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How does the Sociolect of MMORPGs Define and Develop Online Personas?

Now, how to explain this article? Originally this was a spur of the moment idea for my A2 English Language coursework. Having decide that my previous projects would either be too hard to analyse or have insufficient scope, I hit upon the idea of using the language of MMORPGs, in particular MxO (The Matrix Online) for my investigation.

This is a project which holds a lot of interest for me, both as a student of English Language and as a ex-member of this social grouping. The title itself should give an indication of what this project sets out to show; namely that there is a specific sociolect which members of the on-line gaming clique use. But most importantly how, through the use of this sociolect, they define how they are seen; their on-line persona, so to speak.

I'm aware that this is quite a large chunk of text to read in one sitting, but I prefer this to the seven seperate pages it used to take up on this site. There may be one or two comments within this document which make no sense; these will be mainly asides to the examiner to explain why a certain element is included or excluded. For instance, I have not included the sample data in this on-line version.

The one thing that I would ask is that you please do not plagiarise this work. I've put it here because I feel it is a fascinating topic, and hopefully one which other people would also be interested in reading about. I didn't like the idea of this work just mouldering away and being forgotten. However I am aware that there are some unscrupulous people who would copy this vertabrim and pass it off as their own. Please don't.

Select any of the sections below to go to that part of the investigation:



Introduction and Methodology

In any group of people doing the same thing, in the same environment, a sociolect is formed. This sociolect reflects the values of the group, the members themselves, and most importantly will partly reflect the impact the environment has had on these members.

For example, there could be said to be a sociolect common to supermarket workers. They will need lexis sufficient to cover specific occurrences in their jobs, and be able to relay this information to their customers and colleagues. In this sense the working environment shapes the lexicon of the sociolect, moulding it into the form that is most appropriate to the situation.

While most of these sociolects are small groupings of like-minded people who can meet and interact face-to-face, over the last few decades a revolution has been developing. With the advent of the Internet communities consisting of hundreds of people have emerged, conversing over millions of topics. These discussions are engaged in through BBSs, bulletin boards and forums, yet in an asynchronous manner. Hence the replies are considered and analysed, so the environment in which they take place does not have such an impact on the lexis as in a normal, face-to-face gathering.

This is where MMORPGs come into the picture. Originally labelled MUDs, or Multi-user dungeons, these Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games allow hundreds of players to fill the same space, in effect creating a virtual world, populated by real people. The aim of this investigation is to discover how this artificial environment affects the lexis of its inhabitants; how information semantically encoded in the weave and tapestry of the background has an impact of the language use of those immersed in this artificial world, and in particular how this affects the ‘persona’ that they adopt.

In the rather limited scope of this project, I intend to look at ‘chat logs’ from a game called ‘The Matrix Online’ (MxO). Instantly you can see how lexis might be affected here, both within the semantic field of game play, and that of the Matrix universe. In the following pages I will analyse various transcripts and describe how the artificial environment structures and shapes the language being used in this game, both with the changes engendered within the environment, and by the awareness of its artificiality.

Methodology

The issue of collecting data for this project was already resolved before the idea of using MxO for this project came about. The data used is going to be taken from pre-existing ‘chat logs’, records of all ‘speech’ and actions that take place within that environment. As these are examples of data made when there was thought of this project the observers paradox is avoided, which leaves me with data which is very representative of the lexis as a whole.

The ethical issue of taking data without the original speaker’s permission has been side stepped by simply posting on the forums requesting the permission of everyone who I had already recorded to use their speech. Those who did not agree have been excluded from the data I will provide. There are approximately 20 different people included in this data, and just two who refused to be part of it. Sections of data which contain comments by these two people have not been analysed.

To understand the data it is first important to understand the context in which it was written. Within the game itself there are several sub-groupings, the distinctions between which are important. These sub groupings are in effect a mirror image of the various disparate groupings in the real world, and as such the lexis and familiarity used in the different groupings vary as much as between those in real life. The two most important distinctions can been seen as the players’ choice of ‘Organisation’, for example whether they wish to follow the credo of the machines, Zion or the Merovingian, and the players ‘Faction’, or the group of players with which they most commonly interact and have formed special ties with.

There are various sub-categories which are also important to the understanding of the logs, such as teams and area chat. Teams are temporary collections of players who band together for maybe an hour at a time to complete a specific objective. These players will probably not be as familiar to one another as those in their faction. Of course, however, the two are not mutually exclusive. Area chat is essentially an open forum, much like talking in real life. Anybody could interrupt you, or start their own conversations around you.


Analysis of Data: Graphology

Graphology should, arguably, always be the first element discussed in any language analysis. Before the content of any piece is seen its form is perceived, and it is this form which starts shaping the response to the text. Genre can be determined from the layout of a piece; a poem is always set in stanzas, for example. This genre is what determines the relevance of the piece to an audience, and it is also the graphology that semantically encodes information into the text

The Screenshot below and to the right shows the in-game chat system:

The in-game chat system, showing graphology in the layout of incoming message

As you can see there are several important elements here concerning groupings. The white text in the upper box is reserved for system messages. These include damage to the player’s RSI (an acronym specific to the games as will be explained later), damage caused by that RSI, ‘emotes’ and all other actions which the player may take. The colour coded text in the bottom box is the player’s interactions with each other. For example text in blue is typically faction chat, only accessible to members of that faction, while yellow is the same but for teams. Green text shows area messages from various players, while anything prefixed with ‘X whispers to you:’ is a ‘tell’ or ‘whisper’, a private message between those two persons.

As you can see, the graphology of the text itself is very important to the users as it indicates which group is talking to them. They may adopt different idiolects in different groups, and the graphological information shows which one should be used. This adoption of different personas throughout their interaction is exactly what this project set out to investigate.

While analysing my data I will attempt to keep the text colour coded to give an indication of this semantically encoded data. However I’m not going to go any further into the graphology of other in-game elements, as that is outside the remit of this project.


Analysis of Data: Grammer, Lexis and Punctuation

For an example of grammatical structures, or lack of them, in MMORPGs simply look at the short example below:

[Area] Hackmaster2000: WE WANT ONE DAY A WEEK WHERE WE ARE ALL LV 50!!!

[System] Cammando uses an Ability.

[Area] ZCash: Kedemoth.

[Area] WeeRobbo: tut tut no messing with zion mervs

[Area (shout)] VoodooRAGE: HEY CHLOEEANN U REALLY DONT UNDERSTAND AIM IS DOWN

[Area] Dibol: This has been a constant problem for us.

[Area] AnXieTy762: my lag meter is in the red right now....

[Area] R3AP3R: well it lags everywhere

[Area] Dischord: as martial artists we should have melle weapons

[Area] Dragonram: what about zen master?

[Area] BizWald: I lage here too.

[Area] AnarchyAngel: Adn the lag in Hampton green?

[Area] MEDIATORUS: SCIRON what about all events ?

[Area] AvatRAMa: CSR Sciron, I have a question

[Area] Braids: wow im reminded of beta with this DEV RSI

[Area] Seymour: Any word on when zen master will become available?

[Area] BizWald: LOTZ

[Area] Seymour: Any word on when zen master will become available?

[Area] LuciousBrujah: then why is my meter maxed out

[Area] R3AP3R: just DT is unbearable

[System] Solidus0 uses an Ability.

[Area] Readout101: awful lag

[Area] WeeRobbo: MY ZION BROTHERS ATTACK

[Area] Sewerking: holy shyt people ont at a time

[System] Solidus0 uses an Ability.

[Area] BizWald: I got a god system should not be happening

[Area] Dischord: this area is going to crash everyone

[Area] Hackmaster2000: my lag meter is full

[Faction] bilquis: shall we go?

[Area] Blakice: im reminded of the white room of death ! lol

[Faction] M4rb: yup


This certainly isn’t the most grammatically orthodox of pieces, and indeed this is the only is the only example of such a ‘crowd’ situation that is going to be shown, as the ‘faction’ chat tends to be far more grammatically standard and certainly more erudite than this. The screenshot below shows what is meant by a crowd situation:

Mara C with a CSR - There are lots more people here than can actually be seen

This small section can be seen as a grammatical treasure trove. The ‘chat’ obviously bears a lot of relation to Instant Messaging clients, containing a lot of the features which some English professors have come to know and loathe. The lack of punctuation is a result of the mixture of asynchronous writing and the instant communication of speech of which this style comprises. Most sentences in this example do not start with a capital letter, for example, and often don’t end with a full stop or other punctuation mark. Those that do often use punctuation in a non-standard way, for example the person using three exclamation marks to express his point more forcefully. This example of oral expressiveness being transferred into a written form shows how the player is trying to impress his message onto the wider game community.

This example of unorthodox punctuation also extends to people typing in all capital letters. This is actually common in Internet related activities, the capital letters used to emphasise a point; much like shouting. However this is often frowned upon in group situations as a breach of etiquette:

[Faction] CrazySurfer: HI GUYS! WHATS UP?

[Faction] d4sh: Jeez, tone it down man.

This also has relevance to the idea of ‘covert prestige’. The people who do not make use of excessive punctuation or capitalisation realise that there are better ways to express themselves, mainly through more vivid lexis. This lends their persona a certain cachet, that they don’t need to resort to non-standard forms to emphasise their point. Of course this also works the other way round, and the people using the excessive capitalisation may feel this gives them more prestige, in much the same way as those using ‘1337 5p4k’ believes it makes them better than other ‘boring’ people who use standard lexis.

Spelling also becomes non-standard, as in this example:

[Area] Sewerking: holy shyt people ont at a time

On one level this person could mean ‘Holy shit, people! One at a time!’; however, due to the speed at which he (as the character he is playing is male, the use of this personal pronoun is appropriate) is typing, letters are either entered incorrectly or missed entirely. Then again the ‘y’ may actually be a deliberate bastardisation of the slang word ‘shite’ and again be an attempt to gain prestige through the use of non-standard forms.

Another important thing to remember is that this example is a typical cross section of the games population. While it may be a cliché to say that the majority of people in the above example were teenage American boys, this is certainly true for a large proportion of them. As well the low level in proficiency at English typical in this age group there is also the ‘1337 5p34k’ ethos again rearing its head. This refers to the deliberate replacement of letters with numbers or symbolic characters, for example ‘||V||’ for M, 1 for L, 3 for E etcetera. This stemmed from the view that only the web ‘elite’ would be able to understand this style of writing.

Of course it could be argued that letters as we know them are purely symbolic, merely a common ideology to which the majority of society subscribe. What is to say that the letter ‘a’ should be used to symbolise that sound, rather than a ‘4’ as those who make use of 1337 5p34k do? Owing to the artificiality of the environment, and the nature of the communication medium, these alternative symbols can be adopted to depict meaning; by choosing to use these alternative representations as part of their online persona the player asserts their individuality. To a ‘1337 |-|4xx0r’, someone part of the 1337 5p34k community, 1337 5p34k conveys covert prestige due to its perceived ‘coolness’, even if to most other players it may signify idiocy.

[Faction] FigmentOYI: Will you still be on MxO at Uni, Dsh?

[Faction] FigmentOYI: d4sh*

[Faction] d4sh: i will be online, not ingame coz my laptop doesn't support mxo (plus it's a mac:p) but don't worry, we don't have like dorms etc in holland

[Faction] d4sh: so i might miss an occasional night every week, that's all

[Faction] RockyB: online's no good if not ingame :p

[Faction] FigmentOYI: So you don't get to play for 6 months a year?

[Faction] RockyB: But don't worry about it. I'llcatch ya later man.

[Faction] d4sh: what do you mean fig? i probably play 5 nights a week..

[Faction] FigmentOYI: You said that your laptop didn't do MxO, so when you're at Uni can yo ustill play?

[Faction] RockyB: yeah, he doesn't stay at uni overnight right?

[Faction] d4sh: uhhuh, because we don't have dorms.. i'll just train to amsterdam and head back when i'm done.. when i have to start at 9 i spend the night before there so that's why i wont be on

[Faction] FigmentOYI: Ah... Penny drops <grin>.

[Faction] d4sh: lol

[Faction] d4sh: well, if i don't come ingame, i'll be online

[Faction] d4sh: bye for now:)

[Faction] RockyB: later dude

[Faction] FigmentOYI: Cheers d4sh.

[Faction] Bittype: later D4sh

[Faction] RockyB: lmao, kill bluescreen

[Faction] RockyB: if only I could do taht to windows :(

[Faction] RockyB: any idea on what the coding changes may entail?

[Faction] FigmentOYI: This is boring... want to mission, bit?

[Faction] FigmentOYI: Nope, but I'm really curious about the changes. Hope the don't nerf coding as well <grin>.

[Faction] Bittype: yes just need to get to a HL and jack .. need a reboot

[Faction] RockyB: if they could get rid of the timers I'd be ecstatic

[Faction] FigmentOYI: Me troo.

[Faction] RockyB: and you jsut need to type /jakout dear

[Faction] FigmentOYI: too*.

[Faction] RockyB: or /jackout even


Again here multiple examples of bad spelling and punctuation can be seen. These may be caused either by a lack of linguistic skill or, as in the above example, by the speed at which the participants are typing. These are much like mumbling or non-fluency features in traditional speech. There are also some examples of coinage which I will be exploring later in my fourth frame work. However what I want to draw your attention to in particular are the ways in which corrections and non-verbal features are communicated.

In the case of corrections the use of the * character as a modifier is very important. As in this exchange where a character ‘FigmentOYI’ has mis-named another character and uses a * character to apprise others of what she (as the in-game character is female, the typical conventions will be used here), really meant:

[Faction] FigmentOYI: Will you still be on MxO at Uni, Dsh?

[Faction] FigmentOYI: d4sh*

[Faction] d4sh: i will be online, not ingame coz my laptop doesn't support mxo

This is the equivalent of a person saying ‘Excuse me, I meant …’ in normal conversation, except condensed into a single, easy to type character.

One way in which non-verbal features are communicated is through the use of emoticons. In much the same way as in Instant Messaging clients, forums and other online mediums characters are formed into a crude approximation of faces to transfer meanings which would normally be lost to the medium. For example the :P emoticon is being used to express a jocular, ribbing tone.

Another way in which emotions and other paralinguistic features are expressed are through the use of ‘emotes’. These are a natural extension of the emoticons, reflecting the user’s emotions or action in the context of the 3D environment in which they are immersed. When a character uses a /command (/throat, in the example below) two things happen simultaneously:

The character ‘RockyB’ types ‘/throat’ while targeting the player ‘d4sh’:

The Player types /throat while targetting another player

A message saying “RockyB thinks d4sh’s time is over” appears in the system chat to other players, “RockyB thinks your time is over” appears in d4sh's chat box and “You thinks d4sh’s time is over” appears in the players Chat Box.

You think d4sh's time is over

At the same time an animation plays out, with the character’s RSI, or their representation in the game, drawing a finger across their throat.

And d4sh dies

One limitation of this method of non verbal communication is that not all potential actions have an associated animation. In such cases the player may fall back on a system like the following:

[Faction] FigmentOYI: Ah... Penny drops <grin>.

[Faction] RockyB: *shudders*

Text encapsulated within either the brackets or the * characters is interpreted literally as an action. This is really a hold over from the days of MUDs (Multi User Dungeons), where no graphical interaction was possible. Hence this convention has been around for almost 20 years now, and so has become a firmly ingrained part of the Internet’s sociolect.

All of these methods allow the persona of the person playing to show through into their characters. This visual representation of the player’s thoughts allows other players to understand what they mean, and in many cases empathise with them.


Analysis of Data: Semantics and Pragamatics

There are two important factors that have an impact on which lexis is chosen by the players; namely out-of-game knowledge, i.e. the knowledge that they are playing a game, and their in-game environment.

As would be expected of its classification as a ‘role playing’ game, MxO is designed to allow the players to immerse themselves in an alternate reality. This reality brings with it its own specific semantic field and lexis. For instance, take a look at the brief example below:

[Faction] RockyB: so you jacking or jsut leaving zero one m4?

[Faction] RockyB: not really too many on

[Faction] M4rb: i'm probably gonna jack, first i'll need to decomp though

Within these three short lines there is a wealth of semantic data. The lexis here has the effect of excluding outsiders out of the conversation, as they cannot understand the specific meanings attributed to certain words. For example, ‘jack’ has the meaning of leaving the game. This comes from the parlance of ‘jacking in’ during the Matrix movies, which in of itself has devolved from its use as a socket; this shows how the meaning of the word has changed within the context of the environment. In much the same way ‘decomp’, a clipped form of decompile, is being used in this conversation. Decompiling refers to the act of reverse engineering a program to find out how it was put together, and so it is here, with the semantic field of computing crossing and intermingling with that of the movies. This is to be expected, due to the matrix movies, games and computing in general sharing a lot of ideological common ground. Indeed the Matrix movies have improved the pragmatics of terms such as ‘technophile’ by making computing seem more ‘cool’ to the general population.

The knowledge that this is merely a game also has a marked impact of the meaning of words at many points in the conversation. For example it many points in the following conversation you can see that knowledge showing through, despite being interspersed with in-game knowledge:

[Team] M4rb: theres a "sugershock" on the table

[Team] M4rb: candy?

[Team] RockyB: d4sh's kinda mens mag more like

[Team] M4rb: lol

[Team] RockyB: did you ever see the bestiality record cover the devs left in polyvinal?

[Team] M4rb: no? gotta check it

[Team] RockyB: someone found it and posted a screenie on the forums. hidden behind a podium

[Team] M4rb: haha

[Team] M4rb: interesting

[Team] RockyB: c'mon dear, you don't want us to get shot at by agents do you?

[Team] RockyB: don't answer that, it was rhetorical

[Team] Bittype: trying dear... lag wont let me hyperjump

[Team] RockyB: 30 seconds, hurry up

[Team] M4rb: run Bit, run!

[Team] RockyB: agents have locked on, come on hun

[Team] M4rb: faster than that

[Team] RockyB: Ah shit

Agent Shouts: Escape is impossible!

In this discussion the participants are discussing the world beyond the game. The semantics of ‘dev’ refers to the developers of the game, and the various actions they take. For example a ‘Dev Journal’ would be something that a developer has written to give information to the players. The word ‘forum’ in this case means an online message board, where players can exchange messages in a out of game context.

The use of the word ‘lag’ by the character ‘Bittype’ is also an important consideration. Referring to the exchanges between the player’s computer and the ‘server’ running the game slowing down; this shows that knowledge of the systems underlying the game environment itself also play a role in defining the sociolect of the player base.

Although this would possibly be better in the following framework, I’m going to place the issue of initialisms under semantics. Look again at the following example:

[Faction] Globin: if i can get a rezzer i can kill em

[Faction] RockyB: fig?

[Faction] Globin: i need someone with rejuvinate rsi or something

In this case the initialism RSI is being used in place of Residual Self Image, referring to the players on-screen character. This jargon is an example of information being semantically encoded into a word which outside participants may not understand, hence excluding them from the sociolect. It stems from the original use in the Matrix movies; when the protagonist asks why his appearance is the same in real life as when he was in the matrix, he is told that his appearance in the matrix mirrors that of his real body by a process known as residual self image. Another example could be the initialism ‘PB’

[Faction] Globin: looks like you get different notes from different arcs/PBs

[Faction] Procurator: Exactly. Different-themed PBs for different Arcs. This has soemthing to do with a brutal gang of... doctors.

In this case referring to ‘Pandora’s Box’, an in-game element. Without the knowledge of what is being referred to, an outsider would not be able to comprehend the rest of the conversation. This jargon forms an important part of the sociolect of these games, and hence the online persona of the people who play them.


Analysis of Data: Evolution of Lexis – Coinage and Usage in the Game Environment

For this section I intend to investigate the coinage of words within the game environment. In particular the following words which been coined within the sociolect of MMORPGs: ‘nerf’, ‘zerg’, ‘gank’ and ‘noob’.

Nerf

[Faction] RockyB: any idea on what the coding changes may entail?

[Faction] FigmentOYI: Nope, but I'm really curious about the changes. Hope the don't nerf coding as well .

[Faction] RockyB: if they could get rid of the timers I'd be ecsatic

[Faction] FigmentOYI: Me troo.

In the context of the game, a ‘nerf’ is seen as a change to the game which has the effect of weakening a certain element of the game play. It originally came from the game ‘Ultima Online’, and refers how ‘nerf’ toys for children use safe, soft foam and plastic to mimic sports balls and guns. The idea is that by ‘nerfing’ certain aspects of the game, the developers keep the game balanced, so that no one element gives too much of an advantage over another.

This word should probably be viewed as broadening. Obviously the meaning has been broadened from the original 1969 context of plastic foam bullets to cover all manner of weakening.

Gank

[Faction] Globin: some guy here's happy enough to gank me 5 on 1 but won't duel me 1 on 1

[Faction] FigmentOYI: 10 to 1 says he's Zion...

‘Gank’ in the context of MMORPGs is a prime example of blending. It was descended from the phrase ‘Gang Kill’, which refers to multiple players ganging up to kill a single player. In the terms of MxO it is typically used where one person from a certain organization is being attacked by many players from another organization.

In an interesting example of fast paced generalisation this word has evolved to cover other things which are frowned upon by the game community as well. For example it has come to mean a player fighting someone of a much lower level than themselves, or a player already engaged in combat with a non-playable character (NPC).

Zerg

[Faction] Eminiton: Gah, here comes the Zerg

[Faction] ImmortalViper: lol, what id you expect, Zion cant win exept 20 to one

[Faction] Eminition: too manty damn noobs

‘Zerg’ can be seen as either generalisation or coinage, depending upon which angle you approach it from. The term originates from the game ‘StarCraft’, an old strategy game. In this game the ‘zerg’ are actually a race of insects, famed for being able to reproduce extremely quickly. This results in lots of weak units, which allows the player to initiate a strategy of blitzing the enemy with hundreds of flimsy units; overcoming their defences by sheer weight of numbers. This is where the coinage element comes in, as the word did not exist before the game ‘StarCraft’ was first created; although it could be argued that it is merely a descendant of ‘cyborg’, through to ‘zorg’ and then ‘zerg’.

However in the intervening generations of games the term has been generalized from that specific game to mean any tactic of overcoming a superior trained force through weight of numbers. For example in the case above around 15 people were attacking the two faction members in a form of ‘ganking’

The connotations here are that a ‘zerg’ is a disorganized and/or unfair tactic, which players looking for an easy advantage make use of. Those who employ this tactic are often considered inferior or "cheap". Despite its effectiveness it is generally considered unsporting, as it allows a large number of players with less skill to overcome a challenge that should require a much higher skill level.

Noob

[Area] Ledgic: OMG U SUK!!1!!!11

[Faction] d4sh: what a noob

[Faction] Globin: eh, Zion, what d’ya epect?

[Area] RockyB: Perhaps when you have an elementary grasp of English grammar and a vocabulary of more than 50 words we will converse again. Until then, just remember, attacking someone 25 levels above you is NOT recommended.

I could easily write four thousand words merely on the etymology and connotations of the word ‘noob’. One of the furthest ranging words in the Internet lexicon, it was first spotted in Usenet groups in 1988. The word is thought to have evolved from the term ‘new boy’, through various incarnations to its current state. For example ‘new boy’ was first blended into ‘newbie’, which was then abbreviated into ‘newb’, before finally coming to rest in its current phonetic incarnation as ‘noob’. There are examples of derivations of this word, such the acronym ‘choob’ (Childish Hateful Obscene Online Brat); however as these are not prevalent in The Matrix Online will not be discussed further here.

The connotations of the terms ‘newb’ and ‘noob’ are very different. A ‘newb’ is simply new to the game. The term ‘noob’, on the other hand, generally refers to someone who is annoying and obnoxious, one who tends to disregard the rules by which the majority of the rest of the player base abides. Whether or not these people are actually newcomers is mostly irrelevant.

The connotations here are that a ‘zerg’ is a disorganized and/or unfair tactic, which players looking for an easy advantage make use of. Those who employ this tactic are often considered inferior or "cheap". Despite its effectiveness it is generally considered unsporting, as it allows a large number of players with less skill to overcome a challenge that should require a much higher skill level.

The term ‘noob’ has actually ameliorated slightly in the regard that it is used in a jocular fashion. In much the same way as the word ‘idiot’ is no longer used purely to refer to someone with severe mental problems, but rather is used to describe a absent minded or slightly air-headed act, so the word ‘noob’ has started to be used in friendly jibes. Eg:

Boy: “Have you seen my glasses?”

Girl “They’re on your head, you idiot.”


[Faction] Eminition: why the hell cant I search this comp

[Faction] Eminition: oh wait, m4rb already did it

[Faction] m4rb: lol, you noob Em

Each of these words are an integral part of the sociolect of The Matrix Online, and in most cases MMORPGs in general. The words are part of the sociolect which the players use in their online persona, and help define their identity within the game.


In Conclusion

This investigation has highlighted many of the ways in which players try to impose their own persona into the game, and the way in which the sociolect of this persona has been affected by the environment in which the player is immersed. It has shown the ways in which they both mould each other, and I would like the think that it has bought to light the ways in which the knowledge both of the game environment and of being part of the game environment has had an impact on the phraseology of the conversation.

The environment has had an effect on the development of the sociolect. Information is semantically encoded in the surroundings, from the graphological constraints of the colour of text, through to the semantic fields of game play and the Matrix universe. This information has resulted in the development of a new sociolect, and in particular coinage and adaptation of words such as ‘zerg’, ‘noob’ and ‘gank’, in much the same way as the sociolect of a doctor may include ‘fractures’ and ‘contusions of the gluteus maximus’. In a similar manner the use of initialisms such as ‘RSI’ and ‘PB’ acts in much the same manner as jargon in any other sociolect, acting in such a way as to exclude outsiders from the group.

The usage, or misuse, of Standard English grammar and punctuation in this case is highly important. Due to the constraints of the medium within which the conversation is taking place grammar and punctuation may become stilted or ignored totally, due to the speed of typing and other factors. However, it may in fact be the case that the players of this game want to use non-standard forms, as they believe they give covert prestige to their persona within the game. This takes much the same form in other modern sociolects, for example within groups such as ‘chavs’, where the conventions of typical English are broken; for instance in the sentence: ‘ain’t he got chucked out, innit?’

The sociolect of the players is, to some extent, defined by the environment around it, and the use of non-standard symbology to reflect the ideology of the player base also plays and important role in this. It is this sociolect which defines the players online persona due to their interactions with the people around them in-game. As such it is reasonable to say that the sociolect does indeed define and develop the player’s persona in the game.