it, it shoves the player into realism, and unlike killings and hit-and-runs driving, it is something for both worlds to connect to.

How unfortunate that the game makers have such a heavy load to deal with when it comes to dialog. To make the dialog sharp, sophisticated, and chocked with dry wit will make the brows of the players raise in surprised confusion. Borderline �Yes�I am Mr. Evil, and now, you will die for getting into my plans... Mwahahah!� type dialog makes us ALL cringe, as in RESIDENT EVIL 0. Sorry CAPCOM for saying that, but it's the truth. For realistic games, take a lesion from Vincent Vega's use of English and let ALL words get equal use.

By Douglas Brinius - 12/12/02

Screenshots for Speaking in #, ! and *...Cursing in Video Games

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