Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Language of Online Gaming

In an attempt to exchange one time-wasting habit that gets my mind off work when I'm home for another, I've been playing online flash games lately. It's more intellectually stimulating than watching television, but still manages to require less thought than actually thinking. For a while, I played the Daily Show's Most Important Trivia Game Ever. Now I'm into Spades online. These games come with chatrooms that allow the players to talk to each other. Now, there are certain phrases that people tend to type repeatedly, and as happens with things that are oft repeated, they get shorten. Typical online abbreviations, like "LOL", are used, of course. But many abbreviations are unique to game playing and even specific games. For instance, at the start of a game, you might see this:

Player 1: gla
Player 2: gl
Player 3: gle
Player 4: gla/p

The last one only applies to spades or other games where you play with a partner. If you think about it for a second, even if you've never seen the abbreviations before, you might be able to figure out from the context that they mean "good luck, all", "good luck", "good luck, everyone" and "good luck, all/partner". At the end of a game, you will see similar exchanges of "gg"(good game), "gga" (good game, all), and the like.

But in spades, particularly, my chat screen fills with exchanges whose transcript would make no sense to a casual reader. Consider a typical game exchange:

Player 2: gjp
Player 4: ty, u2
Player 1: glnp
Player 3: *crosses fingers*
Player 3: gcp
Player 1: nnp
Player 4: xjp
Player 1: sry, p
Player 3: np
Player 3: nbp
Player 1: :)
Player 2: gln
Player 2: gga
Player 3 : xga
Player 1 : gg
Player 4: gg, rematch?

At first glance, it's utter gibberish. In fact, it's probably utter gibberish at second glance without the game as context. The first exchange between player 1 and 2 comes after they win a hand ("good job, partner", "thank you. you, too"). Player 3 then decides to bid nil, so their partner says "good luck with the nil, partner". After the nil succeeds, player 3 thanks their partner ("good cover, partner") and player 1 congratulates them ("nice nil, partner"). And so on. An "x" generally indicates "excellent", so any "g" that represents "good" could be replaced with an "x" during a particularly good hand or game.

It always happens that groups will create a new lexicon within a pre-existing language to fit their circumstances. Once you expand out some of the acronyms above, they still don't make sense unless you know how to play spades. So we have the collision of one special lexicon (terms unique to spades) with another(terms unique to online chat) to form another, yet more specialized lexicon (terms unique to online spades). Or you could see it as the spades lexicon colliding with the unique linguistic structure of online chat. Either way, you get farther and farther away from the parent language of English and the ability of outsiders to under WTH is going on.

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1 Comments:

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