Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Video Games as User Interface Fine Art

Flat design has been all the rage as a recent user interface. Normally it is only a hot topic in the web design industry, but rumors have been spreading that the next version of iOS will also incorporate flat design, and, for end users, this is a topic in which they should be interested as well.

“What constitutes ‘flat design’?” This topic has been thriving in blogs as of late. One obvious origin of flat design is the Xbox 360’s dashboard. For the average Japanese, the Xbox 360 is probably the only hardware with which they are unfamiliar, so it is unfortunate that hardly anyone has been able to experience the design.

The Xbox 360 dashboard, which was updated in Japan on December 6, 2012, is known as the “Metro User Interface”. There are rumors floating around that another update will be made soon, but I am quite fond of this current dashboard design. The Metro UI became the original design for things like Windows 8 and subsequent Windows phones, but as a result of Microsoft’s slight mismanagement, they are currently using the designated name “Modern User Interface”.

Skeuomorphic vs. Flat Design
There have been mixed reviews about flat design, but these are usually more about personal preference than anything else. The Repercussions of apple pressing forward with the overdone skeuomorphic design (a design that imitates reality) has flat design advocates complaining about the simplicity. On the other hand, because of its resemblance to real objects and equipment, advocates of the skeuomorphic design are complaining about its convenience and ease of use.

Since I am skeptical of the very idea of applying the cognitive science affordance argument to a computer UI, I just can't see how skeuomorphic design would make it more convenient. Additionally I describe below why, ultimately, I think that user interfaces of modern OS and applications do not solely exist for convenience and ease of use.

A lot of the flat design critics find fault with the “evilness of ease of use” but as a result, considering recent OS and applications that have skeuomorphic design, wouldn’t having ease of use be a good thing? This is a constant problem. For ease of use, I think that familiar icons and familiar user interfaces are ultimately a good addition.

Even if they had an excuse, like the skeumorphic design that Apple has pressed forward with was easy to use, etc., it seems to be the majority of this simple trend. Displaying an image like the condensed mic in the iPhone record application is, of course, fresh, but I have never felt that it is convenient. Taking advantage of the shadows and gradients in order to imitate this realistic feeling may have a chance to show artistry in the design, but honestly it still feels like its lacking.

I have a personal anecdote where I felt that the skeuomorphic design was out-of-date. Instagram, the popular camera application, had changed its icon. This update in 2011 changed Instagram’s icon from the calming brown flat design to the skeuomorphic design that was like a camera jumping out at you.

This change was probably the decision of the investors and the marketing department. Now when I look at it, personally I feel that this regressive change made it nerdy. The “photograph” application Instagram – the one that reinvented media in the smart phone era - is a marvelous thing I think, but the personal experience that Instagram gives me should have been a much more “light” and “flat” thing rather than the experience of photographing with an old, gaudy camera.

For me personally, in 2011, I lost interest in the skeumorphic design and at the same time I was charmed by the appearance of the Windows Phone user interface, and I am relatively optimistic for Windows 8 as well. Of course, when thinking of functionality I am probably unfamiliar with this part, but the new interface will provide a new experience. At any rate, using things such as personal smartphone devices and tablets for office use will be a fresh experience that I desire.

Video games dragging behind the UI trend. It is a very different story for video games, and there is a chance for the recent flat design to spread, but for now let’s take a look at this design on the Xbox 360. (While it is unfortunate, I cannot say that Windows phones have become popular.) Without being concerned with a daring flat design, the Xbox 360 was accepted by a lot of people probably because this was for games, and the user interface was for the sake of entertainment. The flat design in the Xbox seems to have become successful and as an entertainment platform it could produce a fresh experience that is beyond mere convenience.

Just as clothes do not exist solely for the purpose of convenience, OS and apps are also not created solely for the purpose of convenience. In the App Store, if you think about the quantity of games and entertainment applications, naturally people look less for convenience and more for entertainment and freshness. Moreover, video games are an art and even in applications like these there are extremely few restrictions where they can freely create whatever they want. Therefore from now on, video games will be an extremely important application for personal computers’ and mobile computers’ user interface.

Without being slaves to “functionality” and “convenience” we can freely experiment with user interface. Of course, I know while trying to incorporate common applications there are also a lot of stupid applications as well. Like in the high fashion world where fashion design influences commercial design, I think video game trends also influence user interface. User interface and web design have become unrestricted, and I think an age where people can decorate according to their own preferences is not far away.

Crushing Fans’ Dreams: Why Some Sequels Work While Others Run Aground

Have you ever wished that your favorite game could go on forever? Have you ever wished for a sequel? Limitless sequels? Prequels?! Everyone wants more. Whether you’re waiting in line at the Starbucks and wondering if you should go for the grande or the venti, or you’re a die-hard Super Mario RPG fan who’s still waiting for a “legit” sequel to be produced, you want more. More of the same characters that you’ve come to know and love. More of the world that you’ve explored every inch of until you know it like the back of your hand. More of those stellar, or not-so-stellar, graphics that pulled  you into the game and allowed you to forget about the A.P. European History test that was waiting for you the day after tomorrow that you hadn’t started studying for yet. You get hooked on a game, and then you never want it to end. It’s the same as a book, movie, or TV show. Just like Lord of the Rings fans couldn’t sit still between movies one, two, and three, Kingdom Hearts fans can’t sit still as they wait for the latest information on the newest game in the series. It’s a world of adventure and familiar faces, and a place you can belong—but only as long as the story continues. If this is all true, however, why do some sequels succeed, while others… go up in smoke?

There have been any number of hugely successful sequels and franchises in gaming history. The most basic, and easily most famous example, is the Mario series. In fact, many early Nintendo games became long-running franchises that kept fans happy for years to come. Other genres have their own famous franchises, from the Medal of Honor and Call of Duty franchises in first-person shooters, to Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and the Kingdom Hearts games as previously mentioned for RPGs. The fact of  the matter is that a successful franchise will pull in a hell of a lot more players and fans than a simple one-shot game. Even if successful, a sequel-less game will be forgotten as more and more time passes and popular franchises keep popping out more games. Okage: Shadow King, released in 2001 by Zener Works, was an innovative, fresh RPG that had a decent following and earned the praise of a number of different gaming entities, but now it’s nearly unheard of, a tiny speck in a sea of early 2000 games. Jet Force Gemini was a gem of a first-person shooter on the N64. Developed by Rare and released in 1999, it received a number of praises and was even on IGN’s list of Top 25 N64 games, but as no sequel was ever produced for it, it now remains nothing more than a memory in many of its fans’ minds.

Compare games like these with their franchise brothers and sisters—games, sometimes even very similar games, that keep on living through the years through new instalments to the series. These instalments could be direct sequels, or simply games that take place in the same world, games with similar types of story lines developed by the same publisher, games based on the same concepts as their predecessors. No matter what type of connection games in a franchise may have, the fact that they are related in some way, shape, or form, makes them more appealing to many fans. Fans of the SNES  game Chrono Trigger from way back in 1995 rushed out to buy its sequel Chrono Cross when it was released, despite the fact that its characters, storyline, and basic premise were entirely different from its predecessor. Fans of the original Arc the Lad series games were quick to snatch up the PS2 sequel, Twilight of the Spirits, when it hit the shelves, despite it being so far removed from the original game,  it barely warranted the franchise title. Franchises and sequels will always carry that initial “oomph” that  stand-alone games can’t achieve—fans that will buy the game whether it’s related to the original, or even good, or not. Stand-alone games have to work harder, and unless they’ve been marketed heavily, will take considerably longer to get good sales, as it will take more word of mouth than a big-name franchise game. This could be why so many sequels and franchise-based games are developed today. There are still a number of diamonds in the rough that pop up every now and then and make it big, but even those are few and far between (and many of them will eventually start their own franchises as companies try to bank in on the popularity). It seems as though companies care less about making a truly good game when they have a franchise name behind it that will bring in good sales no matter what, while the innovative, off-the-beaten track stand-alone games that have the heart and souls of their developers locked away inside gain nothing more than a small, devoted following. Of course, that’s not to say that all franchise games are lazy messes, just that they sometimes rely too much on tried-and-true (and now old and cliché) methods, story lines, and characters that now proliferate the gaming shelves. Try comparing some of those old 90s game characters with the ones popping up in games today. It’s amazing how back then every single character wasn’t a young adult and didn’t look like they were straight out of an idol group or otaku’s body pillow collection.

That being said, there are some sequels that just don’t work. There are also some franchises that seem to be flopping as their fans drown in nostalgia and refuse to accept anything new. Which brings me to my next discussion—why some sequels hit rock bottom. There is always the worry when making a sequel to a beloved game that the new game will not live up to the hype of the old. Games which are near and dear to their fans’ hearts are hard to replace, and even harder to extend in a way that fans will see fit. The creators of a game series might have a much different plan in store for the franchise or characters than its fans are hoping for (see: the aforementioned Chrono Cross), or the new game will be too different, too dark, not dark enough, too cartoony, or too realistic (see: every new Zelda game). The truth of the matter is that game fans are horrifically annoying and self-righteous.

They’re impossible to please and will never be satisfied. Which is why sometimes game developers simply have to break off from what fans want and make the game as they see fit. If you release a brand new game in a franchise, but all your fans can ask about is whether or not you’re going to remake that one “really awesome super great game” from 16 years ago (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy 7), it’s clear that you’re never going to please them with anything new you could ever put out. They’re too stuck in nostalgia and can’t move past their childhood fantasy worlds.

Of course, there are also the sequels that make people scratch their heads and wonder why they were even made (or at least why they were released as part of the franchise). Star Fox Adventures of the Star Fox series wasn’t even going to be a Star Fox game at first, developed as a stand-alone game called Dinosaur Planet. At some point in the development process, it was manhandled and transformed into a Star Fox game despite it having nothing to do with the franchise and introducing new characters that most of the fandom would end up hating in the end. It’s no surprise that it’s one of the least favorite games in the franchise. A sequel that will always exist as a sort of cruel joke for me is the PS2 sequel to the Squaresoft action-adventure RPG Brave Fencer Musashi. Entitled Samurai Legend Musashi and released seven years after the first game, it had little (if anything) to do with the first game and replaced the colorful, diverse cast of characters with a harem of teenage girls. Needless to say, I’d felt cheated out of an actual sequel (and I would rather pretend it didn’t exist). Developers need to be careful when they handle sequels and franchise installations. While it’s true that it’s better to take risks and incorporate new, innovative designs, eliminating what made the original game what it was will alienate fans. Yes, many fans will disagree with your choices no matter what, as some of them cannot be pleased, but if the essential elements of a game don’t transmit to its sequel, then you’re going to anger all of your fans, rather than just the extremely persnickety ones. For instance, as I mentioned before, taking the “Star” out of Star Fox with Star Fox Adventures was a bad decision. It would be like putting Link in a fighter jet and calling it the Legend of Zelda: The Barrel Roll of Time. There needs to be some sort of happy medium—enough of the original flavor of the game that it deserves to be in the franchise, but enough originality to give its fans a new adventure and keep them from getting bored. There also needs to be research—find out what made the original game tick. What is it about the original game that fans loved so much? Was it the characters? The world? The playing style? Whatever it was, the new game should retain it. If the draw of the first game was its lovable cast of characters, a sequel following those same characters will no doubt draw more positive reactions. If it was more the world or gameplay, however, a game with new characters set in the same world, or following the same semantics will find the acceptance of fans. Of course, there are also many other factors to consider as well, but it’s always best to start from the basic building blocks and work your way up.

Sequels and franchises walk a thin line between success and failure, but then again, so does any game. While a sequel will gather more attention, and no doubt sell better than an unknown stand-alone game, it will face harsher criticism if it doesn’t live up to fans’ expectations, perhaps ruining chances for further games in the series (or games from that company in worst case scenarios). With stand-alone games, there is more freedom to introduce entirely new playing styles and themes, but that doesn’t mean that sequels should just keep recycling the same concepts again and again either. There is a balance to be found between old and new that will make for a strong sequel and keep the fans happy
at the same time. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world, and finding that perfect balance can be a
difficult task, which is why so many sequels end up disappointing dedicated fan bases. Whether we like it or not, however, sequels and franchises will keep going strong as more and more games get released, so it looks like we’ll have to keep living with them as the years go by, but perhaps developers will pick up a few pointers here and there that will help them form the more perfect sequel and rock the gaming world on its axis.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The 90’s J culture

Since the 90’s and throughout the 2000’s, a number of the various subcultures of Japan have gradually become more domesticated trends. Teens listening to Western music are now the norm, and people who have an interest in foreign culture such as movies and literature are no longer considered to be in the minority. With the normalization of Western culture, there are a series of “J” words such as “J-pop” and J-culture” that have appeared. 

While some of the terms have been forgotten, some have become completely conventional. In industries where original Japanese products such as manga, anime, and also games have always been produced, however, the “J” character was never added. In other words, because items such as manga and anime are inherently “Japanese things” there is no need to deliberately call them “J-manga” and “J-anime”. However there is one exception to this example. That is “JRPG”.

Similar to the “J” series, in the JRPG industry it can have a derogatory, neutral, or positive meaning, depending on the situation. However, an interesting point for the word “JRPG” is that it gained popularity faster than any other “J” term, such as “J-pop” or “J-literature”. In other words, before the name arose many Japanese thought that, similar to manga and anime, “RPGs” were naturally a “Japanese thing”. In contrast, the popular term “JRPG” implied that “there is a difference between original RPGs and Japanese RPGs” and awareness of this began to sprout in Japanese gamers.

JRPGs flourishing in the niche market

What exactly constitutes a “JRPG”? This alone can be argued till daybreak when two or more gamers come together to discuss the topic. Historically speaking, before table-talk RPGs (derived from the English word tabletop role-playing game) were adequately introduced as the origin of RPGs in Japan, the fact that RPG video games became a major genre was a huge deal. From analog RPGs to the recent open world system, when grasping the flow of RPGs as a “natural evolution of history,” the “JRPG” seems to have become a branch that is undoubtedly in a difficult position.

However, the way of perceiving the trend of recent computer RPGs as being based on table-talk RPGs is nothing but a historical perspective. Actually, in the English version of Wikipedia, the articles “History of Western role-playing video games” and “History of Eastern role-playing games” explain the respective origins of each in two separate categories.

There are a lot of JRPGs that have been criticized for having anime-like visuals, unrealistic stories where young people (children) save the world, and a turn-based battle system that lacks dynamics. But on the other hand, Western RPGs are criticized for having weak stories, one-sided characters, and a seamless battle system that loses the strategic capabilities that a table-talk RPG has. Overseas there are also a lot of deep-rooted JRPG fans and people who defend the JRPG genre.

In fact, the difference between both the aesthetics and value has been strongly influenced by Japanese RPGs that found its success in console platforms and the Western RPGs that evolved in the PC platform. Recently, since console systems’ capabilities are approaching PC capabilities, the Western RPGs - which developed in the PC platform - reign supreme in the game market. For this reason, JRPGs and the Japanese game culture that was born are, if anything, outcasts, or tend to be treated like bastards.

In reality however, games that are released on high-performance consoles are restricted to AAA titles. If you focus on things like the indie games on the various platforms such as cell phones, smart phones, feature phones, and even PC platforms, JRPGs are much more popular and also have an abundance of new products. Even though Western RPGs’ open world system is dominating the global market, JRPGs in the niche market are continuing to flourish.
Particularly within recent indie games, the personality of a creator raised on Japanese games stands out and is strongly demonstrated in “foreign-made JRPGs.” Therefore in conclusion, we want to look inside the fan-funded Kickstarters and introduce a few projects, especially those that emphasize on JRPG components.

The expansion of overseas JRPG projects in Kickstarter

Rival Threads: Last Class Heroes

This is a side-scroller RPG created by Studio Kontrabida. Currently, this game is being developed for the Ouya console - which is based on the Android OS – as well as smartphones and PCs. Originally, the game was intended for a release on iOS and a sequel was also planned because on Kickstarter they managed to substantially surpass the target amount of $5,000 and actually acquired $20,000 in donations.

If you look at things like animation and artwork, you will be able to understand that it is a side-scroller game that is very conscious of its 2D visuals which, for recent RPGs, is an extremely rare thing. It seems to be heavily influenced by the popular Atlus series “Persona” since the game’s universe is set on a school campus where characters can manipulate marionettes and battle each other. Studio Kontrabida is expanding into multiple countries and is staffed by indie developers, but they have yet to show any major accomplishments. This project has been thriving in game media across the globe.

“Vacant Sky” is an indie game series that was created in the program known as “RPG Tkool”. Although RPG Tkool is popular in Japan, overseas it is popularly known as RPG Maker and is widely used by developers whose abilities vary from amateurs to indie. “Act I” and “Act II” of “Vacant Sky” have already been released to the public free of charge. Writers have also tried it to see what it’s like but the dark outlook of the world and the so-called “8th grader sickness” (a Japanese term meaning “immature, self-conscious, and pretentious, characteristic of junior high school-age children) setting really gives it the distinct feel of a JRPG.

In this Kickstarter project, table-talk RPG components are being adopted but the influence of the Japanese Persona series is also recognized and acknowledged. They exceeded their goal of $8,000 and successfully collected a total of $14,000. They also have international projects which will be released across the US and England, and setting off from amateur game production via Kickstarter, they will also be undertaking a commercial product as well. This project is set to be released on multiple platforms, including PC.


“CRYAMORE!” is an action-RPG project that contains steampunk components. Recently, on Kickstarter they are conducting a campaign to raise funds. For a project of this scale they are looking to raise over $60,000. They have already surpassed $10,000 in donations and afterwards it will be interesting to see how many additional donations they will obtain (in reaching $117,000 we know that a Japanese version will be released, and I myself contributed $120).

As expected, this project’s staff consists of pros from the game industry who have developed famous games such as Ubisoft’s “Scott Pilgrim: The Game” and the indie fighting game “Skullgirls” (which is finally set to be released in Japan) as well as animators Kinuko and Mariel Cartwright. The staff of Udon Entertainment, which publishes manga and art books in Canada, and illustrator Rob Porter are also participating in this project.

You can see from the video animation that the contents of this action-RPG have been strongly influenced by Japanese works such as the Legend of Zelda and the Legend of Mana. The characters also have a mix of anime-like design and a Disney-like flavor which provide the finishing touch of an extremely charming and eclectic Western-Japanese feel. They are currently looking for contributors and people that feel inclined to contribute to the cause.

Like the above-mentioned indie games, in the niche market JRPGs are gradually becoming more popular and this culture is by no means diminishing. Recently the presentation of 2D animation has been evolving into different forms (I still want to write about this), and I want to stress that this game is by no means being produced in only a retrospective sense.

The current problem for me, being that I am Japanese, is that although I wish to support these projects, generally there is little hope for a Japanese version release. It is extremely unfortunate that JRPGs, which are on the rise overseas, will not be available to Japanese gamers. I hope that in the future these games will be localized.

Below is a link to an interesting column about JRPGs.

They still like turn-based JRPGs.

What is a JRPG?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Living in a Glass Cage of Emotion Or What the World Would be like Without Language !

Imagine a world without language. You wake up in the morning and glance at your clock, only it’s blank. The numbers are gone. The only thing you have to inform you of the time is the position of the sun in the sky. You fumble around in the dark (because electricity would no longer exist), and reach for your favorite chocolaty cereal, only to find it missing. The company that made your cereal no longer exists because the technology used to create it was never invented. You decide to have a glass of water instead, except that you have to go outside to the rudimentary well dug in the ground outside your abode. Then it’s time to go to work. Where did you work again? A cashier at the local grocery? An office worker at the marketing firm down the road? A car salesman? A mechanic? Forget those. None of those professions exist—you can’t even communicate with those around you.

Nothing today could have happened without language. Language is what makes us human. It’s what allows our species to advance, succeed, invent, and create. It’s a part of everything that we do. What are you doing right now? You’re reading text on a screen—the ramblings of someone organized in such a way that those who look at it can take in, understand, and respond to. Look around you. How much text do you see? What sounds do you hear? What objects are you using and interacting with that were created using manuals, ideas from someone’s head that were communicated to others in order to make creation possible. Language is more than just symbols, words, and sounds—it occupies every part of our life. Without language, our world as we know it would cease to exist.

Think about it. What exactly is language? How does language actually work? The human brain is an amazing and complex computing machine—we feel with it, think with it, conjure ideas with it, process with it, train it, and understand with it. How does one actually “think?” Do you think in words? Do you think in images? Emotions? Strange thought processes that you can’t quite describe? Everyone uses their brains in different ways to process thoughts, usually through any variety of different methods at any given time. As I write this article, I process some sentences in my head before I type them on my keyboard, but still others seem to manifest themselves from my fingers with almost no thought at all. As you’re reading this article, are you sounding the words out in your head? Or are you simply absorbing the information silently? What kind of voice does your brain read words in?

All of these are questions that no two people will have the same answer to. In fact, the same person could give different answers from one hour, minute, even second to the next. Our brains process, create, and respond to information faster than we can imagine, which is why it can be so hard to deliberate on one topic without our brains wandering off to this and that before we realize it (five minutes later you remember what it was you were supposed to be thinking about and wonder how you ever got off-topic). Now imagine you had all these thoughts in your head but no way to communicate them. You could think about the day’s weather but have no word to describe clouds, rain, the sun. These concepts would exist as nameless entities in your mind, defined only by the emotions they make you feel. No longer would clouds be “gray,” or “dark,” instead they might give you a sense of foreboding, of loneliness. You might come to associate them with being unable to see (as “dark” itself wouldn’t be a concept either). And what about rain? Try to describe rain without using words. Try to describe the feeling of being wet without using words. Language shapes the very way we speak, the way we comprehend things, and the way we see the world around us. Once language is taken away, we have to rely on other senses to help us comprehend what certain ideas and concepts are. Clouds are no longer a concept we can describe—only a concept we can feel. A picture, an emotion, perhaps even a color in our mind.

Think about it like music. Music has no language. It can be enjoyed, felt, and understood by people from all over the world and all walks of life regardless of language. So much of music touches our emotions. A bright, lively song can lighten the mood and make us feel happy, while a slow, dark, somber tune might weigh on our minds and trigger sadness. These are concepts that have nothing to do with language and words, rather our hearts. Try describing a song using words. There are standard terms that have to do with music such as fast or slow, major or minor, melodic or atonal, and adjectives by the dozen, but can you really describe what a piece of music does to your emotions? It’s impossible, made even worse by the fact that everyone who hears a certain song will interpret it differently. Now try using music to describe to someone how to change a lightbulb. No lyrics! That’s cheating. You only have melodies, chords, rhythm, and harmony. How would you express twisting the old lightbulb out of its socket? How would you express making sure the light is turned off first? This is what it would be like without language. We’d have no concrete words to express concepts, only vague emotional states, and how could the lightbulb have even been invented without being able to describe it using words? How could cities be built? How could food be found, processed, and packaged? How could we have any form of government?

The answer is, we couldn’t. None of this would be possible without language and a way for us as humans to communicate with each other. We wouldn’t be able to do much more than construct rudimentary tools for ourselves. We’d understand concepts like food and hunger, like warmth, comfort, fatigue, and pain. Our lives would be centered on these concepts and the way they make us feel. We wouldn’t be able to make plans for the future, but simply focus on the tasks at hand. We might not even understand the concept of time. We wouldn’t be able to interact with those around us. Only the most basic ideas could be communicated, such as love, happiness, sadness. There are many things that we already communicate to others without words even today. Gestures and body language, of course, but even emotions such as gloominess, excitement, disbelief, and exhaustion, to name a few. Now imagine that these were the only things you could communicate to others, and how difficult this would make even a simple conversation about the weather.

Language is something that we take for granted. We use it every day, in everything that we do, whether it’s interacting with the people around us, reading about current events, ordering a cup of coffee at the café down the road, or using the toaster that was designed, created, shipped, and sold using the ideas of people that had to be communicated to others. Language can make us feel—can play and feed on our emotions. Different combinations of words can be strung together to form stories, books, games— all of them based on the ideas of someone somewhere who was trying to get a message across. Once those words enter your brain, they become your ideas, your own thoughts, ready to be manipulated by however your brain should so choose. There’s a great deal of power behind words. Words can be inspiring, hurtful, heart-breaking. They can make us feel emotions we would never have been able to feel otherwise, and can help us understand concepts that were once incomprehensible. Language is an amazing tool that shapes everything around us and tells us how to think. Without it, we’d be lost in seas of obscurity and unable to describe the world around us not only to others, but to ourselves as well. It would change the way we live.

The next time you read a book, tell a story to a friend, order the soup of the day, check your Twitter feed, or perform one of the other countless activities which requires language in some way, shape, or form, think to yourself how you would handle the situation without language. Would you be able to communicate? Would you be able to understand what’s being expressed? Would you be able to make yourself understood? It might be much more difficult than you would think. Though hundreds of languages exist all over the world, they all have one thing in common—they allow thoughts, ideas, and concepts to be communicated between people.

And they allow us to live.