The Functions of Game Dialogue

Stevens/Raybould (2016, p.197) states that dialogue typically falls into the following categories:


This dialogue provides the player with information they need to play the game.
This technique is used when teaching new mechanics in tutorials or when using a new item for the first time. The aim is to solely give information but often developers find a way to assign this dialogue to a characters natural articulations and add some realism/immersion to whats being said. As the importance of this dialogue is high,mixing techniques are used to help clarity,such as sending the audio to the middle of the stereo field and ducking less important audio.


This dialogue is all about emotion and  development of narrative, character ,game immersion or comedy in the scene. mixing can either be spatialized (panned relative to sound source and distance fall off etc.) or similar to the techniques used for informational dialogue, it depends on either the business of the mix or importance of the dialogue.

Below is a video I edited to show a few different examples of narration dialogue and how in this case tells the story, informs the player where to go and reacts to specific player actions, all whilst being comedic. The game is The Stanley Parable

(Duck Dreams, 2017)

The Stanley Parable uses the Dialogue almost as a way to create game play, The scene at 0:32 when the character gets to a choice of 2 doors and the narrator says “When Stanley came to set of two open doors, he entered the door on his left” the player is not only given a 50:50 choice, but it is a choice to either rebel or to conform to the directions of the game. This ties to the over aching narrative that the Character Stanley is an obedient worker drone that works for a company he hates and does not even know why himself. The narrator often crosses between most of the functions of dialogue in games. He tells the player directly what to do, he gives story and character to the game that would not be present without. By giving the player choice in their actions deriving from the narration dialogue, the game makes the dialogue an essential part of the games mechanics, function, story and entertainment.


This dialogue is for immersing the player but often involves both information and character.Often though, the information conveyed by the words is not necessarily important.

Enemy “Grunts” or “Barks” are an exclamation that give the player feedback on the game play, often used in stealth action games. Here is an example at 0:20 seconds.

( HystrixSA, 2012)

This example is useful for understanding why variation is very important in game audio, especially for dialogue.

“The Nature of games is that we are often in similar situations again and again and again and are consequently receiving similar dialogue (e.g., “Enemy spotted!”,”I’ve been hit!”). This indicates that, for the most heavily used dialogue for each character, we need to record lots of different versions of the same line.” (Stevens/Raybould, 2016, p.199)

There is a good reason to keep these lines short and that goes back to variations and how easy it is write and record lots of short lines than lots of specific , longer lines.

In an article “Why Video Game Characters Say Such Ridiculous Things” the author Kirk Hamilton interviews the writer for the Splinter Cell: Double Agent Richard Dansky.

It can be a challenge to attempt to convey too much information in a single bark: “Ideally, each bark should convey one piece of information – “We’re flanking” or “Grenade” or “I’ve been hit”. Trying to compress multiple tidbits in there means you have to be coming up with multiple variants of each chunk of each bark. That gets really awkward – and really long – really fast.” (Dansky, 2012)

“Games give us worlds to inhabit, and so characters’ dialogue must be much more flexible and reactive.” (Hamilton, K , 2012)

Below is an example of ambient dialogue in the game No one Lives Forever 2, notice the mix as well as the length and humour of the content, it is apparent that the intended dialogue be focused upon by the player

Here is an example of Chatter/Incidental dialogue, this section is an optional conversation with an NPC that shows variations of a question prompted by the player.

Duck Dreams,(2012)


A theme that has presented itself is that Humorous dialogue relies on variation and non-linearity and has therefore given good examples of what needs to be done in games dialogue. No one wants to hear the same joke twice, arguably even more than a standard dialogue line.




Duck Dreams,(2017) The Stanley Parable Dialogue examples : available at ( accessed 28/02/2017

Duck Dreams,(2012) The Darkness II – Tony’s Bannanas : available at ( accessed 28/02/2017

Humakt83,(2009) No One Lives Forever 2 Funniest Conversation : available at ( accessed 28/02/2016

Gareth Cocker, Andrew Lackey (2016) Ori and the Bling Forest: Sonic Polish through Distributed Development. GDC Vault : available at ( accessed 28/02/2016

Stevens, R. and Raybould, D (2016) Game Audio Implementation. Edited by `Dave Raybould. First edn. 6000 Broken Sound Parkway NW,Suite 300 Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press/Taylor and Francis.

HystrixSA, (2012) WHOSE FOOTSTEPS ARE THESE WHAT WAS THAT NOISE available at ( accessed 28/02/2017

Kirk Hamilton, 2012 Interviewing Richard Dansky ‘Why Video Game Characters Say Such Ridiculous Things’ Kotaku 28th June. Available at (


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