Lesson 5: Discourse
C&I 675: Researching Virtual Worlds
Dr. Constance Steinkuehler
Spencer Striker

Assignment Due: Collect an in-game chatlog and analyze it for (a) linguistic features and (b) big-D Discourse.

At 1:42am on July 15, 2010, I was adventuring on the Loch Modan map of World of Warcraft, collecting Tunnel Rat Ears from their cruel and unwilling owners, when Papanov shot me a piece of dialogue that I neither paid attention to at the time nor fully understand now. He said, “need help.” I had noticed that another player had entered the Tunnel Rat village where I was slaying the pesky devils, but I had only though to myself, “Good, perhaps this person will thin them out so I can kill them more easily.” Shortly thereafter Papanov asked me to ‘Join a Group,’ something I’d never done before—at least not with a perfect stranger while out in the wild. After a brief hesitation, I accepted. Now, I will analyze the hour and a half that I spent campaigning with Papanov—a conversation that oscillated between being something like the crisp communication of two soldiers on a mission together and the awkward, uneven exchange of two foreign travelers separated by age, language, and worlds of experience.

Analyzing my conversation with Papanov as a little d discourse, ie. the functional, commonplace aspects of language that people use to get things done.

“Need help.” This short, curt phrase—which I missed at the time—could either mean: he needed help or he was wondering if I needed help, and was willing to offer it. In general, Papanov utilized an ambiguous, interpretable lack of punctuation in all of his communications. This mode of writing reminds me of the poor email etiquette I experience often from my colleagues at work—emails that are short, curt, and lacking in the formalities of civility that people use when speaking in person. Stripped of these elements—niceties, punctuation, opening and closing salutations—these brief digital messages can appear cold, even hostile. Of course, this is rarely the intention of the sender. The person sending the message is simply busy mass processing so many of these micro-communications that to add such embellishments seems like an unnecessary extra effort. This becomes the norm, and everyone follows suit. But the problem is that without the affectations of politeness, reading email can become a cold, stark, utilitarian endeavor. The personality goes out of it. Of course, Papanov’s bare writing style contains elements of this so-called ‘poor email etiquette,’ but also many elements of Millennial Generation speak.

Upon completion of the tedious, grinding task of collecting twelve Tunnel Rat ears, in an attempt to seem friendly and enthusiastic, I added an exclamation point, “Just got my 12th ear!”

“And,” he responded.

Again, the dryness was interpretable. Did he mean, genuinely, “what’s the significance, my friend? Please explain.” Or did he mean, “so what, n00b, do you have a point to your amateurish, overly enthusiastic blustering?” Rather than enquire, I decided to test whether Papanov was truly committed to our newly formed friendship by declaring, “off to filthy paws if you want to come.” I decided to stop using punctuation as well—being an experienced texter, I was able to make this ‘code shift’ swiftly. As I ran off, he followed close behind. Then he said, “nice bear.” Once again, I couldn’t tell if he was being facetious, making fun of my Level 12 Elder Black Bear pet—of which I have grown irrationally fond, coming to see him as an old trusted (digital) friend—or whether he legitimately was admiring my big, furry, ferocious sidekick, something he could never have due to his race and class.

“Click number lock.” I had no idea what he meant and it seemed irrelevant to my obsessive leveling. “Click number lock? Wha?” I responded. At once I intended to a. tactfully not ignore his advice and b. via the use of the slang, Wha, demonstrate that I was ‘hip, with it, down with the lingo.’ “its makes u run non stop just click.” “I see, but where’s the miners gear?” I asked. Again, I tried to demonstrate that I was listening to his advice appreciatively, despite my preoccupation with leveling. Though I said, “I see,” I still had no idea what he was talking about, and didn’t really care either. Later, of course, when I finally processed what he meant, I realized he was observing how I was struggling to move fast and he was offering valuable advice on how to move faster with more consistency. Throughout our exchange, Papanov was eager to impart advice to me—more so, I believe, because I both communicated that I could use it and was open to receiving it.

Analyzing my conversation with Papanov as a Big D discourse, ie. the ways of thinking and being in the world.

Almost from the first moment I began interacting with Papanov, I got the sense that he was very young—a boy between the ages of ten to thirteen. “Want 1 gold,” he said, all of a sudden. This was a question, though there was no question mark. By now, I knew what he meant. And I accepted the money without question too, instinctively recognizing this to be a rare expression of generosity, a unique opportunity—perhaps my reward for being a faithful friend. “Thanks.” “No prob,” he responded. Then a little later, “my bros gana b pist.” Aha, I thought: he’s a kid who’s hijacked his older brother’s WoW account. Throughout our Discourse, I learned many meta-level things about him and he learned much about me—though probably not that I was secretly recording our conversation for analysis for a university course on Virtual Worlds.

I acted like a newbie multiple times during our time campaigning together, but perhaps none more grievously obvious then when I tried to lead the two of us to collect the head of Chok’Sul, an elite level monster on the outskirts of the map. “Let’s get out of here and go get the head.” I led us across the long bridge. “No hes levl 2o,” Papanov warned. “hes lvl 20.” He repeated, as I ignored him and pushed into Chok’Sul territory. “Don’t swim,” he said cryptically. Then, “stop.” I led us straight into a gang of overpowering, aggressive Dark Iron Insurgents who quickly killed us both, and our little pets too. I tried a few more times to doggedly push ahead in the face of overwhelming bloody setbacks before leading us to retreat to the bridge.

I learned the hard way—through experience—what Papanov had tried to impart to me through warnings: that we weren’t ready for that quest yet. Of course, despite the fact that I made a ‘faux pas,’—a newbish social blunder—Papanov did not seem to really care or hold it against me. My interpretation is that he preferred playing socially and found my amateurish mistakes more charming and interesting than it would have been to simply go adventuring on his own. The fact that he had so much gold—and that he was probably playing his brother’s avatar—causes me to think that his brother has long since taken other avatars to elite levels in the game, and that this younger brother, who’s not terribly committed to the leveling up of his brother’s level thirteen character, is in fact far more interested in the social interactions possible in a late night round of gaming. Who will he meet? What kind of interesting experiences might he have? Realizing I had little to teach him, he took on the role of mentor—albeit sometimes cranky instructor—teaching me how to run, trade, take free gold, back off when not ready, duel, and even dance. I became his apprentice, as he sought to move me “from the periphery to the center.”

The Following Transcript Occurred on 7/15 between 1:42am-3:19am; a d/Discourse Between my avatar, Zzblackstone, and Papanov in World of Warcraft.

(Certain non-communication text has been edited out to make it easier to follow our conversation).

7/15 01:42:57.486 Papanov says: need help

7/15 01:55:01.062 Papanov has invited you to join a group.

7/15 01:55:57.628 Zzblackstone says: Just got my 12th ear!

7/15 01:56:14.614 Papanov says: and

7/15 01:56:40.492 Zzblackstone says: off to filthy paws if you want to come

7/15 01:59:17.001 Papanov says: nice bear

7/15 02:01:17.206 Papanov says: click number lock

7/15 02:01:22.353 Your share of the loot is 8 Copper.

7/15 02:01:26.781 Papanov receives loot: Worn Leather Vest.

7/15 02:01:45.890 Zzblackstone says: click number lock? wha?

7/15 02:04:34.412 Papanov says: its makes u run non stop just click

7/15 02:05:10.852 Zzblackstone says: i see, but where's the miners gear?

7/15 02:05:27.485 Papanov says: ?

7/15 02:05:34.851 Zzblackstone says: guessing its in here

7/15 02:09:02.936 Zzblackstone says: Let's get out of here and go get the head

7/15 02:09:35.826 Elder Black Bear dies, you gain 54 experience.

7/15 02:09:41.001 Papanov says: no hes levl 2o

7/15 02:09:41.438 You receive loot: Chipped Bear Tooth.

7/15 02:09:41.838 You receive loot: Bear Meat.

7/15 02:10:04.721 Papanov says: hes lvl 20

7/15 02:14:40.532 Papanov says: dont swim

7/15 02:16:04.785 Zzblackstone says: do you need to swim for this

7/15 02:16:23.195 Papanov says: i hav 9 gold 81 silv 68 copper

7/15 02:16:40.119 Papanov says: im ritch!

7/15 02:16:48.686 Zzblackstone says: awesome

7/15 02:17:17.085 Papanov says: stop

7/15 02:24:24.516 Papanov says: trade

7/15 02:24:50.395 Zzblackstone says: what do you want that I have, never traded before

7/15 02:24:56.783 Papanov says: dude trade

7/15 02:25:40.628 Papanov says: right click on my picture

7/15 02:25:47.858 You receive item: Battered Mallet.

7/15 02:25:47.860 You receive item: Light Leatherx5.

7/15 02:26:20.564 Zzblackstone says: k

7/15 02:26:54.532 Papanov says: how is it

7/15 02:27:16.329 Zzblackstone says: can we swim over ther

7/15 02:27:22.911 Zzblackstone says: e

7/15 02:27:36.544 With arms flapping, Papanov struts around. Cluck, Cluck, Chicken!

7/15 02:27:52.600 Papanov falls asleep. Zzzzzzz.

7/15 02:28:09.103 Papanov bursts into dance.

7/15 02:28:18.541 Zzblackstone says: Can we take a boat?

7/15 02:28:29.543 Papanov says: idk

7/15 02:29:16.699 Papanov creates: Soul Shard.

7/15 02:29:22.673 Papanov creates: Soul Shard.

7/15 02:29:24.042 Stonesplinter Seer attempts to run away in fear!

7/15 02:29:26.057 Stonesplinter Seer dies, you gain 57 experience.

7/15 02:29:31.313 Your share of the loot is 8 Copper.

7/15 02:30:20.994 Papanov says: thanks

7/15 02:33:05.432 Papanov says: want 1 gold

7/15 02:33:38.523 Zzblackstone says: thanks

7/15 02:33:58.075 Papanov says: no prob

7/15 02:37:10.505 Papanov says: my bros gana b pist

7/15 02:42:10.567 Papanov says: watch me

7/15 02:42:16.932 Papanov sets

7/15 02:42:21.843 Papanov sets

7/15 02:42:26.472 Papanov sets

7/15 02:42:26.657 You have selected Need for: Simple Branch of Shadow Wrath

7/15 02:42:30.952 Papanov sets

7/15 02:42:44.638 Papanov has selected Need for: Simple Branch of Shadow Wrath

7/15 02:42:44.639 Need Roll - 91 for Simple Branch of Shadow Wrath by Papanov

7/15 02:42:44.640 Need Roll - 90 for Simple Branch of Shadow Wrath by Zzblackstone

7/15 02:42:44.641 Papanov won: Simple Branch of Shadow Wrath

7/15 02:42:45.001 Papanov receives loot: Simple Branch of Shadow Wrath.

7/15 02:43:17.218 Papanov says: wat u want wat mark

7/15 02:43:19.147 Stonesplinter Seer dies, you gain 57 experience.

7/15 02:43:29.625 Papanov sets

7/15 02:43:31.642 Your share of the loot is 2 Copper.

7/15 02:43:35.859 Papanov sets

7/15 02:43:43.443 Papanov sets

7/15 02:43:52.909 Stonesplinter Skullthumper attempts to run away in fear!

7/15 02:43:54.963 Stonesplinter Skullthumper dies, you gain 60 experience.

7/15 02:44:36.695 You receive item: Simple Branch of Shadow Wrath.

7/15 02:44:36.753 You receive item: Worn Leather Vest.

7/15 02:44:45.224 Your share of the loot is 10 Copper.

7/15 02:44:45.613 You receive loot: Linen Clothx3.

7/15 02:44:56.547 Papanov says: cant use it

7/15 02:45:00.069 You receive loot: Calico Tunic.

7/15 02:46:02.596 Papanov says: wat shape u want

7/15 02:49:20.606 Zzblackstone says: let's trade later when I can sell some stuff

7/15 02:49:25.970 Zzblackstone says: too full

7/15 02:49:34.940 Papanov says: k

7/15 02:49:50.559 Zzblackstone says: need to kill two more stonesplinter seers

7/15 02:50:21.964 Papanov creates: Soul Shard.

7/15 02:50:24.757 Papanov creates: Soul Shard.

7/15 02:51:02.223 Papanov says: all i can use is wrist bands pants and boots cloth onley

7/15 02:52:15.686 Zzblackstone says: one more seer

7/15 02:52:52.625 Stonesplinter Seer says: Destroy!

7/15 02:52:59.540 Papanov says: wat shape u want above ur head

7/15 02:53:53.071 Papanov says: ready

7/15 02:53:58.514 Zzblackstone says: awesome, let's get out of here

7/15 02:54:59.977 Papanov sets

7/15 02:56:20.517 Papanov says: that better no mark aboveur head

7/15 02:57:38.930 Papanov says: wait

7/15 02:59:22.630 You gain 1050 experience.

7/15 02:59:22.631 In Defense of the King's Lands completed.

7/15 02:59:22.631 Experience gained: 1050.

7/15 02:59:22.631 Received 7 Silver.

7/15 02:59:22.633 Received 3 of item: Lesser Healing Potion.

7/15 02:59:22.634 Reputation with Ironforge increased by 250.

7/15 02:59:22.942 You receive item: Lesser Healing Potionx3.

7/15 03:00:16.187 Quest accepted: In Defense of the King's Lands

7/15 03:01:05.144 Papanov says: in need 2 finish quests 2

7/15 03:01:10.665 Changed Channel: |Hchannel:-1073752334|h[(null)]|h

7/15 03:01:10.665 Changed Channel: |Hchannel:-1073752334|h[(null)]|h

7/15 03:01:14.574 Changed Channel: |Hchannel:-1073752334|h[(null)]|h

7/15 03:01:14.575 Changed Channel: |Hchannel:-1073752334|h[(null)]|h

7/15 03:01:50.003 Zzblackstone says: cool, I think I'm gonna crash buddy, but it's been great playing with ya

7/15 03:01:54.046 Elder Black Bear dies, you gain 54 experience.

7/15 03:02:06.270 Papanov says: k

7/15 03:02:27.719 Duel starting: 3

7/15 03:02:28.738 Duel starting: 2

7/15 03:02:29.762 Duel starting: 1

7/15 03:03:12.363 Papanov has defeated Zzblackstone in a duel

7/15 03:03:12.365 %s has earned the achievement Duel-icious!

7/15 03:03:24.729 Papanov says: nice job

7/15 03:03:36.398 Papanov says: now u win

7/15 03:03:42.517 Duel starting: 3

7/15 03:03:43.537 Duel starting: 2

7/15 03:03:44.553 Duel starting: 1

7/15 03:03:58.418 %s has earned the achievement Duel-icious!

7/15 03:03:58.418 Zzblackstone has defeated Papanov in a duel

7/15 03:04:11.940 Zzblackstone says: Fun, thanks

7/15 03:04:14.215 Papanov says: achevment

7/15 03:04:19.925 Zzblackstone says: yeah

7/15 03:04:25.958 Zzblackstone says: good stuff

7/15 03:04:49.400 Papanov says: ya stayin

7/15 03:04:56.910 Elder Black Bear dies, you gain 54 experience.

7/15 03:05:20.974 Zzblackstone says: trying to hit 13, v close

7/15 03:05:42.207 Papanov says: num lock

7/15 03:05:43.649 Zzblackstone says: gonna buy stuff and grind to 13 in town

7/15 03:06:21.723 Zzblackstone says: good tip

7/15 03:07:37.685 Papanov says: right click on my pic and claick fallow then no hands

7/15 03:07:46.128 Elder Black Bear dies, you gain 54 experience.

7/15 03:08:13.860 Papanov says: u do it

7/15 03:08:33.270 Zzblackstone says: cool

7/15 03:08:53.766 Papanov says: look ma no hands

7/15 03:09:02.141 Mangy Mountain Boar dies, you gain 60 experience.

7/15 03:09:26.569 Elder Black Bear dies, you gain 54 experience.

7/15 03:09:50.608 Papanov says: cood i tipe this wile following u manuley

7/15 03:09:57.536 Grizzled Black Bear dies, you gain 57 experience.

7/15 03:10:05.658 Discovered Grizzlepaw Ridge: 90 experience gained

7/15 03:10:21.678 Mangy Mountain Boar dies, you gain 60 experience.

7/15 03:10:27.125 Papanov says: wat the

7/15 03:10:52.203 Grizzled Black Bear dies, you gain 57 experience.

7/15 03:11:18.746 Grizzled Black Bear dies, you gain 60 experience.

7/15 03:11:20.506 Papanov says: how close r u now

7/15 03:11:42.072 Papanov receives loot: Chipped Bear Tooth.

7/15 03:11:42.464 Papanov receives loot: Bear Meat.

7/15 03:12:11.390 Elder Black Bear dies, you gain 48 experience.

7/15 03:12:41.124 Forest Lurker dies, you gain 41 experience.

7/15 03:13:26.843 Papanov whispers: jkrykfkjytkuyttttytuutyiui

7/15 03:13:41.428 Papanov sets

7/15 03:13:48.834 Papanov sets

7/15 03:13:57.588 Papanov sets

7/15 03:14:10.334 Mountain Boar dies, you gain 41 experience.

7/15 03:14:29.643 Mountain Boar dies, you gain 48 experience.

7/15 03:14:43.696 Mountain Boar dies, you gain 48 experience.

7/15 03:14:52.797 Papanov whispers: nice

7/15 03:14:55.701 Zzblackstone says: I got 13

7/15 03:15:10.652 Zzblackstone says: Nice playing w ya, let's do it again sometime

7/15 03:15:23.835 Papanov says: this

7/15 03:15:35.606 Papanov says: wait

7/15 03:15:50.805 Papanov says: meat u in the town later

7/15 03:16:09.667 Zzblackstone says: sho nuff, good night bud!

7/15 03:16:11.221 Papanov says: pres dance

7/15 03:16:31.810 Zzblackstone says: where

7/15 03:16:33.847 Papanov bursts into dance.

7/15 03:17:08.213 Papanov says: the main town behind me

7/15 03:17:20.264 Zzblackstone says: where's dance button

7/15 03:17:57.698 Zzblackstone says: later!

7/15 03:18:04.973 Papanov says: no tipe dnace but befor that hit the slash buttin

7/15 03:18:14.210 Papanov says: dance

7/15 03:18:35.565 You burst into dance.

7/15 03:18:36.833 Papanov dances with Bear.

7/15 03:18:51.893 Papanov says: nice moves

7/15 03:19:00.389 FRIEND_OFFLINE

7/15 03:19:06.584 Papanov says: wait

7/15 03:19:10.903 Zzblackstone says: thanks

7/15 03:19:13.013 FRIEND_ONLINE

7/15 03:19:34.660 With arms flapping, Papanov struts around Bear. Cluck, Cluck, Chicken!

7/15 03:19:46.020 Papanov dances with Bear.