My informant, AW, is my 15-year-old brother. He is heavily involved in multiple online gaming communities that exist on Discord and other social platforms and revolve around multiplayer online games such as Valorant and Overwatch. This piece was collected during an informal interview at home when I asked him to share something unique to the gaming community. I refer to myself at SW in the text.
AW: “Whenever someone is doing really or someone just made a crazy play or an insane play or something like that, um, people would say like you’re popping off or you’re cracked or… um I mean this ones fairly normal but you’re insane or something like that. And people have taken that super far… instead of saying you’re insane people will literally say like ‘you’re absolutely bonkers. You’re mentally unstable.’ Meaning that you did something insane and stuff like that. So yea there’s a lot of terminology like that, that every gamer will understand.”
SW: “Where do you learn it?”
AW: “Um… literally just from talking to people a lot of social cues, a lot of – how I guess you would learn language. It’s just… you don’t ever ask you just kinda know eventually.”
SW: “Why is it important?”
AW: “Cuz every gamer knows it and every gamer says it. It’s… a lot more acceptable to say ‘you’re insane’ or ‘you’re cracked’ than it is to say ‘wow that was a really good play, good rally. That was… that was a good effort. You, you played that very smart.’ Like no one ever says that you say ‘dude you’re insane you’re cracked.’ Or, or you simply just say ‘sheeeeesh.’”
SW: “Which means what?”
AW: “It can mean a lot of things. But in the gaming culture specifically, it’s just a surprised reaction or a… an admiration of something. Like if someone just did something insane you’d go ‘sheeeeeeesh bro.’ Or like… or if someone does something like, super sus, if you know what that means, that’s another word that – yea if someone does that you’d just go ‘sheeeeeesh bro. Sheeeesh.’ It really can be used for anything, it has so many meanings it’s just like, an exclamation.
One of my favorite parts of the internet is how quickly folk speech spreads and how some sayings are universal while others only exist within a very specific group. I think the main purpose is to distinguish members of the group from outsiders. As AW mentioned, these phrases are picked up naturally as you spend more time in the community, so it becomes a way to tell how long someone has been in the community. In the gaming community, it’s probably especially important to form a group identity since most people have ever met each other face to face. Gaming folk speech seems to be largely focused on making things more hyperbolic, which might reflect the group culture of being more energetic and dramatic in both your manner of speech and your actions. This probably happens because you can’t rely on body language in these conversations, so you must come up with standardized ways to verbally express emotions of excitement or congratulations that might otherwise be expressed simply through a cheer or a high five.