Ken Levine believes dialogue isn’t effective for communication in games

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As a storytelling medium, games are very different from books, TV and film. And though BioShock Infinite’s Booker Dewitt isn’t a muted cipher, creator Ken Levine still prefers a bit of quiet.

Why? Because in videogames, dialogue is one of the least effective ways to impart information.

“It’s always very tempting to have people talk, you know? We’ll do a level review and either me or somebody else will have like an idea, ‘this person will say this!’, and generally that’s the least effective way to get across information in a video game,” Levine said to IGN.

“You know the audio line to the player is about a 14.4 connection but the visual line is a cable modem in terms of how well you can communicate and how much data you can send to them at once.

“Audio dialogue is a very thin line because you only hear it in order. You hear this line then that line, whereas visuals can all come at once. You can take in so much visually at once, so we really try to tell as much of the story as we can in the visual space. We don’t always succeed but that’s the goal.”

The game’s main bad…thing, Songbird doesn’t utter a  word. Here’s why:

“The nice thing about silence is it forces you to make very clear decisions about that character,” he said.

“It forces you to make that character have very clear motivations because you can’t caught up in a ton of subtlety. Now hopefully when [people see] Songbird and Elizabeth they understand there is some subtlety in that relationship, there’s some complexity to that relationship.

“It doesn’t necessarily require words. The goal is to get across that relationship without them sitting down and having coffee and discussing it.”

BioShock: Infinite was our game of E3, and is heading for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 next year.

Last Updated: November 28, 2011

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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