Videogame Style Guide

Videogame Style Guide

imagePeople shouldn't have to guess what you're trying to say. It should be clear. When you open your mouth, or put finger to keyboard, you should be speaking clearly enough so that those on the receiving end of your transmission have no doubt as to what they've just heard or seen. This is simply common sense, one would think. After all, you want people to think about what you're saying, rather than how you're saying it. Language is a tool, not a destination. And like all tools, the proper usage of it is essential.

But you wouldn't think so from reading most game writing, or participating on forums. In fact, one of the most frequent debates I'm a party to revolves around whether or not it's "important" how one deploys punctuation or spells certain words. As you might have guessed, I'm the one coming down on the side of it being important, but I've no illusions about the proper place of punctuation. Lives will not be saved if an ellipsis has two spaces (one at each end), nor will separating two disjointed thoughts with a dash cure cancer.

But I'm firmly of the opinion that a thing worth doing is worth doing well, or at least properly. I cook with cast iron, use paint keys (not screwdrivers) to open paint cans and signal my turns from at least 100 feet. I'm not a conformist, but I believe nonconformity for the sake of nonconformity is a waste of energy. Better to be a rebel about having to partially disrobe at the airport than about where to put a comma.

When I was in school, learning grammar and punctuation, handwriting was stressed over typing, and the proper way to format a letter did not begin with downloading a macro. More emphasis was placed on proper checkbook accounting than written communication, but that's not to say I didn't absorb all there was to learn. Rather, it was considered more or less an optional exercise, like joining the Latin club, and just as sexy.

Toady, however, we're back in the 19th Century. People still talk on the phone (or VoIP), but written communication is making a comeback in a big way. Email and IM are the tools of this generation, and web forums and message boards have taken the place of letters to the editor or the million man march. Sadly, our educational system has not caught back up, and many an English teacher is still wringing her hands in frustration over modern man's eschewing of the written word. If only they knew. If only they were web-savvy. Because, honestly, we need them.

Thank Vishnu then for Kyle Orland and his band of merry punctuation freaks. Kyle's been bugging me for a couple of weeks to take a look at his new book, and when I finally got around to doing so, I was pleased, thrilled and cautiously optimistic about the future of this great planet.

Kyle, a long-time game writer and journalism school graduate, has done what many before him have dreaded doing: compiled a compendium of correct language and punctuation usage for erstwhile game writers. Using the venerable AP Style as a jumping off point, Kyle and his collaborators have taken it upon themselves to tell you exactly how you should go about spelling Xbox and correctly use a treasure trove of oft-misused terms.

From the introduction:

Over the years, avid gamers have developed a sort of organic shorthand that is perfectly clear to them, but perfectly incomprehensible to a larger audience. This jargon is standing in the way of mainstream understanding and acceptance of videogames. However you slice it, having an inconsistent style is embarrassing and detrimental to the cause of our beloved industry. Addressing these issues will inevitably build trust and respect for both our art and the emerging field of gaming as a whole.

And that, my friends, is entirely the point. Anyone who's bemoaned the lack of respect gamers and gaming receive in mainstream media and culture should take a hard look at how they present themselves, bit in person and in communication. Just as you would never show up to a job interview wearing a ratty-ass Atari T-shirt, you would be a fool to think proper presentation of one's written thoughts matters any less.

When the majority of mainstream humans read about gaming and/or gamers, the image in their minds' eye is of a teeming throng of barely comprehensible miscreants speaking in tongues, using barely-understood jargon and meeting together in darkened dens to do god-knows-what to the cat. We can't do much about that last, but we can certainly alter the perception of our attempts at communication by doing what any other professional writer would do: Find a style guide and stick to it.

Here at The Escapist[/a], we use a combination of [i]AP Style and a few extra rules of our own, some published, some not. It's like a breakfast blend for pretentious, pseudo-intellectual game writing wankery. For everyone else, I recommend The Videogame Style Guide.

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the video game style guide link at the end gives me a 404 error: file not found page.

LordCancer:
the video game style guide link at the end gives me a 404 error: file not found page.

Should be fixed now.

I read about this a few weeks back. Sounds interesting. The biggest issue we have right now, though, is that schools are not teaching grammar. As you say, the education system is lagging behind our current need to understand the most basic details of writing. I didn't know the proper use of the semicolon until I was through with college (and I got my degree in English). I've been learning grammar now, on my own. I want to write, but I was never taught how to do it properly.

Also, someone should send a copy of that thing over to IGN. ;-)

I am 22 and I struggled with English all through school I was in Resource without being tested and was never diagnosed with a learning disability. I tested out of resource in 6th grade but continued to struggle with English and the ability to construct proper sentences and paragraphs. I have also been criticized even on this forum for it but you know its like what the hell you want me to do about it? Maybe I should make more of an effort on my own to learn to be able to write better, the books do sound interesting perhaps I will check them out I have written them down.

I would agree the schools are failing us, I can barely sign my name and can not write a sentence in cursive, I had to learn to sign my name on my own. Theres a stigma to me about the written word, I can read fine and love learning new words but writing is my kryponite while I enjoy posting on forums on every other occasion when I'm forced to write I'm like Clark Kent laying on the ground like bitch next to the green blob of a crystal.

It would be the greatest pleasure for me to have more people utilizing more of their language to communicate completely. I don't mean to suggest that people should use bigger words because "bigger is obviously better". What I mean is that when words or punctuation exist and the use of them will make for a better flow, please take the time to write it down.

English feels hampered enough to me by its lack of descriptors for complex concepts that we approximate when we translate middle eastern languages into three or four word versions. Some of this is due to culture, I don't expect us to have a giant leap forward in our ability to explain the underlying feeling a person has when they say they honor you, or that they are tired. We don't need to add to the weakness by not even using the words that we do have to describe our feelings and our meanings.

What really does bother me is that our society is suffering from so much willful ignorance, be it secular, scientific or personal in nature. Language is a key that would help open many doors for all of us into accepting and understanding our species. Language (and with it communication) has never been an important matter for the people I deal with on a regular basis. I feel a horrible pain mixed with disgust every time I'm reading a book as opposed to any other activity. The social stigma surrounding the written word goes far beyond writing "u" instead of "you" and it's something we need to change one person at a time.

I feel frustrated that I can't structure my thoughts well enough to write a reply that isn't as rambling as my own convoluted thought path. I hope that at least some of what I'm saying is getting through, we need to remember that proper grammar isn't "a pain" but is truly a joy.

As a response to LordCancer I'll say this, You have some of the most wonderful opinions I read on this board, "what the hell I want you to do about it" is take a second every time you write one and frame them better. Help your voice reach more people. Re-read what you write aloud, soon it will become second nature to you. It's a shame you haven't developed good habits already but do as I do and continually try to improve. You aren't an idiot, but many will pass you off as one if they see a lack of commas or sentence structure. You don't have to improve, but it will open doors for you if you do.

TomBeraha:
As a response to LordCancer I'll say this, You have some of the most wonderful opinions I read on this board, "what the hell I want you to do about it" is take a second every time you write one and frame them better. Help your voice reach more people. Re-read what you write aloud, soon it will become second nature to you. It's a shame you haven't developed good habits already but do as I do and continually try to improve. You aren't an idiot, but many will pass you off as one if they see a lack of commas or sentence structure. You don't have to improve, but it will open doors for you if you do.

I try sometimes and even edit the post but I am not sure how to properly punctuate so it comes out gargled, where would I even start to learn, google? probably learn more there then in a class. my next google search "how to properly punctuate". lol

The only way to learn how to write is by reading. All an education can do is tell you what to look for. If what you read is mostly agrammatical (how's that for an application of English prefix conventions!), then you won't learn much about using the stuff. Additionally, there are stylistic reasons to avoid it (although these are basically the realm of those who know how to do it right, since those who can't do grammar correctly certainly can't do it wrong well).

Cursive? (going off on a tangent - ignore if you prefer) I'm glad that my public education only spent a few weeks on that. It's a fine skill to have, but I didn't then, and still don't now, think that it's by any means an appropriate example of a skill that it's important that every student possess. What do people use cursive for, today? The quick chicken scratch that printing eventually turns into is more legible, and anything formal is typed. I obviously can't speak for all schools, but in my family's and my cases, the lessons to which cursive gave way were a far more significant and valuable use of time.

Society changes - even language changes (though I agree it hasn't changed so much as to have obsoleted consistency and punctuation) and education should change with it, or else education itself will be the anachronism.

The education system is already outdated. More important is how the system has been bent into a ranking system. Aren't we supposed to be learning? I though that is what my education was about. Unfortunately it has been reworked into a means by which companies can compare us without even seeing our faces. Maybe it has always been that way; I don't know. I don't like it, though.

I have to say, however, that I have no problem with "you" being turned into "u". There is no confusion of meaning there. If "I" and "a" are words then "u" can be a word too. Language moves and progresses based on usage. If this is how our language is going to be used, as the most economic way of communicating thoughts, then so be it. I don't like words like "through" or "knife". I don't understand them and I have no problem with turning our language into a more logical one.

An example of changing language: literally
"Literally" has formally been used to describe a situation exactly. The events are meant to be taken as they are presented and not as exaggeration. However, recent usage of the word as a way to give extra emphasis in a non-literal way forced the comprehensive texts that record our words (dictionaries) to change the definition. The word is now properly used when "literal" actually means anything but.

The word "u" certainly looks less than academic, but I view it as a sign of hope. Words don't have to be written in a complicated way to be effective.

Interesting side note (one of those instances where my psych background intersects with my English background)--women are the frontrunners of communication change. Research has shown that "language fashion" is lead by women, while men tend to adopt the changes later.

Blaxton:
The education system is already outdated. More important is how the system has been bent into a ranking system. Aren't we supposed to be learning? I though that is what my education was about. Unfortunately it has been reworked into a means by which companies can compare us without even seeing our faces. Maybe it has always been that way; I don't know. I don't like it, though.

The problem goes a step deeper than that in my opinion. The problem stems from parents who want to have smart children but don't want to pay attention to them. They want to have a kid who gets through college, and are willing to pay more to live places where kids get a better education, but because they are unwilling to actually involve themselves in their child's growth as a person, the children only learn to test well, as that is all they're ever called upon to do. Actual knowledge, much less the ability to reason, are never stressed at school.

When you have parents who don't care, they elect the officials both to school boards and city and state offices who will make their kids look smarter, not be smarter. Parents want children to test better on national standardized tests instead of be capable of reading a book and arguing on the validity of the arguments presented. Parents take most of the blame for a lot of wrongs I see in the world. Poor parenting seems to be the standard not the exception, and while some students and children simply are stupid, a good many are never given a chance to grow into their potential. Our society has become too focused on winning and succeeding and tends to ignore the journey's to that end which give the real reward. It's why sports teams aren't for kids to have fun on anymore, it's why standardized testing makes up a curriculum designed to get the greatest number of passing grades as possible without paying a single shred of attention on intelligent students who need to be challenged.

TomBeraha:

The problem goes a step deeper than that in my opinion. The problem stems from parents who want to have smart children but don't want to pay attention to them.

That's exactly how I feel about education. A parent is the most important teacher a child will ever have.

I think it's time to pull out the ol' flash cards for my two year old. ;-)

 

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