What Grade is Your Content Comprehension?

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Hurr Durr Derp:
But... what if I'm a toilet humor snob?

Is there even such a thing as a 14th level poop joke?

There are many examples of 14th level dick jokes in English Literature.

OT: Proud to be a snob. You can tell a lot about a person by the language they use.

JaredXE:
Huh, I've read Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and I understood it. I also haven't finished college yet, so that index is wrong.

Or I'm reeeaaaalllllyyy smart. One of those two.

HAX!
...
..
I tell you, it has to be hacks!

Greater elitism (without being pricks) for a better world. Flesch and Gunning had it the wrong way around - don't lower your work to suit the lowest minded consumer, demand that the consumer elevate themselves to the world around them. If they're too stupid to understand the best content around, well tough titty.

Archon:
And this passage I wrote recently in my Check for Traps column - "Rules, in a tabletop RPG, are ultimately about what philosophers call action, where 'action' means intentional effects caused by an agent. It is the rules that dictate the results of action, and thus define the relationship between a player's choices and the consequence he experiences" - well, this passage had a Gunning-Fog Index of 14.40, or 15th grade.

And now we come to the fulcrum of your argument, the pivotal point of your vexing. You just desired to vocalize your outstanding knowledge of syntax and diction through means of a fabricated article into the illiteracy of contemporary media outlets.

OH SNAP, I just ran my last sentence through the Gunning-Fox calculator, it only got a 14.05! Shit man, you are smarter than me.

This could be a very fun little game _

Funnily enough a bookshop to which I am quite partial has a vintage set of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It is something I would very much like to own once I have the income to justify it.

I am by no means an Oxbridge scholar, but I am familiar with the aforementioned indexes and I was brought up with English comprehension as a top priority in my education. When one is brought up on a steady diet of English history textbooks and literature (Chaucer, Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare etc), one does develop an appreciation for the astonishing level of sophistication with which our language can be employed. There is a commensurate disdain for those who treat this same language with something approaching active contempt.

to answer the questions asked. No, No, Yes, and Yes. Its always about the codpiece! wait...

<--- 14+ reading comprehension yay :D

Hurr Durr Derp:
But... what if I'm a toilet humor snob?

Is there even such a thing as a 14th level poop joke?

oh god, i hope so

OT: ummm... i want a high comprehension level poop joke :D

OT for real this time: interesting read, i wish we still had lvl 12 news articles

i dont like childrens books being a more interesting read then professional news outlets

I liked this article. It called me intelligent several times.

Which leads me to believe it may contain errors.

Hurr Durr Derp:
But... what if I'm a toilet humor snob?

Is there even such a thing as a 14th level poop joke?

I've no idea how you'd measure it, but the closest I can think of is "What do you say to a moribund copraphage?"

When it comes to 'dumbing down' of news media, I can understand the point in terms of getting factual information and possible repurcussions across to the general public. What is worrying about it is corporations *shakes fist* MURDOCH! dumbing down and directing their analysis in such a way as to emphasise excessively one specific bias, regardless of factual basis.

That aside, I'm intrigued by the rating given for ZP (and other columns) as I usually find them to be more cmprehensible than other supposedly lower rated pieces - but I think that comes down to the standard of English used. A fluidly written work will always read more effectively than anything that causes the reader to stop and start - this is why physics papers use citation marks and flowing prose rather than constantly interrupt an already complex text. Infact, many scientific texts are written to a level that, aside from jargon, reads very easily to any audience. ZP seems to be analogous, in that provided you understand the jargon, or context, of the 'higher grade' jokes then you will get them. By comparison, I know a few 'student comics' that most would find boring and of no humourous value, yet with the right audience are hilarious - they use very complex language forms, but their delivery of them is poor as it stops and starts, meaning that even when they spell out where the joke is coming from (i.e. it's a pun of a peculiar terming) those without a prior knowledge will struggle to laugh.

My point? Well, what is it that seperates ZP, scientific articles and my student friends from each other? Aside from scientific journal articles usually being of a definite, non-comic value*, they and ZP effectively communicate an idea, whereas those students cutting their stand-up teeth are finding out how poorly they communicate their ideas. So really, shouldn't the grading system be based around the fluidity and function of the language used, rather than the expanse, or lack thereof, of flowery, thesaurus-trawling pompousity found in a piece? As far as I was aware, it is your ability to communicate that is measured in the classroom, not your ability to quickly look up a synonym.

Incidentally, I suppose I have yet to post any actual opinion on why ZP works, and what I think of the site and my own ability to understand it.
I like ZP. It's why I'm on the Escapist. I also like Yahtzee's occassional changes in style that seem to so rile the comment boards after - if he didn't bother, then the show would be far too formulaic and repetitive to have any longevity. Admittedly, I don't always understand the jokes but it encourages me to look up whatever was referenced - once I have the context, I get a good chuckle out of it. I'm not sure I understand what others have called 'laughing at his Britishness' but I suppose I shouldn't being his kin. That said, it certainly seems to help me avoid the bileful hate spilled out by those offended or angered by one small phrase here or there, as well as further appreciate the colloquial jokes^ so often used. Beyond that, Yahtzee certainly uses accessible comedy, everyone loves a knob gag after all, but thankfully doesn't rely on it and build comedy out of convoluted and excessive similie and metaphor to insult and degrade its subject matter, which is incidentally a rather Shakespearian comedy form.
As for the rest of the site, I enjoy reading the articles, despite rarely having a full interest in the games being reviewed or even the politics being discussed, so I can only assume that this is down to what is so vaguely termed 'good writing'.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________
*although if you've heard of the Ig-Nobel awards you might think otherwise
^Ah, the wonders of the Branston Pickle gags

Hurr Durr Derp:
But... what if I'm a toilet humor snob?

Is there even such a thing as a 14th level poop joke?

At that point, wouldn't it just be "defecation satire"?

While I'm a snob and prefer all my media to be as high a grade as possible, if I were creating said media myself I'd probably strive towards hitting a wider range of comprehension levels like ZP does. After all, the best art is always that which can be appreciated by everyone yet offers more depth to those with the ability to perceive it.

Lvl 64 Klutz:

Hurr Durr Derp:
But... what if I'm a toilet humor snob?

Is there even such a thing as a 14th level poop joke?

At that point, wouldn't it just be "defecation satire"?

Personally, I'm rather fond of "excremental anecdote".

I simply think that the kind of escapism "The Escapist" caters to such as video games, comic books (especially nowadays), PnP RPGs, etc... attracts a specific crowd. All of these things are escapism for those seeking mental/imaginative escapism. As such I think your attracting a relatively smart crowd of "snobs" by the very nature of the site. Especially when your looking at regulars, and those who check things like "Zero Punctuation" every week.

The more "mainstream" guys with that 4th-6th grade comprehension level tend to seek other things for escapism and communication. There are a lot of things out there like "Facebook" which see massive traffic, and tend to be disdained as "banal" by a lot of the people on sites like this one. What's more there are plenty of people who seek escapism in ways other than video games and the like. Religiously following pro-sports or pro-wrestling or whatever with few other interests for example.... and this has nothing to do with the legions of people who become junkies or wind up in really messed up subcultures due to their choice of escapism.

There is some overlap, but consider also that in most cases those who frequent The Escapist seem to disdain "Casual Gamers", even if they say there is nothing wrong with them, it seems most people here are quick to make it clear that they aren't one themselves. Those casual gamers being the gaming equivilent of the above group.

What's more there are other forums dedicated to video games which come accross very much like the XBL chat people here make fun of. Yet if anything, you find a loathing of that attitude and type of behavior here, and you even have features that routinely mock it. Sort of like a recent clip of ENN that portrayed an exagerrated stereotype of an XBL player being unable to figure out what the RROD was on his XBL and allegedly getting confused because of the three lights of Sam Fisher's Nightvision. That right there being entertainment for "The Escapist" shows a degree of intellecual elitism above other gamers.... as does things like the contreversy over "Zynga" during the last March Madness.

Apologies if this is not articulated well. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this isn't your average site even by gaming standards. Given the abillity to filter the internet easily I'd imagine guys like Yahtzee are simply avoided by people who don't get it, where those millions of hits that are generated are those that do.

How many hits does ZP get compared to the number of people known to be playing casual games and such?

Yeah, I'm probably around 10th-11th with most stuff. I can sing along with songs I've never heard before, predict what's going to happen in movies, and generally only play high immersion titles. That last part is really only half true because I'm broke. Still, I don't consider myself a snob because I get the appeal of readable and listenable stuff and like to talk about and enjoy on all levels.

I'm not a sports snob, though. I just fucking don't get that.

After sifting through three pages of forum thread about this, a rather enlightening and enjoyable little missive, I am unfortunately forced to draw an unpleasant conclusion:

Almost no one here (or elsewhere, give me a moment to explain) can resist a chance to talk about how intelligent they are. Maybe this phenomenon is a product of our community's overall intelligence factor - which I would wager is higher than your average internet forum - or maybe it's just human nature, but just about every second or third post (go back and look!) is someone either expounding their own intelligence, or talking about how they have/own/frequently read Decline and Fall. We all like knowing that we're smart (and by smart, I mean "comprehend things at a high level") and this article kindly gives us all a reach-around, but we're still all falling prey to the classic internet symptom of anonymity. No one knows if you actually have a 14th-grade reading/writing level, and frankly, no one really cares, here or elsewhere. Some people have done a great job of keeping the discussion to that - a discussion - but others (the first post, for example) are largely self-aggrandizing, verbose intellectual masturbation. Long-form versions of "Haha, I TOTALLY comprehend everything Bach has written! And I read Decline when I was 12!!" still are targeted at demoralizing those who have not, and do not serve to advance discussion.

That having been said, I am aware that a chastisement of the kind I have just provided does not advance discussion at all either. Help is on the way!

What interests me most is the author's teetering description of what he considers a "snob." I am really quite enamored with the idea that a snob is one who chooses not to give credence to media of lower comprehension levels, and spurns said media as "lower" or "lesser." My question is, do you honestly feel that it's never okay, under any circumstance, to look down upon what you may feel is a lesser form of media (or a lesser work within a medium) if you do not want to be given the title of "snob"? That is, when is the line crossed: when do I become a snob because I can't stand listening to preschoolers on recorders?

TL;DR: I can uze big werds too!

follow up with an article about gaming comprehension

As far as I can tell, this article is simply arguing against audience competence tests, first because they encourage publishers to "dumb down" their content, and later because it's possible to throw off the measurement system by having content that can be appreciated at several levels. I don't like this argument.

Most importantly, there is no indication of why it is bad that these metrics encourage simplification of content. Why is it bad that the New York TImes is written at a 9th-grade level? Isn't it better that such a leading news source be easily accessible to the masses, or should we just exclude people with lesser educations from the public discourse?

Is it bad because snobs won't have anything to read/watch/play? No, it's not, because snobs are notorious for creating their own inaccessible and arcane works that they can all have a good old-fashioned circle jerk over. Additionally, it's not bad for video game snobs because there simply aren't enough inaccessible games for anyone to be a snob - either you're going to be playing X3: The Reunion every second of every day, or you're going to be lowering yourself to games accessible to the masses.

Content that can be appreciated at several levels ultimately provides the solution to this problem in games, as in most other forms of communication. The idea that now my entertainment is accessible to the masses indeed a problem for the snob, because they don't get to feel like they're better than everyone else because they're able to appreciate the textual subtleties of Smegma Princess X. This problem is exactly why calling someone a "snob" is not a form of flattery.

HollywoodH17:
My question is, do you honestly feel that it's never okay, under any circumstance, to look down upon what you may feel is a lesser form of media (or a lesser work within a medium) if you do not want to be given the title of "snob"? That is, when is the line crossed: when do I become a snob because I can't stand listening to preschoolers on recorders?

Great question. My answer would be as follows. The "comprehension level" of a work is only one input into its value. There are, for instance, excellent pieces of content at the 7th grade level -- much of Stephen King's writing, say. And there are terrible pieces of content at the 14th grade level - say, drivel I spew out on a bad day.

I think you become a snob if you are unwilling or unable to enjoy "easily comprehended" work, regardless of its quality, by virtue of it being easily comprehended. In short, if the reason you won't access it is because it's accessible.

Let's contrast that with a word with less negative connotation, but which also speaks to one who has a reverence for quality--such as "connoisseur". You might say that a connoisseur concerns himself less with how easily comprehended a work is, but acutely feels the difference in the quality for any given comprehension level.

So a snob will simply never go see Star Wars because it is easily comprehended. A connoisseur enjoys Star Wars as a well-crafted sci-fi epic, regardless of its easy comprehensibility.

A snob prefers to drink a beverage which is an "acquired taste", preferably very hard to acquire, such as very bitter beer. A connoisseur enjoys beer that's well-brewed, even if the taste is not hard to acquire.

Let's call the opposite of a snob a populist. They actively seek out work which requires little comprehension. This could be because they are intellectually lazy, but it could also be because they enjoy consuming content which lots of other people consume.

Let's call the opposite of a connoisseur a boor. They are unaware of the difference in quality at any given comprehension level. They can't tell the difference between The Matrix and Ultraviolet.

So then you could have:
A Populist Connoisseur, who seeks out the best mass market content - "pop maven"
A Snobbish Connoisseur, who seeks out the best hard-to-comprehend content - "elite maven"
A Populist Boor, who seeks out mass market content without any sense of its quality - "vidiot"
A Snobbish Boor, who seeks out hard-to-comprehend content without any sense of its quality - "poseur"

We can easily imagine the Populist Boor as the vidiot who watches whatever's on the Boob Tube. The Snobbish Boor is that obnoxious pseudo-intellectual who can't really tell why an artist's found object is any different from the junk from my mom's garage.

Snobbish Boors can't tell the difference between Populist Connoisseurs and Populist Boors and look down on both. Populist Connoisseurs generally recognize that Snobbish Boors can't tell that half what they read is total crap, and make fun of them for it. Populist Connoisseurs and Populist Boors probably share favorite movies etc, but the Boors watch a lot of crap the Connoisseurs don't.

Meanwhile, Snobbish Connoisseurs don't understand why Populist Connoisseurs are wasting their taste on "junk for the masses", and try to avoid being in the same room with Populist Boors. Snobbish Boors idoloze Snobbish Connoisseurs while being intimidated by them, and in turn, SCs are glad that SBs exist because they need to have someone who understands why they are better.

I can clearly say, for instance, that I'm a Snobbish Connoisseur of tabletop games. I respect great game design and frown on bad game design, but my prefernece is to play hard to find and understand games.

i don't see myself as a snob, in fact, im quite the opposite; i'm just a well educated, working class man.

I quite enjoyed this article. Very well written, and engaging. Thanks :)

Interesting piece, I don't have much of a comment, but I sure learned a bit from the article.

Also, quite oddly, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is sitting in front of me right now.

Divine Miss Bee:

Zedzero:

Divine Miss Bee:
well, my reading level has been tested at around 20.7, so very little goes over my head when it comes to comprehension. that doesn't mean i don't enjoy some of the lower-level stuff. sometimes i just don't feel like thinking that hard, which is something i don't think your researchers take into account.

also, ZP owns at smart and dumb humor!

-looks at your Grammar-...20.7 eh....

My writing varies my word basically tells me the level it is written at it varies around grade 9-11, even though I'm grade 12 so meh, I still get 80s so why should I care?

you're mocking MY grammar, mr. run-on-sentence-with-an-otherwise-independent-clause-ending-in-a-preposition? lol-nice.

(you're probably on about my lack of capitalization, which has nothing to do with my grammar-it's the online equivalent to speaking softly, as i do in real life.)

You have been trolled, good night and good job. ;)

Aguilera? Higher level?

Hey, I read and understood Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire". I found it fairly comprehensive really. But then again I am a historian so I kind of got used to that sort of writing (and worse) during my studies. Was it understandable, yes, but it was also rather boring at times since I've read Gibbons ideas worded in a more easily comprehendable way by other historians.

I watch ZP far more for the "jaded misanthrope" -level expressiveness than the potty humour or the force-feedback codpiece gags.

Likewise, "Escape to the Movies" is great because of the intelligent and layered commentary. Oh damn, I hope I didn't just sink Movie Bob's career by claiming he was high-brow! :-/

I'd say that my comprehension level is a little higher than the 9th grade average or whatever, in regards to literature and gaming both.

I draw my evidence for gaming from the fact that I am SICK of First Person Shooters and games featuring generic characters and storylines. While I can appreciate good core shooting mechanics, that is not enough to satisfy me and I more and more want a good story as well in recent years (perhaps directly because of my love of reading). And I seek different main characters in games as a whole - the space marine archetype (big, tough, hardcore dangerous guy) just isn't cutting it.

Have you ever read a newspaper article or Time magazine piece from the 1940s and thought to yourself, "Wow, this article is so intelligently written. The writing in modern mags and papers seems dumbed down in comparison." If so, you'd be right.

At a lighthouse, either in the Marin Headlands or Point Reyes, I read a letter written by a 20 year old a century ago, writing to his parents complaining about his job and I think his boss. But the writing was so elegant and beautiful, from someone probably making whatever the minimum wage was back then--that just thinking about the garbage written by your typical 20 something of today, or even a 30 or 40 something, it gave me pause how far our standards have fallen.

I was sad to see Scientific American finally collapse into populist garbage.

While many gamers may not be beyond the 17-18th level, the majority would definitly be graded higher than the 9th level most media providers currently supply their information/entertainment at. The interactive nature of gaming suggests that it appeals to those who prefer not to sit idle while letting the medium dictate the experience to them, but to have an active influence in the generating of the said experience. The difference between enjoying passive and interactive entertainment may be directly attributed the level of education and or intelligence, the two being related yet not entirely reliant on each others presence. ZP is probably so popular with gamers because gaming links those who are intelligent, educated or both, while not excluding the remainder of the audience that possibly fall outside the guidelines of the typical gamer...if there is such a thing.

I don't like to advertise that I'm a literary snob, but at the same time I really can't get into books I don't feel have even tasted the word thesaurus before. I'm slightly dyslexic so I often eat my own words on alot of things, so going around claiming to be a superior being of infinite literary wisdom is just not a smart thing to do.

I have been tested and while the lady wouldn't give me the result (went straight to my school) I was apparently way above the reading level of my age group at the time (grade 10 equivalent) so through my daily reading I hope I've kept that up. Reading is a subtle but consistent joy to me.

Mathematics on the other hand I am a total dunce at.

I come from a family of literary and film snobs with a rather dim view on the average intelligence of the "man on the street" - nowhere was this more apparent than with our shared mirth at a letter a reader penned to the editors of one of the periodicals we read, complaining that their writing style was too far removed from prose, and that they should essentially "dumb it down" to the average conversational vocabulary level.

That isn't particularly amusing by itself - what made us laugh was how all the examples of words he picked that were supposedly "not prose" were words we each used on a daily basis.

Alexander Macris:
That's why the average music listener likes pop music with easily accessible hooks, while music snobs enjoy Bach or atonal experimental rock, but find pop music the equivalent of children's books.

I shall now be using that comparison whenever fate conspires to afford me a moderately appropriate opportunity - it's so very true, and eminently condescending at the same time. Yay snobbery!

I don't know which is worse - the snobbery of the original article or the plethora of intellectual dick swinging comments that followed it. Anyone of average intelligence and with high school literacy skills is completely capable of reading and comprehending 18th or 19th century writers. The reason most don't in'anglo saxon' countries is mostly to do with class, culture, accessibility, time and motivation.

Oh, and the description of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as "the most masterful work of historical analysis ever written" is ridiculous - By modern standards it is the WORST book ever written on the history of the roman empire. An average 1st year undergrad's essay would contian more a more insightful and objective historical analysis, quite apart from the additonal evidence available to modern students.

The only reason the book is interesting is as an historical curiosity because it was an attempt to write history in something resembling its modern form.

As history though its a piece of crap.

I already knew that for something to be both good and broadly popular that it has to have a certain amount of polish and work on many levels. Like a window cleaner working on a skyscraper.

I believe that some game companies have a concept of game buyers ranging from high end gamers to low end gamers as a continuum, not just the absurd, reductionist hardcore/casual dichotomy. In order to make a really culturally significant breakout hit game they know they have to hit people in all groups from those who buy obscure games to those who read reviews and buy lower end games like Bioshock and Max Payne to those who only buy hit games like GTA to those who only have a very occasional relationship with games.

If there is one problem with this it is that top few percent or so who are really games literate might have no interesting content that challenges them just like some people who are really games illiterate will have no interesting content that they can actually play.

Archon:

HollywoodH17:
My question is, do you honestly feel that it's never okay, under any circumstance, to look down upon what you may feel is a lesser form of media (or a lesser work within a medium) if you do not want to be given the title of "snob"? That is, when is the line crossed: when do I become a snob because I can't stand listening to preschoolers on recorders?

Great question. My answer would be as follows. The "comprehension level" of a work is only one input into its value. There are, for instance, excellent pieces of content at the 7th grade level -- much of Stephen King's writing, say. And there are terrible pieces of content at the 14th grade level - say, drivel I spew out on a bad day.

This may be sidelining the topic, but I'd be really interested in discussing with you what your implied 'other' values may be. The rest of your post makes the snob/connoisseur dichotomy pretty lucid and categorizes about 90% of my friends (and my own feelings about various media) but still manages to leave a hole open for "something else." If populism and boorishness (and similarly, snobbishness/connoisseur-ism-ish-ness) are four sides of the die governing how people react to comprehension level, what are the other dice, and where do they fit in?

I'm not asking for a novel here (although I'd be delighted to get one!) but any elaboration on your ideas about other inputs into value would be fantastic.

Edit: Sorry for the delay on this. I write when I'm at work :)

HollywoodH17:
This may be sidelining the topic, but I'd be really interested in discussing with you what your implied 'other' values may be. The rest of your post makes the snob/connoisseur dichotomy pretty lucid and categorizes about 90% of my friends (and my own feelings about various media) but still manages to leave a hole open for "something else." If populism and boorishness (and similarly, snobbishness/connoisseur-ism-ish-ness) are four sides of the die governing how people react to comprehension level, what are the other dice, and where do they fit in?

The other inputs that affect the value of content are, in my opinion, its timeliness and its subject matter. And by "value of content" let's define that to mean "the aggregate of the subjective values of those who consume the content".

As an example of timeliness, consider the fate of the musical "Chess", about cold war tensions played out over chess matches, which unfortunately launched at the END of the cold war. Contrast that to "Twilight", which had the good fortune of being published just as a cadre of newly-teenage girls was ready for something to replace Harry Potter as their summer reading. In short, people can find the same content more or less valuable at different times depending on what's going on in their lives and the world around them.

By subject matter, I mean genre. For whatever reason, my tastes run to sci-fi and fantasy fiction. While I can grasp, say Nietzsche, I'm more fond of reading fantasy novels than I am reading masterful 19th century German philosophy, and since there's a limited supply of masterful fantasy novels, I often read mediocre ones.

We see these factors come into play all the time at The Escapist - a great, well-written article might get overlooked, while a news post that happens to mention something about Valve gets amazing traffic because it says "Valve" in the headline. And the best-written article of four years ago gets less traffic than the worst written article from yesterday.

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