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January 7, 2008

Shanhan's "Bow, Nigger"

I don't remember when or where I have said it, but I have made the claim to be a man without a country - I appreciate and love the idea behind new media journalism, but I also have come to hate that every "crazy jagoff" (my terminology) has been given a fair and equal voice in this world.

In new media, I love and hate that the use of "low" language, or socially unacceptable language, is considered commonplace. I especially enjoyed Shanahan's discussion on the interaction between himself and his, for lack of a better word, foe.

"He's showboating. He's demonstrating how 1337 he is.
"Are you really black nigger?" he types.
"Why?" I replied.
"Because it matter." he says."

I draw the attention to this passage for a few reasons - even though I am an avid gamer, I do not play games online, unless it can be done anonymously and without option for voice or even text chat. In this exchange, we see some of problems with games, but how new media journalism can expose these "problems."

Ignoring the use of 1337 speak as a qualifier and descriptor, there's also a large use of the word "nigger." I have to be transparent for a moment and make the claim that I am not one to often be offended by language. I am not saying that we should all run around saying "nigger," however, I am also one of those people who feel that words are essentially worthless - they are just a jumble of letters and sounds, and they only have power when being used in a certain context. "Nigger," as a whole, is not a pleasant word in any sense. It has been and continues to be used as a means of oppressing people and creating walls around our various societies which prevent us from having our constant 24-hour funkadelic block party all year.

This exchange also brought up the point that online games are where coherent and intelligible language goes to die. I understand that I should not take a position of pointing out faults and flaws of other's usages of language, as we all are unique snowflakes, however, when someone says "because it matter" in response to being asked why he is asking if the opposing player is actually a black person...it makes me want to reach through the computer-machine and hit them over the head with a golf cleat for seven hours.

Shanahan, of course, handles the situation as best as possible, and likewise presents an interesting viewpoint in his review of the game. It is a non-traditional review. He still made the approach to discuss the game, as shown by his descriptions of battle and some of the bugs in the game. Shanahan notes

"No chatting now. No more insults. Collision detection in JKII is a little flaky. Sometimes hits do far more damage than you'd have thought. I can hope. He comes at me and we have at it.

The lightsabres hiss and fizz when they come into contact with each other. I rolled and dodged and parried for all I was worth. Five health only. Nearly dead."

Of course, these are only allowed to be discussed because of the intense emotional appeal made from the first few words. New Media game reviews are, I daresay, sensationalist media, mixed with technical evaluation and a general statement of approval or disapproval.

When you compare Ajami's review to Shanahan's, the emotional appeal of Shanahan is almost hitting you in the face. Ajami, instead of going into a shocking diatribe about the etiquette of battling and those who offend, simply steps up to the plate and swings discussing the gaming-impact of the review. "A good first impression is always important. Surprisingly, LucasArts and Raven Software's Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast doesn't really give one. Instead, the third game in the long-running Star Wars-themed shooter series initially gives the impression that it's a flashy but basic action game that isn't as ambitious as its highly acclaimed predecessor, Jedi Knight." Ajami, too, is making the emotional appeal, but in a different way. He is making the appeal that the game is good, but different than those that had come before, as well as being a slow starter.

The new media approach certainly has it's place, but I have a hard time believing that print journalism will be fully replaced with new media, and vice versa. I think they are just two opposite sides of the same coin.

Posted by KevinMcGinnis at January 7, 2008 12:26 AM

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