Wanted: games writer thesaurus

Leigh Alexander, news editor for Gamasutra, used her monthly Kotaku column yesterday to opine about the inability of gamers to describe their gaming experiences to non-gamers and blamed it on the language we use to discuss video games.

Why should we ever expect to develop a lexicon by which we may explain our experiences to those who don’t share in them with us?

I used to be a jazz musician. I could never really discuss jazz with anyone who didn’t play jazz but I could, to some degree, discuss it with another musician because we both spoke the language of music. I never could have discussed jazz with someone whose musical tastes had never elevated beyond pop music.

I was a film major and went through years of foreign film courses and learning about genres that most Americans will never hear of. I might be able to explain why Fellini is a genius to someone with a basis in painting or fine literature because there is some commonality there. I can’t explain why Fellini is great to someone who has no regard for art whatsoever, thinks that Harlequin romance novels are good writing, and who thinks Avatar is truly the greatest film ever made.

The reason we develop a shorthand in the spoken language of art is because experience is the greater sum of what it means to understand it. What makes us think that video games will somehow stand apart from the thousands of years’ worth of art forms which came before and still have not managed to develop language by which the uninitiated may understand the same mysteries that the adepts comprehend?

Leigh Alexander’s parents may play games, but it sounds like their gaming experience is very limited. Leigh’s perceived inability to convey to them her experience of playing Fallout 3 wasn’t a failure of her language – it was an extension of their lack of interest in the larger, video game world.

Why does it occur to me sometimes that established games journalists make up things to talk about? I rarely, if ever, hear gamers talking about the shortcomings of gaming language. If gaming language exists to serve gamers, and therefore that is the language games journalists employ, and no one other than the journalists are complaining, is there really a problem here?

Is this what Tony was talking about?

No amount of linguistic development will ever make up or account for a lack of interest or education in video games, and that’s okay. Game writers don’t need to flagellate themselves for it.

[Note: this piece was promoted to the front page of Bitmob]

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