6
The language of virtual worlds

E-mails, chatgroups, and the Web have one thing in common: they are all electronic interactions where the subject-matter comprises– apart from the occasional aberration–real things in the real world. This chapter examines a very different scenario: electronic interaction where the subject-matter is totally imaginary. All communication between participants takes place with reference to the characters, events, and environments of a virtual world. These virtual worlds go by various names, but their most common generic designation is with the acronym: MUDs.1

The term MUD has had two glosses, over the years. It originally stood for 'Multi-User Dungeon', in the popular mind reflecting the name of the leading role-play fantasy game devised in the 1970s, and still widely played, 'Dungeons and Dragons'TM. Since then, hundreds of such D&D games have been published, extending the concept from fantasy worlds to horror, science fiction, history, and other domains. All have the same orientation. They are played by groups of two or more people. One player, usually known as the 'Game Master', defines an imaginary environment in which the players will move and interact, the kinds of obstacles they will encounter, and the kind of powers they have. Each player creates a character and defines its attributes–size, shape, race, clothing, weapons, and so on. Adventures deal with age-old themes, such as a hunt for treasure, a battle between good and evil, or the rescuing of a person in distress. Games of several hours are normal; games lasting for years are known. The MUD games have close

____________________
1
MUDs are also written Muds, especially in compound names, and several have now lost their acronymic character. Many people use muds as a generic term, without even an initial capital. For an introduction to MUD history, terminology, and practice, see Rheingold (1993), Keegan (1997), Cowan (1997), Cherny (1999: 4), Hahn (1999).

-171-

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Language and the Internet
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - A Linguistic Perspective 1
  • 2 - The Medium of Netspeak 24
  • 3 - Finding an Identity 62
  • 4 - The Language of E-Mail 94
  • 5 - The Language of Chatgroups 129
  • 6 - The Language of Virtual Worlds 171
  • 7 - The Language of the Web 195
  • 8 - The Linguistic Future of the Internet 224
  • References 243
  • Index of Authors 253
  • Index of Topics 256
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