Electron Dance
19Jul/10Off

Lassie Gets Rightsized

Redundancy.

No one liked the connotations of that word. Personnel had successfully rebranded themselves as Human Resources, doing a much better job labelling people as cogs than anything corporations had done in a century. They were worried for the citizens of country Corporate, and wanted to rebrand redundancy as well. They worked hard on an exciting new vocabulary that would make people feel warm and hopeful about losing their jobs. They would inform the employee (I mean "associate", no damn it, I mean "stakeholder") that this was all about the company and not about the individual.

The company would be downsizing.

But downsizing soon became associated with people losing their homes. It also sounded kind of random: we want to get smaller, shit, let's fire a bunch of cogs. The guy who ducks out of the office at lunchtime to play Neptune's Pride, I always hated him. What a douche.

Restructuring was tried. And rightsizing and even smartsizing. It still sounded like something to do with changing the number of employees. HR and marketing needed to put their semi-brains together and make a whole brain, to enable them to think outside the box, sing from the same hymn sheet and be on the same page. They decided, in secret conspiratorial meetings that not even Deus Ex could rival, that a company would "Reshape Its Cost Base." Bob Page choked in the excitement. Rounds of applause.

Give it a month, and everyone will see it for what it is: "my job is doomed, dear, we're going to have to move to a smaller house, and Lassie here is going to have to be put down, uh, I mean rightsized".

INNOVATIVE

Laura Michet laments. She is angry with the over-use of ambiguous terms in games writing. Words like PRETENTIOUS, INTERACTIVE. Some others turned up in the comments on her post: NEW, EPIC, GROUNDBREAKING.

This is kinda sorta the basics of good writing. Be clear, be precise. Don't be lazy and employ well-known catchphrases - give your work some individual verve instead, some va va voom, some shiny trinkets to collect. Don't use the word "very", because it's not just meaningless, it's very meaningless.

Laura advocates better terms, the invention of a rich new language for this virgin frontier of deconstruction. The problem is this language is debuting on the internet and not just amongst a group of like-minded people.

Start a movement to make agency or gamework the word of the day, then five years down the road, everyone will be using it and it'll be as dried-out and tired as its predecessors. "This game's got such fucking great agency, I had to change my pants three times. Whoa! Make that four times!" The yahoos of the internet will run the new terms out of town again.

I do agree with Laura that there are better words that can be used in many cases. I may not agree with her solution, but I agree with her problem. And I like to agree with Laura, because she also scares me.

IMMERSION

I would say the problem is not the words themselves, but in how they are applied. What we should be demanding is reviews and articles to be more sniper rifle precise with their headshots. And change is here: I actually read gaming articles online now whereas ten years ago, I found reading sites like GameSpy and Daily Radar etc. to be put-a-bullet-in-my-brain-already irritating.

Veret has a clear interpretation of what interactive means - if he writes "the game has minimal interactivity, barely requiring anything more than 'Click X to continue'" that sounds okay with me. If he writes "the game is not very interactive" without qualifying that then I would fire him from the internet, and that's the kind of power I have. Laura points out that there is no one true meaning of "interactive" so it's pointless using the word; I would add that constructing new words on the internet won't necessarily keep them under better control.

GAMEPLAY

I happen to use "innovative" if I genuinely think I see a game mechanic I've not seen before. But, well... this is still lazy in many cases. If I have to qualify a statement, then the original statement was worthless and empty, like a charity contribution made with unspent Neptune's Pride galactic credits. It's the basics of good writing.

So here's your invite. Sometimes - well, all the time - I publish posts in a mad rush, only breathing when I hit the ENTER key. And I sometimes use a cheap word, a tawdry detour phrase, to see me through the torture of speed writing online. If I do this, I invite you to slap me and point out wot I dun wrong. No, really. SLAP ME HARD. I LIKE IT THAT WAY.

Disclaimer: This offer does not take effect retroactively.

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Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I don’t like to write about writing, but for some reason I was inspired to rightsize Lassie.

  2. That’s an interesting point you make about the “yahoos of the internet.” Either they’ll adopt a term and twist its meaning beyond recognition, or they’ll ignore it and the word will never catch on. I accept that language evolves, of course, but I worry that it’s already done so more in my lifetime than in any previous century you care to name. This is why I choose to remain a staunch defender of our words as they once were, laying down my massive quantities of free time in defense of their noble definitions.

    Except for “synergistically.” That one was a whore from the start.

    So, since I’m your site’s designated straw man, does that mean I have immunity from rightsizing? Please?

  3. I’ve been wrestling with the opening paragraph of a sex-packed short story I’m writing. I can see EXACTLY the effect I want in my head, but I can’t seem to translate it onto paper. It may just get cut completely if I can’t perform the conversion. Yes, I did say sex-packed.

    It’s actually difficult to write what you feel in your head, so far too often the self-taught writers of the internet just dump out a general, smart-sounding umbrella term – which may not even support the meaning that was originally intended. And once that starts happening on a grand scale, all those terms start melting into puddles of ooze and no longer offer precision.

    I think language is evolving faster because everyone is now a writer in public: whether it be blogs, texts, twitter or chat. There’s also something called e-mail, but no one uses that anymore.

    Of course you are exempt from rightsizng, Veret. But I reserve the right to fire you from the internet.


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