Is Dialog Really Necessary?

Talking on the Telephone
by judy_and_ed

I am constantly searching for new games to try out and explore, and one of those most recent games has been Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

In my many years of playing, I don’t think I have ever played a game quite like this and suggest anyone interested to give it a go (it can be found on the Xbox live arcade).  The gameplay is relatively intuitive and smooth, and the scenery in which you find yourself in is absolutely breathtaking at times.  However, the most intriguing thing about the game for me was the lack of dialog.  Sure, the characters spoke, but it was in a language much like when a sim will speak in any of the Sim games.

This got me thinking, is dialog really necessary to share a story?

Brothers, is not the only game I’ve seen virtually no dialog in.  Journey, another well known game, has also been known to tell a very deep story without ever saying a word.

When I come across games like that I can’t help but be amazed at the emotional pull and investment I end up putting into characters that never say a word.  It has even been to the point of yelling at my TV screen because I was unhappy with the way things turned out.  But how can that be since there was no dialog to move the story along or to develop personalities and character of the protagonists?

I believe that it really boils down to the beautiful simplicity of showing a story rather than telling it.  In a narrative, such as any form of literature, dialog is a constant driving force in any story you read.  It is difficult, potentially impossible, to present a great story without any dialog.  Which is fine, that is the limitation of the medium chosen and it is a wonderful medium to use.

But, video games and movies are not so constricted and can express their story much more through a visual prowess that books could never accomplish.  They can show the stories and not just tell them.  They can immerse you in the world through the actions of the characters on the screen, through the scenery that sets the stage, and even (if not especially) with the music used to set the tone.  All of these elements combined can make for a powerful and compelling story without an ounce of dialog added into it.

So, no, I don’t think dialog is really necessary to tell a great story.  However, I also know that this is a technique that should be used sparingly.  There are times within the arts when certain techniques can be overdone and I think this is one of them.  Let the lack of dialog be special, and let great stories continue to develop in the usual and unusual ways.

What do you think?  Is dialog necessary?  What are some of the best stories you’ve read/hear/seen/etc. that you’ve encountered?

Let me know in the comments below.

Grace and Peace.

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5 thoughts on “Is Dialog Really Necessary?

  1. Dialogue is the easiest way to go into depth but I feel a lot of writers have forgotten the nuances of big picture storytelling without telling people outright.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Games, movies, you name it and they will spell things out through poorly executed exposition rather than well crafted storytelling.

        Like

  2. I never think it is. My girlfriend says differently though. Its weird I can get along not talking just like Lego games and Brothers manage to get along not talking. Less is more. You know what a person means by just their actions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I absolutely adore the Lego game series. Without a word you are told a story that is clear and often hilarious. But there are times I think when dialog can be the best route to express a thought or feeling that is essential to the story that would otherwise be missed.

      Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

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