Bridge of Sighs

Posted: December 9, 2011 by xenocidebrm in Metagame

To continue the discussion on language this week, a question: What is a stone?

You can, of course, talk about its properties, that is is jagged, perhaps grey, made of different particles and fits in your hand. But in all of our language, in any language, we cannot say what the stone is. We can feel it, touch it, probe it and come to know what it is, understand it once we have experienced it. But if you had never experienced a stone, no amount of descriptive language could permit you to truly and completely know what it is. This is the fundamental problem of communication.

The Classical Greeks were the first peoples to state that their language was perfect. Its clarity, precision, and power were unmatched, according to the Greeks. Of course, with modern linguistic studies we are fairly certain that they were incorrect, as the more efficient Greek language today does not exactly match the old one. References to the Alpha and Omega, both Greek letters, no longer hold mystical sway over our cultures. Whatever power the Greeks had imagined in their language was patently false.

Still, many people today, for one reason or another, believe in the power of language. To these people, words are not mere abstractions but literal conjurations of reality, ones that have enormous power and are not to be trifled with. Some are even believed to summon demons or ill luck upon others! Of course, the people who believe this mystical mumbo jumbo may be closer than you realize. I believe, for instance, that uttering certain phrases about one’s mother can drive a person into an uncontrollable frenzy. Calling out the name of “Munchkin” summons one of my cats to destroy the nearest piece of furniture or china. If you have ever believed that saying so-called “curse words” is inappropriate at times, certain to bring you bad forturne (like at a family dinner), then you too believe in the power of language.

Of course, this is a far cry from the beliefs of ancients who thought that a curse word could destroy crop harvests for generations at a time but the concept is the same. Despite our heartfelt beliefs of the nearly magical power of language we wholly understand that language is not reality. If it were, then to describe or read about a situation ought to give us the experience of the situation. Hearing dinosaurs described would drive a great terror into us and Shakespeare’s plays would hurt an awful lot, although romance novels would probably see the same sales they do today. Of course, this inability to verbally convey an experience in itself results in the fundamental problem of communication.

If I, for instance, wish to point out my car in a parking lot, I can point to it (a physical gesture of language) and say “That is my car.” You look at me, confused. There are a number of cars in that direction and you don’t know which one is mine. “It is red and has black tires.” Three cars in the area have that description and you shrug at me. “It has a license plate upon it of CA75-2U1E.” Aha! You find yourself in a eureka moment! Finally, there is the car I was trying to describe to you. As you walk to it, the door opens and the pungent smell of fast food creeps into your nose. Clearly, though my description was practically adequate for you to identify it, you did not truly know the car, particularly its smell. In many ways even I don’t fully know the car. The philosophical details are unimportant.

In League of Legends, the fundamental problem of communication still exists. When you speak in chat or otherwise, people will never be able to know the experience you are trying to convey. At the same time, like the car example above, you can mitigate the distance between not knowing an experience and knowing an experience through language. The more accurate and precise your language is, the closer you will be to conveying your experience to another. The closer players are to knowledge of certain experiences, the more likely they will be able to act properly and synchronously. The more proper and synchronized players act, the more likely they are to win.

tl;dr If you don’t talk at all, people won’t know what you want. If your language isn’t accurate and precise, people won’t know what you want. Even if your language is accurate and precise, people might still not know what you want because language cannot fully convey experience. Try your best to speak up and let people know what you want with accuracy and precision, but understand that they still may not know what you want.

Now for some common translations of vague statements!

“(blank) or i feed” – “I cannot play any other (champion/position) on the team well, so please let me be this (champion/position)”

“u br?” – “Are you perchance someone who speaks Portuguese fluently?”

“protect” – “Please protect me and my jungle camps by guarding the entrances to them, as I am jungling and do not wish to be counter-jungled”

“come here” – “I would like you to stand exactly where I want you to stand, but refuse to explain where that is and wish to treat you like a unit in a single-player RTS game who can see my rapid clicking”

“mia” – “Adjacent lanes and jungles should be careful, as the enemy in my lane has gone missing”

“stop feed” – “Play a little more conservatively and stick closer to the (team/tank) so that you won’t die as often”

“last hit” – “Instead of pushing the lane by autoattacking, I recommend you only use your autoattack to get the last hit on minions, as it still gives you gold and prevents us from getting ganked”

“noob” – “Your playstyle seems to show inexperience but I will not tell you why”

“plz gank” – “Jungler, when you are able to, would you mind coming to my lane to gank this enemy? He is (at low hp/beating me in lane)”

“stop pushing” – “I recommend you stop pushing your lane if you want me to (carry/gank/support) as the (AD carry/jungler/support), otherwise (I will lose CS/I can’t gank/we will get ganked)”

“OWNED” – “I daresay, pressing these buttons takes so much skill and effort, don’t you agree?”

“HELP” – “Please pay attention to the minimap and see that I am in need of assistance. Subsequently, nearby allies should approach my position and assist me in escaping or killing the offending enemy champion if possible”

“y no help” – “Could you explain as to why you were unable to help me when I (overextended/didn’t ward/initiated without the team)?”

Comments
  1. jcp says:

    Well, well. Not the kind of article introduction I was expecting to see here. Still, gets the point across -excellently-, and hopefully others will be enlightened by this, as well.

  2. xenocidebrm says:

    I was going to use this in my advanced English class, but I’m unironically not sure that my students would grasp the entire meaning of “to be” enough to appreciate it…

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