Monday, 1 August 2011

Gaming Jargon - What on Earth did you just say?

One of the big parts of my job is rifling through doctors’ notes. If you have ever attempted this Herculean task you will know that not only are doctors’ handwriting notoriously difficult to decipher, but also the jargon they use is mind boggling.

I understand that in high pressure situations using shorthand is vital to conveying messages very quickly and as such is essential to the workings of a good doctors’ surgery or hospital. However, jargon also serves another important purpose: it keeps people out.
Having a language (written or otherwise) which can only be interpreted by a select few means that certain jobs remain specialised and cannot be farmed out to others. Of course, people who are new to the circle can learn the language but it takes time and hard work to really get fluent.

Jargon is a central theme in hardcore gaming. In fact, jargon is a central theme in gaming as a whole. If you asked a random Joe on the street what a “Next-gen F2P FPS with QuickTime event level boss scenes and a fully customisable UI and HUD” was they’d probably assume you were speaking in tongues and begin hurling holy water at you or beating you with Nile reeds.

Of course, we write “F2P” as it’s easier than writing “free to play” and “UI” as it’s faster than “user interface”. When you’re on a boss raid, or in the middle of a fire fight it’s easier to type “gank prot” than “I’d like everyone to focus their fire on the protector now”. The language of gaming is certainly a language of convenience; with phrases actually flourishing due to their ease of input into a keyboard (“lol” being the paragon of this – it’s so easy you barely have to move your chubby little digits lolololololololololololol jk). But the language of gaming is also a language of exclusion.

Imagine you’re new to gaming; if you were to play a gamebattle alongside one of the top MLG Black Ops players, you would have real trouble understanding what they are saying to you: “he’s top wood”, “two trailer, cap C”, “I’m flashed”. Similarly, if you were working your way through Hard Mode Underworld in Guild Wars you’d find a similar problem: “don’t aggro too many”, “alright, the SF sin can tank and the SH eles can DPS”, “omg mending wammo n00b!”; an all too common occurrence. It would be incredibly confusing, and until you’d taken the time to learn the phrases and experience the game you simply wouldn’t be able to participate. If you’re a bit of a veteran it comes as second nature that when you start a new game, you need to start to learn the jargon in order to be an effective team member. But to those who are just starting out, it must be a hugely daunting task.
I’m not saying it’s a language designed to exclude new players. Multiplayer online gaming is all about finding new ways to connect and interact with people. These languages develop organically and, apart from the select few, I’m sure most gamers don’t set out to develop the most confusing and obtuse language possible. What I’m saying is that veteran players must be aware of the potential barrier their language might pose when interacting with new gamers.

1 comment:

  1. U gots 2 make w/ the 1337 speek U uber n00b! Or, um... words to that effect...



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