Playing With Words


For years many gamers wished for mainstream acceptance of our hobby. In recent years, with the huge sales of Wii and the proliferation of smart phones and tablets this has become a reality. Although I believe that this acceptance has not manifested itself in quite the way myself and many other gamers may have imagined. Whilst many new people have been welcomed in to the wonderful world of gaming recently (including our own Keith) many will mostly only have experience of so called casual games and very little exposure to hardcore games or the history, systems and language associated with them. It’s a regular occurrence that I will be speaking to either friends or colleagues who have a passing interest in games and despite my best efforts to encourage their interest and improve their understanding I am hit with a blank stare of incomphrension.

Is this beacuse I’m an incomprehensible idiot who has no idea what he’s talking about? Well you can decide that for yourself but I think it’s, at least partly, because of the language of gaming. Any so called hardcore gamer like myself  immediately knows what is meant by RPG, MMO, FPS, Shmup, frag or that a BFG is not a giant with an affectionate disposition but a Big Fu….well you know (or don’t). Even if you ignore the acronyms many non-gamers will not know what I’m talking about. And this is before we even get to what is happening on screen.

To me, to apply a buff to my character is to give a brief period of extra strength, resistance to fire or other such assistance. To my father this would mean to polish them to a dazzling sheen. Energy bars are either an on screen representation of your avatars health or a tasty snack which supposedly helps you to remain alert depending on your experience with games. Look at talk of escort missions, headshots, spawn points, grinding or sprites. If you think about these phrases in non-gaming terms they conjure images of ladies of a particular profession, amphibian mating zones or ‘dirty dancing’ so is it any wonder that our hobby is frowned upon by those on the outside?

Then you have the actual on screen action. There are certain videogame tropes which most gamers recognise immediately but which may be less clear to those new to gaming. I know how to tell the difference between meaningless background detail and an object which can be destroyed or otherwise interacted with by the very slight difference in palette or that a green herb is not necessarily something smoked by teenagers down the park but your average Joe will walk straight past that breakable rock and question the healing properties of recreational substances.

It’s not all bad though as whilst these terms might make our world more impenetrable to those on the outside for myself, the rest of the Monkey Tail crew and I suspect the majority of those reading this it’s part of our identity. The instant understanding we have when discussing games amongst ourselves helps bring us together on a level similar to the camaraderie amongst fans of a football team discussing the performance of their star player (equally incomprehensible to someone like myself with little interest in football). We each have an intimate understanding of the terms used to describe and discuss gaming which gives us greater kinship. Our cake is a lie and arrow to the knee jokes may push outsiders further away but those already in gaming circles closer together.

So what’s the solution I’m going to provide? Well I’m not. I happen to like being part of the hardcore crowd and having this familiarity with my gaming chums. That doesn’t mean I don’t want new people to come in to our world (we have after all accepted Keith) but with the myriad of different types of games available today and the multitude of ways to play them there is no reason why different types of gamers can’t exist at different levels. Although having said that should a non-gamer show an interest in gaming I believe it’s our responsibility to try and educate and inform them as best we can. Just remember to be mindful of how you phrase things and that you may need to give a little more explanation. Also if you are going to recommend games just think that granny probably isn’t ready to jump in to Dark Soul’s if her only previous experience is Brain Training.

By Marius Dunkley

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