Technical vs. Common Use: FIGHT!
Hello everyone and welcome back. I know some of you are probably wondering where I'm getting to with this whole terminology thing, and I promise to reveal it in time. There's just one more bit of background to this particular painting I need to brush in before getting to the subject. Today I'd like to discuss a linguistic conflict in the hobby; technical versus common use definitions.
Our hobby is full of technical language. D&D uses “class” as something very specific, Warhammer 40k uses “ballistic skill” to cover all ranged capabilities, just about every game has a different definition of “walk,” and so on. All these words mean something in the world outside gaming, but once they hit the tabletop they need very precise definitions. This can function very well, precise language helps prevent rules discrepancies and make sure play remains fair whenever a competitive format reigns. Tournament veterans will know the difference between a “walk” and “run” in a typical game, even if a moving soldier isn't likely to move at such a casual pace amidst a battle.
A problem occurs when introducing new players to a game and we use these normal, pedestrian words in a technical sense. My favorite example comes from Warmachine and Hordes, where a normal movement is referred to as an “advance.” Common use definitions tell me that the word “advance” in this context means to move forward. Warmachine tells me the advancing model moves a number of inches equal to its speed in any direction, even away from the enemy. Notice the disconnect here? Many games refer to this type of action as a “walk” instead, or a “move.” DreadBall, a current favorite of mine, refers to a standard movement as a “run” while other games use “run” as an accelerated movement that typically prevents someone from taking another action. While it's not the normal parlance, I have to agree with DreadBall on this one. The idea of warriors in a dungeon or soldiers fighting for their lives in distant battlefields taking a casual stroll as a normal movement strikes me as odd.
For those of us entrenched in the hobby this disconnect doesn't pose much of a challenge, we kind of accept every game will have its own set of definitions. Even so, I've seen some very intelligent people stunned by the use of technical language in a new game, to the point they have difficulty playing and even give up trying after a while.
As far as our game design goes, common use definitions will trump technical definitions any day of the week. As our simian engineering team begins our writing and playtesting, and we have very much begun, our minds agonize over the proper words to use when defining game concepts. Ideally a player shouldn't need to reference a glossary to know what a rule means, and that's one of our big goals.
Stay tuned, next week comes the big reveal and a single word that sums up a large portion of what we plan on doing here at Angry Mojo Games.
Keep gaming, Mojo out.