The Death Of Multicultural Gaming

Regular readers will know that I have a bit of a man crush on Brian “Psychochild” Green and with just cause. He’s got a fantastic blog, writes excellent articles and his little finger knows more about the MMORPG industry than my entire brain does (and I have a big brain). Yesterday he wrote an interesting article about the cultural differences in gaming and invited all our responses. Being a topic close to my heart not only did I leave a hefty comment but decided to expand upon it in a blog post of my own.

Multicultural gaming will be extinct by 2032

Multicultural gaming will be extinct by 2032

Being a Brit, I’ve been playing on foreign servers ever since I started with Everquest back in ‘99. I’ve played on US servers with Americans, US servers with Koreans, US servers with Europeans, European servers with Americans and UK servers with about a whole five other people. All of that has certainly given me plenty of fascinating insights and experiences into all of the different gaming cultures from the Western (and occasionally Eastern) world.

However, whilst mulling over and responding to Brian’s article, I started to realise something. 8 or 10 years ago it seemed incredibly easy for me to identify different nationalities of players and spot the cultural differences between us all but now it’s a lot harder, if not completely impossible. Every player I meet, regardless of where they’re from, seems to talk the same, type the same and act the same.

Gone are the days when I could spot a Frenchman a mile off in Everquest or had to witness British players vomit Cockney on their keyboards in Dark Age of Camelot. If it wasn’t for accents over voice chat, I would probably have no idea where most of my US and European brethren hailed from now. My Austrian and Italian friends type with perfect Internet-English (Intglish) and everyone I know throws around American vernacular and phrases like they were born speaking it. It seems to be that our cultural individuality is slowly melting away and being replaced by a singular language, primarily driven by Americano, influenced by Europa (let’s not forget who gave us the term uber), and spread via the Internet.

Obviously it’s not just MMOs that are causing this and it’s probably a normal evolution from the fact that the current entire 20 and 30 year old generation has grown up watching US TV shows and films and playing American computer games. I don’t fret it nor try to stop it, it’s just part of the natural cycle of language. English is, after all, a mongrel language that has cannibalized dozens of others and that’s part of it’s charm.

It does make a little sad though that we’re losing some of the uniqueness that being foreign brought to Internet gaming. As much as I’m against enforced localisation and a stern advocate for allowing everyone to play their games anywhere with everyone, it’s undoubtedly contributing to the decline of our cultural originalities.

It may uber suck but that’s just my two cents. C’est la vie, m8s.

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18 Comments

  1. Logan says:

    anything that brings us closer to a common world language is a good thing IMO… if MMOs can help in that regard, more power to them.

    sidenote – i watch a lot of Top Gear and a few other BBC shows… i sometimes find myself saying boot and bonnet instead of trunk and hood… first time i did it my gf gave me the weirdest look lol.

  2. mooklepticon says:

    I make it a point to type “y’all” in chat a lot. I like it. The subtle differences make the speaker easier to identify.

    I also think that typing style and spelling accuracy is as identifying as an accent and can be thought of as the same.

  3. Stabs says:

    Don’t forget that at one point most of us were playing on the same servers whereas now localisation has increasingly been a part of increasing revenue.

    In WoW for instance you don’t play with Germans or French much because there are German and French servers.

    I remember the craziness of Diablo 2 with Koreans playing superfast, Germans asking everyone Deutsch? and the rest of us not really saying much at all.

    I do think we’ve lost something but I don’t think it’s due to the dilution of our cultures. It’s just that the MMO providers are segregating us to a greater extent these days.

  4. [...] The Death of Multicultural Gaming–I thought, yes, yes indeed when I saw this one.  I love the multicultural aspect of gaming.  I have a dear, dear friend in Norway, and I still talk about that one night in FFXI when I was grouped with a totally non-English speaking group and we relied entirely on the (Hi) (Casting)(Heal II) in-game translation system.  Everything went like clockwork, and I had the best night of grinding that I can remember for ages.  So what happens when you no longer know that you’re playing with someone over the pond?  Does it matter to you?  We Fly Spitfires talked about this one–and if you hate him for the Matticus post, please don’t send him death messages from my link [...]

  5. Cassandri says:

    I usually don’t have “ah, he’s from the US” or “ah, he’s Asian” type moments. But after a while if you find out that someone isn’t Australian (I’m Australian and play on a Oceanic server) it usually can explain why your jokes fell flat.

    Yes, we might speak the same language and type the same nonsense WoW version of English over chat, but our sense of humor is still miles apart sometimes.

  6. Hirvox says:

    Cultural pollination goes both ways. We actually do have a model of what the global gaming culture will be: The USA. Every immigrant group has had a major impact on US culture. Cultures don’t vanish, they mix and merge.

  7. Rhii says:

    I can sometimes pick out when someone is “not local” (whether that be from the southern US or across the pond) by spelling or word use idiosyncracies.

    I don’t see many people other than myself saying something is “wicked good” for instance. :P For the uninitiated, “wicked” is Maine-speak for “very very” or “extremely”.

  8. Man crushes are fine, as long as I don’t have to get a restraining order, Gordon. ;) But, thanks for the compliments.

    From a business point of view, there are still some deep cultural differences. There are still a lot of games that fall flat when moving from one culture to another. Take the current fashion of simple browser-based or social network games. These have been around for a long time in other countries. I remember seeing ads for browser-based games on TV in Germany when I was working there some years ago. Now people act like Facebook games came out of nowhere. Yet, I haven’t seen any of the browser game companies really hitting it big in the U.S. Or, some of the huge Asian games haven’t made a splash in the Western cultures. And, I’ve mentioned several times before about how WoW is an aberration in that they found a huge following in Asia; it’s unlikely that many other companies will be able to duplicate that success even if they could get bigger than WoW in the North American and European markets.

    I think there is some truth to the idea that multiculturalism is becoming the norm. As I mentioned before, it’s cool to be able to read blogs like this one from people outside the U.S. Speaking to some English players when I played text MUDs really blew my mind when I was in college, so it’s nice to continue to be exposed to worldwide viewpoints. Let’s hope this becomes more of the norm for the future, and that some of the close-mindedness goes away as a result. But, as Stabs points out some of this might be overly optimistic given that larger games are able to provide servers in specific languages easier now.

    Thanks for sharing, Gordon!

    • Gordon says:

      Don’t worry, I wouldn’t want to destroy my fantastical image of you by finding our you’re just flesh and blood like the rest of us :) I’ll just continue to worship you like some Internet God instead :)

      It’s a good point about the appeal side of games. I know for instance that the Japanese market is very different from the Western one and the appeal of games is drastically different too. I wonder if that has something to do with the fact that there still isn’t a lot of American influence in Japan and thus the people there are still very independant in their views. Their culture is still steeped in their own xenophobic tradition and they haven’t embraced the West to a huge degree. Constrast that to Europe though where everyone watches American TV and films and listens to US and UK pop music and the cultures tend to be a lot more similar.

  9. Jason says:

    Just as long as the center point we are all migrating toward isn’t leetspeek and textlish, I’m fine.

  10. Elleseven says:

    As a Canadian I have noticed a few cultural differences from my US neighbors. Even as we become more Americanized we still have quite a few characteristics which make us easy to spot:
    1. extra polite
    2. talk about hockey
    3. make frequent references about needing a Tim’s or a
    double double
    4. like to say Eh! in vent alot
    5. will frequently talk about Bacon. mmmmm bacon.
    (seriously next time your in a bg for sh@#ts and giggles
    state “I love bacon, Canadian Bacon mmmmmm” and watch
    the convo that follows.
    6. in chat spell center – centre color – colour etc.

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