The secret language of World of Warcraft [gasp] exposed!

Here’s some more evidence for why The Daily Show is brilliant for lampooning the news media: an NBC Bay Area report on “The Secret Language of World of Warcraft.”

Okay, what it’s really evidence of is the ability of the mainstream media to take a topic that’s complex and interesting and boil it down into a grey glob of blandness. And manage to get a bunch of details wrong along the way.

But what’s even more interesting are the comments about the video after the stories on Kotaku and Worldofwar.net, which exemplify some of the ways the WoW community functions. My personal highlights:

  • Players’ analysis of their own rhetorical norms. There are long debates over the popularity (or even existence) of the terms the guy in the video used, over the spelling of certain terms, over the way usage of those terms mark you as a player. There are a surprising number of grammar nudniks in here – people that abhor all abbreviations and leetspeak and popular misspellings. I used to be one of these, but I find myself typing “lol” more and more these days. Cultural usages work their way into you.
  • Personal attacks on players who brag about themselves. There seems to be no quicker way to incur the wrath of WoW players than by bragging. Or, in this case, letting your girlfriend brag:  the reporter claims that her boyfriend is “ranked in the top ten out of 12 million people who are playing World of Warcraft.” That’s asking for it. As a result, someone in the discussion forum posted a link to his avatar’s page on the WoW Armory. (For those of you who don’t know, the WoW Armory is a function in the game’s official website that lets you check out any avatar you want – their armor, talent spec, PvP ranks, achievements, etc. Basically, everything but the player’s account information. It’s a special kind of surveillance: the officially sanctioned, publicly available kind.)
    • (Side note: Dan – notice his server? Do you know this guy?)
  • Players’ deep scrutiny of the game. Most of the discussion on Worldofwar.net is about the validity of the guy’s claim that he “5 capped AB in under 2 minutes” – whether it’s physically possible, whether the Alliance can do it, the strategies for making it work, etc. It’s a good illustration not only of the enormous microscope the WoW community applies to individuals’ claims about their achievements but also of the enjoyment many players get from analyzing the living hell out of this game. If only I could get my students to practice that much attention to detail.
  • Players’ defensiveness about their representation. Amongst various complaints about how the video makes them look, a few of the commentators psychoanalyzed the reporter herself, delving into her blog and concluding that her hidden agenda is hatred for WoW. I’ve noticed that WoW players (myself included) tend to be very defensive about depictions of themselves in the mainstream media. Which is understandable, given recent stories.

UPDATE: It seems that KNTV-TV NBC has removed the video from YouTube with a “copyright claim,” and there’s no evidence of its existence on their website. (I wonder if they got spammed with complaints?) If anyone can find this video, I’ll give them a dollar.

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