Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's Another Language

Today marked an MMO milestone that's significant to me, though from a gameplay perspective, pretty irrelevant. Today, Unending reached level 57. This is the same level I got my main (Torabushi) to in Everquest 2 before I quit that game. What took me about 34 DAYS play time in that game took just over 3 in WoW. Hmm... think WoW's got a faster leveling curve these days?

As I've been playing the game, a thought that's been rolling around in my head for a long time rose to the fore again. MMOs, like WoW, truly develop their own language. The lexicon of WoW is so riddled with acronyms, internet shorthand, and in-game technical jargon, that it's virtually impossible for the outsider to understand. It's telling that the WoW guide that came with my Battle Chest begins with a four page glossary of terms, listing well over 100 need-to-know terms.

Sit down two experienced WoW players, and include a third person who has never played an MMO. If the two WoW players start discussing raid strategies, gear specs, or the in-game economy, is that third person going to have any understanding of what they're talking about? Probably not.

Players don't learn game lingo in a vacuum. Both the building of the WoW language (knowledge of place names, mechanics, abbreviations, chat behavior norms, etc.) and its transmission to new players are done through social processes. Players may learn new things through communication with other players, or from the myriad of WoW-related websites out there. I'm only just dipping my toes into the larger WoW social universe, through the offical WoW site, WoWWiki, and WoW insider. I know from my college research there are hundreds of WoW blogs out there. With so many voices to listen to, how does one choose one over the others? Or even know where to start?

I have to wonder how much sociologists or linguists have researched the use of language in online gaming. Considering how much was around while I was in school, I'd say not much, unless a lot has changed in the last year and a half. WoW language and culture are topics I intend to revisit again, once I have more knowledge on the subjects. For now, I still feel very much a n00b, just stepping into a world full of things I don't understand, even with 3 days of playtime under my belt.

What resources would you recommend to someone trying to learn the language of WoW? Any sites or blogs that are particularly intelligent, accurate, and worthwhile? I'd love to expand my portfolio of places to visit.

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