Astrological Alea
Wild Games

Non-verbal Communication

Hand Game designers don't spend much time thinking about how to implement communication mechanisms in games, but perhaps they should. Non-verbal communication is particularly interesting: it doesn't need localising, it's readily understandable by (most) people and it supports fully mimicry.

The use of the whistle in Shadow of the Colossus is a great example. Whistle for your horse, or to attract the attention of a colossus - it adds greatly to the feel of the play of this game that one can make a noise.

Similarly, the horn in Mercenaries is a nice touch. Beep your horn to get people to board your vehicle (just like in real life!), or when you are disguised, beep your horn to let allies know that it's you. Simple, logical, and supporting mimicry. Easily the best part of the design of this game.

The ocarina in The Legendof Zelda: The Ocarina of Time is also interesting, here using music to communicate. This is perhaps under used, but the moment when one reveals oneself to Epona on the basis of a particular tune is truly inspired.

I look forward to a game with a 'wave' button, in which the flailing of a hand becomes an element of play.

Anyone have any other examples of non-verbal communication in games they'd care to share?


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Non-verbal communication is a great part of games, but they can require some localisation... Or, more importantly, it is important to make sure you use the right sort of imagery from the start.

Like the index finger to thumb symbol you use on the start of this post, in US and Europe as well as in scuba diving, this means "OK". In other parts of the world it might mean something else (a quick look sees Wikipedia ( ) state it can be used to mean asshole on the autobahns of Germany!).

Interfaces can also use non-verbal or non-written communication in a good way. For instance, Quantum Redshift has a loading "click", an unobtrusive loading noise that gently clicks as the level loads. Once loading is complete it stops. No need to look at the loading screen...

This also goes for the little beeps etc that occur as you move through an interface. How many times have you thought, "Did I actually click on that?" when a simple beep could have helped?

Ogham originally double as a sign language, so it could convey words silently if need be, maybe have a Blind Captain effect depending on context.

However, the most interesting form of social feedback is body langauge and facial tone. Dr. Isbister's new book does some justice to this component, and I'm very interested in integrating it into Fianna.

Neil: I wanted a picture of someone waving, but couldn't find it. That picture was, for the reasons you suggest, rather ill chosen. :)

Patrick: A silent language doesn't really qualify as 'non-verbal' in my book - it still has words. :) I'm really keen to develop a body language engine at some point in the future. It could seriously enhance conversations in a narrative game.

Don't some of the military tactical shooters have hand-signals? I don't play that kind of game myself but I think I heard someone mention that. Also, an article on another similar form of communication if you're interested: which links to an older article on the same subject.

The ocarina in The Legendof Zelda: The Ocarina of Time is also interesting, here using music to communicate. This is perhaps under used, but the moment when one reveals oneself to Epona on the basis of a particular tune is truly inspired.

Well at least you never heard about this french student project:

It's an adventure game where puzzle are solve by creating music... and i say creating, the gameplay never enforce some sequence of notes, rather it analyze the property of the music made to extract effect. A game about creation with music, sounds like a dream huh?

Thanks for the link, Neoshaman! A steampunk musical adventure... sounds fascinating! Anyone tried it?

send me please any activity i can use to introduce nonverbal communication for teachers not student i want activity that fit their level and surprised them please

Anon: I have nothing of this kind, I'm afraid, and also you didn't leave any contact details, so even if I did I couldn't fulfil your wishes! Hope you find what you are looking for!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)