Swearing in video games! !@#$%

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  • Hi there guys, I would like some of your opinions on cursing in video games.

    I've been writing a game script, a murder mystery set in the modern day. You play as a police detective who is... *shock* trying to catch a serial killer.

    I'm keeping the content fairly adult oriented for the most part. So a little bit of swearing is natural. But I find that when it comes to writing the dialogue for these characters that I just want to make every other word a curse word for some reason. It's just how a lot of people talk nowadays, especially in the police profession.

    My question is, how much do you think is too much? Does it not bother you at all? Do you hate it? Are certain words not appropriate compared to others? etc. etc.

    This is actually an issue that as a writer I've been struggling with for some time. You're feedback will be most appreciated :)


  • I'd say "some" is too much and "a little" is okay if used tactfully. Swearing is usually distracting and will do more to take the player out of the experience than make dialogue seem realistic. Writing is premeditated while speech is usually more spontaneous reactionary, so it comes off as a lazy and crude way of writing. Of course, there is always exceptions, like using it in a stylistic way, such as to contrast one character from all others.

    Just my 2 cents!

  • I'm a bit puzzled by your statement " It's just how a lot of people talk nowadays, especially in the police profession".

    I'm not sure it is the case, and it also depends on the country I guess.

    In US movies, yes you have super cops with quite a swearing language or being smartasses. I'm not sure it's something done regulary IRL though.

    As Mulkaccino, I'd say swearing as to mean something. If it is just swearing for swearing, it risks to pull the player out of the game.

    If one character in peculiar is a heavy swearer because it's part of its personality, than massive swearing can be handled by the player, if the rest of the cast is more sporadic on swearing.

    It all depends on the reasons, the characters and the situations.

    Interesting topic and question.

  • Swearing doesn't bother me, but when to use it highly depends on the characters, the situation and what mood you're going for. There's no clear-cut answer.

    As a rule of thumb though, if your characters are swearing every other word, you're doing something wrong.

  • Kyatric

    I've been watching a lot of The Wire lately :P

    Great input so far, differentiating characters by having them swear more is interesting.

    Seems that so far the general consensus is to take it easy with the cuss words and to use them for "impact". I agree, I don't want dialogue revolving entirely around harsh language of course. But it's surprisingly difficult to find a middle ground with it sometimes.

    I'm not quite sure how swear words would "pull" me out of the game though so maybe someone could clarify. Do you mean that if a character says the "F" word for example you might find it say.. shocking? And that's what breaks your immersion?

    Thanks a lot guys!

  • You watch too many Hollywood movies.

  • For me it would all depend on your characters temperament and also the scenario. If done right though I think it can deepens one's connection with it.

    Thinking about it more - Its possible that the added connection is formed when the character is mirroring your own thoughts.

    If your cops just got to a murder scene for instance, this would be a good time to swear.

    On the flip side, Borderlands has some pretty comical swearing throughout the story. I enjoyed that too.

    Its juvenile, but my experience with swearing in video games has usually been "Did he just say that!?", "Awesome".

  • It almost always appears immature and juvenile. There are exceptions, and minor cursing has more of a place in game dialogue. But, in general, it makes the designer/writer look less and less professional and the game appear far weaker than it may have otherwise. Does the occasional 'damn' or 'hell' work in a lot of situations? Of course. Can you get a little edgier? Sparingly. Anything more ruins the experience and takes the player out of it.

  • You watch too many Hollywood movies.

    In Hollywood it would be: You son of a ... (And explosion censoring the rest)!

    Holy Sh... (And explosion censoring the rest)!

  • If it is not explosions, it is boobs.

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  • lot of people talk nowadays, especially in the police profession

    Now this is true wisdom!

  • Well, it's all opinion based, so here is mine:

    I would study old Law and Orders or other gritty crime dramas before they allowed much swearing on TV. With good writing, you don't even notice it, at least for me.

    That being said, if you are OK with swearing, I would use it sparingly, to give it more impact!

    Just my opinion. You know the nature of the game and how things fit better than us

  • You can use the ESRB ratings guide as a guideline to match language/profanity with the demographic of your intended target market.


  • > You watch too many Hollywood movies.

    In Hollywood it would be: You son of a ... (And explosion censoring the rest)!

    Holy Sh... (And explosion censoring the rest)!

    Don't forget disguising the bad words (Will Smith talking to a guy in a orange whale costume: "You big, orange Moby Dick[/I!"), or switching scenes quite strategically at just the right moment. ("You mother..." (interrupting with new scene) "... luckier, that guy.") Swearing like that is technically innocent enough, but it can be funny if done right. Though if you do it badly, it's just embarrasing. As for plain, old swearing, I'd try to avoid it as best I can. Just because your game is 'adult', it doesn't mean it needs swearing. Try to watch Dexter, for instance. It's all about cops and bad guys, and Dexter himself is a serial killer. Even so, there's hardly any swearing at all. And the show's all the better for it. :) (except Debra, though. She swears like a sailor at times, but it's just ridiculous to listen to. Then again I hate both the character and the actress.)

  • I now at least two "writers" of the old times that got around the "no swearing rule" in publication, and used it for their best : Herg� (for Tintin) and Terry Pratchett (in Discworld).

    In Tintin, Captain Haddock (at least in french) curses all the time, but in a "old fashion" way of doing it. He uses a string of old & latin words, which aren't swear words in themselves, but works well together : "Bashi-bazouk, bald-headed budgerigar!, australopithecus, amphitryon, pleasure-boat admiral, carpetseller, iconoclast, platypus, troglodyte, ectoplasm, freshwater pirates!"

    In Terry Pratchett's Discworld, Foul Ole Ron, the beggar can use non-sens phrase to say things like that (fgor example : "Bugrit, millennium hand an' shrimp..." <img src="smileys/smiley2.gif" border="0" align="middle" />). Pratchett got that kind of phrase by using automati combination of lyrics and chinese restaurant menues. You can get some pretty creative phrases with that !

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