New words are born, mature and die just like we do. A new game on Kickstarter explores this idea by casting players as colonists on Mars and showing how their language changes as their lifestyle does. Dialect: A Game About Language and How It Dies has already raised over $130,000 on Kickstarter from word nerds and RPG players all around the world.
Dialect is a GM-less game that runs for 3-5 people in about 4 hours. The initial setup is The Isolation, a Mars colony that loses contact with Earth. While the colony is away from Earth, they develop their own language from the pieces of history that are important to the colony.
Players start by defining aspects of the Isolation together which will be the themes throughout the game and creating the characters experiencing like in the Isolation. Then each turn, players choose a card from their hand that connects to one of the aspects, like Bad Omen or Unit of Time. The table then develops the aspect into a word through shortening it, referring a specific incident or slang. The turn ends with a short scene between two character exploring a scene where that word proves to be central to the scene. The game players through turns as the Isolation decides whether they rejoin the society they lost or it collapses from with in, lost to time.
“Dialect itself started with a question that kind of came all at once: can we tell a story of a people while building their language?” said Kathryn Hymes, one of the creators of the game. “We are avid players of indie RPG and huge fans of worldbuilding games like Ben Robbin’s epic Microscope, and Avery Alder’s beautiful The Quiet Year, which focuses on community. Given this amazing precedent, we set out to answer our original question and give a morsel of empathy for the real human stories behind how languages are lost.”
The Mars colony is the original setting of the Isolation, but other options are available like a colony on an isolated set of islands or a walled compound walled off from the country around it. Rather than stretch goals, the Kickstarter has revealed additional backdrops by other indie designers added to the book as well as art prints and a mystery books full of puzzles and other unique items from the developers. Fans looking to explore language in games right now can download the company’s other game, Sign, free of charge right now. Backers can put in extra money for a print version of Sign and all proceeds go to the Nicaraguan Sign Language Project which inspired the game in the first place.
This game is perfect for indie gamers, fans of fictional language and Star Trek fans who love the episode where Picard is stuck on the planet with that alien without the Universal Translator.
What’s your favorite fictional language? Let us know in the comments!
Image credit Thorny Games