Implementing a communication system is much more complex than enabling a text chat, even if you’re within a company and not just playing games with strangers on the Internet. In two major corporations where I have worked, the adoption of a common language wasn’t actually much help in communication. Where things improved was in the recognition of similarities in culture. We understood that Jean from the south of France preferred to have our weekly Friday meeting over by noon so he could spend the afternoon “drinking sweet wine with his friends”. Was his productivity affected by this? Certainly – but for the better. The difficulty in passing over the non-verbals in both language and culture (both being filters for communication) mean that for the most effective communications we may have to pare back the layers to the most basic. A few years ago, a tabletop RPG called Og presented a limited way of communicating where, similar to Twitter, you were limited in your ability to complete communications. In this case it was a limited vocabulary and a limited number of words you were permitted to use. You still had to interact, to solve puzzles and achieve objectives, but communication was artificially limited to allow for creative expression in other ways. It’s also possible to use tools like Rory’s Story Cubes to facilitate this sort of communication and I’ve previously used Everway vision decks to boost understanding and imagination.
The game mentioned in the article reminds me of the Wii method of communication. When playing Super Mario Kart Wii, there is no free-form communication. There are a number of emotes that you can select for our character which are language specific and therefore easily translated. This has two effects – it makes it really easy to permit my kids to play online as there is no way to see inappropriate content and there is no way for a player to feel alienated by the language.
Of course you can have entire conversations using “emotes” (visual verbs) and a strong visual library with appropriate translation can enable meaningful conversation even without a line of text being passed.