Saturday, February 18, 2006

talking about online gaming, styleshifting, and bell's theory of audience design.

one of my big interests in computer-mediated discourse is the notion of styleswitching, so i was really excited when i checked the penny arcade blog this morning and saw a letter to one of the authors from the president of sony online entertainment. to put it into context - penny arcade has become a concrete authority on video games, especially for a good chunk of the online gaming community, and a bad review by them is likely going to drop sales on a title. the letter is a response to one such review:

Normally I like you guys a lot.. even when you dig on us.. but it felt like you went personal on our artists. Low blow IMO

We have some of the most talented artists in the business and EQ II is a gorgeous game. Certainly art style is a subjective thing.. and if you want to bag on the art then that’s certainly your right. But unless and until you’ve had any of your art in a game calling people robots just seems weak.

John Smedley
President, Sony Online Entertainment


just considering the author, i was expecting a letter with less CMD-specific features - you know, given his probable age, his position as president, the strong likelihood that he isn't sitting around on AIM with his buddies every afternoon, etc. despite that, he's overusing those ellipses, he's missing a period, he's got that little IMO acronym. i wasn't satisfied with the thought that maybe this was just the way he typed, so i looked him up and found a question and answer session via slashdot. this time he's talking with individual gamers who don't carry the weight to affect sony sales the way penny arcade might:

There are long threads that I've started myself on our forums, but we have community representatives that are answering questions diligently on our forums already, and I'm very involved in what's being said. I'm trying to get the word out in other venues and we know that Slashdot has a wide reach into the online gamer audience in general and the SWG community. Btw, I try to personally answer all of the emails from our players that are written to me and I get a fair number of them each day from our players.

this still has a slight CMD feel to it, especially with the way he dropped a BTW in there, which makes sense considering audience design - he's speaking to gamers on both accounts. but this example is in a noticeably different style than the letter above, and these differences aren't just in the more formal lexical choices he pulls out in the Q&A. i'm really interested in the punctuation differences between the two pieces of text, and i'm wondering if there's anything significant difference between the capitalization differences of 'IMO' in the first example and 'Btw' in the second - googling any kind of CMC acronym shows that they're much more likely to be either capitalized completely or not at all. it's worth considering how he's using CMD-specific variables to index closeness or distance (power or solidarity?) with his interlocutors.

Comments:
Nice find, Joshua. I actually just put my hand over my mouth when I read "Low blow IMO" (ps, if you say that like it looks, it makes a nice rhyme!). Aside from the interesting punctuation and capitalization and abbreviation, his lexicon/syntax is also CMD-seeming in that it's very young+speechy: "you went personal" "bag on the art" "you dig on us" "weak." I have a hunch that this "VERB on NOUN" construction is not something you'd be likely to see in an email from someone not trying to communicate with the online gaming constituency.

I don't think capitalization on Btw is significant - it's starting a sentence. So I guess he would have used all lowercase except for that. Well, actually so then maybe that does represent a difference - although you could argue that IMO needs to be capitalized more than BTW for comprehension purposes. It is VERY interesting that there are no ellipses in the second sample.

I'd like to see his emails to his a) employees, b) friends, c) investors.
 
i had something intelligible to post here, but my power went out right before i hit submit and it was all lost.

so instead, i'll mention that i just saw the term 'lawlz' thrown around on a message board, although i'm sure i'm a latecomer in noticing it (google has 20000+ freaking hits for it). it looks like it's used strictly in the context of (and god, i hate these terms) 'mock netspeak' rather than actual 'productive netspeak' as a way to distance the speaker from lamerz who actually type 'lolz'? same with typing 'zomg' for 'omgz' to point out the irony of it all?

because if so, that's so COOL from a linguistic standpoint.
 
To throw in a late comment on what Josha said about, I've been seen lolz thrown around ironically on some communities. I never know where to draw the line between productive and mock 'netspeak.' (ugh, I hate that term)
 
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