Video Game Language Makes Us Pokémon Go Crazy

Ah, video games: your mum’s worst nightmare. As a millenial, you probably grew up just as they begin to transform from the incredibly basic Atari lifeforms and into the more realistic Crash Bandicoot or Mario Kart, but you definitely cannot imagine your life without them, right? Now with Pokémon Go shaping our urban commutes and tantalizing even the non-gamer, how are video games actually affecting our language?

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Let’s Go Through the Timeline

First things first, let’s trace back the origin of the video game.

Back in the late 1940s, just as computer science was setting its foundation, a few scientists collaborated to create programs for academic research such as Bertie the Brain and Nimrod. It wasn’t until 1957 that this software changed forever and this program took shape as a “game” and was created for entertainment, and Tennis For Two hit the mainstream.

Nearly three decades later on, after jumping rapidly from Spacewar!, one of the most pioneering offerings in terms of virtual gaming would launch in 1968, entitled The Sword of Damocles. It was created by a computing graphics scientist, Ivan Sutherland, who collaborated alongside Bob Sproull. It would consist of a simplistic headset covering the eyes and projecting a 3-D simulated reality. In 1978, Space invaders would also launch, with Pacman debuting a couple of years thereafter, of which your parents will constantly remind you. Nintendo’s Donkey Kong would follow suit a year afterwards.

In 1987, the term ‘virtual reality’ was coined by Jaron Lanier, the founder of Programming Lab, which would help to cement the notion to the wider public. In 1989 the GameBoy would later hit stores.

In 1991 the company Virtual Group began to launch arcade machines capable of showing revolutionary graphics and alternative reality, the same time as Sega would also launch Sonic.

Following the surge in the popularity of gaming companies such as Sega, Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox would all later vie for market revenue and as they would seek to perfect the virtual reality experience. Subsequently the rise of the internet would result in an exponential growth in online video gaming, which would thereby create a need to find a common standardised mode of address, as players would meet in virtual gaming worlds on the internet.

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Something to Talk About 

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Overall this necessity to find a common language for rapid and coordinated communication to achieve goals is vital, hence why many new terms and new shorthand both appear. It allows online players to continue to advance towards their objectives, without perfectly nuanced written discourse. Whilst in battle, reactionary times become innate and this forces players into abbreviating terms, instead of long and correctly structured sentences, in effect adopting gaming terminology. Nobody is going to punctuate or construct a sentence in the heat of the moment, nevertheless everyone will, eventually, learn small phrases and simple sentence structures to communicate their ideas.

Communication in English plays a vital role in online gaming. You must often form groups (or ‘clans’) in order to advance further in the game. Quite often other players are based in a different countries and again with the reliance firmly fixed on English to set clear objectives to fulfill, akin to how English serves as the tool for international business. Each player has a different set of skills that are necessary to complete a quest. Each player has to understand his or her individual role in the game and at the same time, understand enough regarding the others to coordinate accordingly.

Overall shorthand isn’t always used, nevertheless there are still opportunities where a more crafted and considered form of English will be needed. With the format of online gaming based on trading to advance to differing levels. Towns are such places where you can engage in calm conversation, trade items and look for players to form a clans. This is where more of an eloquent form of English is often used.  The theory is you’re more likely to get what you came for by exchanging pleasantries, rather than engaging in binary text-like shorthand in the heat of battle.

Virtually Spoken

In the main, the success of gaming relies upon representation with both player immersion, authenticity and interaction being integral components of the experience. Virtual reality is multi-sensory, immersive and in turn it continues to shift perceptions, as graphics develop further than ever before. In terms of continued evolution around gaming language, with differing nationalities meeting online, the need to find a common phraseology  will always be pivotal.

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Much akin to English being utilised as the principal market language for commerce, those not born as Anglophones, can grow up with their mother tongue and also become fully proficient in gaming English too. Largely, this is English as we know it, albeit with a few modifications. Primarily these modifications centre on the obligation to communicate in an expedient manner, often truncating certain terms, as gamers seek to complete objectives in a pressured environment. Therefore such gaming jargon and its shorthand are imperative to impart ideas quickly. Yet on the developmental and translation side of gaming there will continue to be plethora of themes to cover, with such varied videogames constantly being produced by a multi-millionaire industry, from ‘brain teasers’, to ‘shoot’em ups,’ as far ‘Massively Multiplayer online role-playing games’.

Likewise this means profound knowledge regarding game play and its terms is a prerequisite for those translating these from English, for those international markets, whilst remembering to blend a natural and native mode of address into games, whether this is dubbed or subtitled.  Owing to globalisation and the extensive dissemination of information today, developers and publishers must be aware of their markets to gain revenues. In conclusion there must be a reliance on phraseology to market and make games accessible, even if those gaming are differing nationalities, who meet online and language exchange takes place primarily in English and English gaming jargon.

Several terms to be aware of:

AFK – away from keyboard

AI- Artificial Intelligence is the computer’s logic around making decisions in a game.

BIO – Abbreviation for “biological” – ie, when you take a bathroom break.

Clan — Most team-based games have clans, which are groups of people, either friends of strangers who come together to form a team. Clan matches are when two clans face off against each other.

First-person shooter (FPS) is a video game genre centered on gun and projectile weapon-based combat through a first-person perspective whereby the player experiences the action through the eyes of the protagonist as they go through the game.

Glitching — Despite being subjected to QA testing, most games ship with bugs intact. Encountering one could lead to you glitching; getting stuck in a wall, for example.

Gratz! – Gratz is an easy abbreviation to decode; it is simply a contraction of “Congratulations”. Gratz on completing that level etc.

Lag– If your ping (or latency) is too high then you may experience lag. This is when your real-life actions take too long to translate to the actions on screen, making a game virtually unplayable.

MMORPG-Or Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. This term refers to games such as World of Warcraft which see millions of people occupy the same game world at one time.

PvP — Or Player vs. Player. This term refers to games (or portions of games) which see one or more human players face off against one or more other human players.

Pwned — A corruption of “owned,” used to refer to those times when someone has dominated or been dominated. If you beat another player 10-0 in a one-on-one match, for instance. Tea-bagging said player to celebrate the pwning is optional.

OOE – “out of endurance”. You must rest in order to perform the fighting styles inherent in your class. In some games, tanks and stealthers use a lot of “end” (endurance).

OOP – “out of power”. Your healer exhausted. It’s advisable to never play when your healer is OOP otherwise you’ll inevitably die.

WTG – “way to go!”

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