If you’re like me, you’re well familiar with Animal Crossing and the gibberish the characters speak. The approach of having grunts in video games isn’t new. We’ve seen it for decades in various forms, and the ones that really stick out to me are games like Banjo-Kazooie. It’s a way to give characters unique vocal personalities without actually giving them full-on voices. However, since it’s gibberish, I assumed it was the same in all countries. As it turns out, it’s not.
Polygon recently published a video analyzing the voices in Animal Crossing, along with various other games, including The Sims. In the video, they delved into the overall logic of representing human speech through gibberish. Apparently, there’s a lot more thought that goes into this entire process than I actually realized.
Take a look at the video down below.
In the video, they really point to The Sims in an interesting way. If you’ve played the game, you know the characters speak total gibberish. The creators of the game recorded the voices of two improvisors and remixed it over the course of the game. But, as it turns out, there is a unique problem that comes with it.
While that gibberish may sound totally find to English-speakers, it may sound a bit off to those whose native language isn’t English. Basically, to them, it sounds like it’s actually English because of the way the phonetics play out to their ear. The result? It may not sound like gibberish at all.
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“How we define gibberish is going to be based on our native language,” Dr. Melissa Basese-Berk of the Speech Perception and Production Lab at the University of Oregon said in the video. “So how gibberish-y something sounds is going to be related to how similar or different it may sound to your native language. I can imagine if it sounded so distinct from your native language, it might not even sound like gibberish. It might just sound like something that isn’t really language-y.”
Furthermore, it’s worth pointing out just how different languages are in how they use phonetics. If you look at Japanese, for instance, they essentially have five vowel sounds — a, e, i, o, u. Yes, we have all of those in English, but unlike Japanese, we have a lot more vowel-ish sounds in between. So, it’s technically not a, e, i, o, u, but all of those, and everything in between.
In short, the gibberish in one may sound different as hell from gibberish in another language. As such, if you’re listening to gibberish based on another language, it may not connect with you as much. This may not matter in The Sims, but it may very well in Animal Crossing. After all, the goal is to feel like you’re becoming part of a community. As such, the language feeling familiar — even if it’s gibberish — plays a role in creating that essence.
“That level of comfort and familiarity is something that is easy to induce via language,” Baese-Berk concluded.
While this is something Nintendo hasn’t confirmed, it does make sense. With Animal Crossing looking to immerse you in a warm world, giving you just a touch of extra familiarity may go the extra mile in making the players feel at home.
How many hours have you put into Animal Crossing: New Horizons? Let us know your thoughts down below!
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