No, I don’t mean glitches, bugs, or crashes. I was in game for a shocking 8 hours yesterday with only 2 disconnects and 1 user interface error. I’m quite impressed. As far as launches go, this one has been smooth.
The problem I’m talking about is language-based. Just as I blogged about last month, Deutsch was a source of contention for players on the EU server. And just like last time, this occurred around 4 hours into launch. With a sufficient level of mastery achieved, and part of the new game smell faded amongst fumes of energy drink and frozen snacks, players turn to in-fighting to amuse themselves through the grind of quest after quest. Unfortunately I couldn’t stick around to see the drama fully unfold (as it was well past my bedtime) but I did manage to grab some screenies of the conflict which you will find below.
‘Zone’ or general/area chat appears below in white. This is text anyone in the vicinity can read and it is public. The interspersed green snippets are from one of my guilds, and for the purposes of this post, should be ignored. The multicoloured bars are used to protect the identities of those chatting as I took these screenies covertly. Each colour indicates an individual player- repeated colours are thus multiple comments from the same player.
Now, I’m not sure anyone here was trolling, or at least that this fiasco was started for the purposes of trolling. From reading various forum posts, there seems to be an agreement amongst most EU guilds to set English as the (informal) primary, unifying language to be used in chat and communication*.As far as I can tell, this English ‘rule’ (see what I did there?) goes largely unquestioned.
Also, there are in-built chat functions in the game to provide separate channels based on language. As commenter Blue notes, /dezone is the command prompt to access the German chat channel. After Blue informs Red and Pink about this channel, the two German-speakers each insist they have a right to chat in their preferred language in general zone. Red even goes as far as citing the EULA (End User License Agreement) to defend their developer-given right to chat in German. Blue repeats their request that Deutsch be taken elsewhere, and then the conversation begins to slide off track.
Red makes reference to the US-based History Channel– infamous for its obsession with Nazis**, very little actual history, and this guy– to perhaps highlight the origin of Blue’s request. If we notice above, Yellow makes a comment in French and this is completely ignored. No one tells Yellow to go to /frzone. Hmm… Interesting that German seems to be a trigger. The conversation is already skidding along the rails when Orange body-slams it over the tipping point. Orange highlights the irony in the refusal to speak English in chat is happening in English… in chat. Surely that means Blue has won? After that, well, it got pretty chaotic.
Although the word ‘Nazi’ wasn’t used in this case, or at least not whilst I was there, the conversation brings up equally pressing and controversial issues about online gaming and society at large. Why did no one tell Yellow to go speak French elsewhere? Why is German so inflammatory? How immersed can we be if tensions and histories are so easily called forward? Is it right to have one big European server? Is English-as-universal-default-language a form of virtual world imperialism? Does it say anything of our colonial past? Is it just convenient? How do we ensure comfort and equal participation in online communities? Are alternate zone chats a form of sectioning and isolating?
I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but I hope someone undertakes this as a research project and figures them out.
Until next time,
*There are, of course, German-speaking guilds, and French-speaking guilds, and even some Spanish-speaking guilds, but (oddly?) most Scandinavian-based guilds insist on using English. Perhaps so the Finns won’t feel left out?
** There are literally 10 pages of search results for Nazi documentaries on the History Channel’s website. 10!!