Guest Blog: Dialect & Language

Randy Alvarenga

Randy Alvarenga

Guest Contributor

Back in January, as the United States was getting ready to swear in a new president, I found myself getting ready to take on a new adventure. I would join a cast of four in a new show on the Saving Throw Show Twitch channel called All Games, No Masters. The premise of this show was to highlight GM-less games through a streamed actual play. Each week, one of the players would choose a new game system to try, and that player would act as that game’s “facilitator.”

As a group we would all be there supporting each other, there to ask questions and to approach the game as any first-time player would. I loved this idea and was sold the moment Aki, the producer of the game, pitched it to me. All that I had to do was to pick a game.

Looking at the list of potential choices, I was at a loss. Everything I read sounded fun, but I just couldn’t find the game that called to me. That was until I got to Dialect, created by Thorny Games. I remember looking at the premise and just being drawn in. This was a cooperative storytelling game that centered around a group of isolationists and the language that bonds them. It was a game about language where you would create and use words that would be unique to each playthrough, and that was something that really intrigued me.

You see, language and I, particularly English, have always had a contentious relationship. My first words were in Spanish since my dad at the time couldn’t speak English very well. This led to me having a slight accent going into elementary school, and needing to take ESL for a bit. I hated it. Learning to use English correctly was a chore, and it singled me out as different from my peers.

That only ever changed when I fell in love with playing video games. Suddenly language was the key to making friends and having more fun. I practiced harder so that I could understand the stories I played better, and share my favorite parts of those games with my friends on the playground. This wasn’t easy, but gaming made it a lot more enjoyable!

Later in life, I would go on to study acting and would move across the world to Tokyo. I started off as an English teacher and went to Japanese language school each morning before work. Language became an important part of my everyday life. As an ex-pat, language allowed me to connect with people from all over the world.

And so that was the big draw of Dialect for me. My job was simple; to help show off this brilliant, and carefully crafted work of art, not only to my new friends and castmates but also to the entire audience.

Talk about pressure.

A few weeks ago, we had the chance to air the first part of our two-parter on this game, and boy was it fun!

We played as a group of isolationists who called themselves the Secondborns. Our world was a bleak one–a massive city built on an asteroid that was being used for mining. We were the children who had been cast aside by society as a drain on resources. Hiding in old, abandoned mines, we were forced into the information broker trade.

And with our distrust of those around us, we created a language that matched the bleakness of that world. We played out scenes that allowed us to internalize those words and to give them power. And, in many ways, they became real for us.

Our first game ended with the end of the first Act of our tale. A handful of words had been created, and the signs of a future conflict with the terrifying adults of the larger city above looms ahead of us.

Even after the game, I found myself and my partner using our newly crafted language. It had taken on its own life. And I can’t wait to get back into the next part of the story.

Dialect is unlike any game I have played before. It is engaging and thought-provoking in ways that can only be understood by watching or playing it yourself. I highly recommend this game for anyone looking to try something new with friends. Even if you’ve never been a GM before, even if language isn’t your passion, you will have fun with this game, and I think watching All Games, No Masters can show that.

Both episodes of the rise and fall of the Secondborns and their language can be found on Youtube at the Saving Throw Show page here:

Also, feel free to check out the other games we played this season, or get excited about the awesome games we will bring to you in Season 2 of the show which will come out sometime around Summer 2021.

Randy Alvarenga Guest Contributor

Randy Alvarenga is an Afro-Latino Actor/Gamer originally hailing from Washington DC. He has recently returned to the US after 7 years abroad doing theater and film in Tokyo, Japan. He is currently readjusting to life here in the states while also getting more involved in TTRPG streaming, and spending lots of cuddle time with his partner and their two loving cats.