Contemporary French Civilization

French gamer-speak: new conceptualizations of text production, virtual spaces, and social stratification

Contemporary French Civilization (2019), 44, (1), 39–59.


This article discusses the significance of French gamer idiolect, here called “gamer-speak,” for the French gaming subculture. Two Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs), World of Warcraft and WildStar, form the corpus under examination. Through examples of French gamer-speak found both in the videogame text and gamer interactions, this article describes French lexical innovation within the gamer subculture by engaging with three relevant conceptual landscapes. First, it develops the notions of textuality and paratextuality specific to videogames (Genette; Aarseth; MacCallum-Stewart; Barnabé). Second, it discusses the tensions between rules and fiction in videogame systems (Juul Half-real; Thorhauge; Frasca; Pearce). Third, it asserts the significance of French gamer identity (Ensslin; Even-Zohar; De Larios and Lang; Nachez and Schmoll).

Cet article traite de l’importance du langage des joueurs français de jeux vidéo, ici appelé “gamer-speak.” Deux jeux vidéo de rôle en ligne massivement multijoueur (MMORPGs), World of Warcraft, et WildStar, constituent le corpus de cet article. A travers des exemples de “gamer-speak” en français trouvé dans les textes de jeux vidéo ainsi que dans les conversations entre joueurs, cet article décrit l’innovation du lexique français dans la sous-culture des joueurs en s’appuyant sur trois cadres conceptuels. Dans un premier temps, il s’étend sur la textualité et la paratextualité propres aux jeux vidéo (Genette; Aarseth; MacCallum-Stewart; Barnabé). Dans un second temps, il traite des tensions entre les règles (rules) et la fiction dans les systèmes de jeux vidéo (Juul Half-real; Thorhauge; Frasca; Pearce). Enfin, il constate l’importance de l’identité des joueurs français (Ensslin; Even-Zohar; De Larios and Lang; Nachez and Schmoll).

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Videogames cited

Everest VR, Sólfar, 2016. Google Scholar

Pokémon Go, Niantic, 2016. Google Scholar

Skylanders Imaginators, Activision, 2016. Google Scholar

WildStar, NCsoft, 2014–present. Google Scholar

World of Warcraft, Blizzard Entertainment, 2004–present. Google Scholar

Works cited

Aarseth, Espen. Cybertext: perspectives on ergodic literature. Johns Hopkins UP, 2001. Google Scholar

Atkins, Barry, and Tanya Krzywinska. Videogame, Player, Text. Manchester UP, 2007. Google Scholar

Azra, Jean-Luc, and Véronique Chéneau. “Jeux de langage et théorie phonologique. Verlan et structure syllabique du français.” Journal of French Language Studies, vol. 4, no. 2, 1994, pp. 147–70. Google Scholar

Barnabé, Fanny. Narration et jeu vidéo; Pour une exploration des univers fictionnels. Bebooks, 2014. Google Scholar

Boyer, Henri. “‘Nouveau français,’ ‘parler jeune’ ou ‘langue des cités’? Remarques sur un objet linguistique médiatiquement identifié.” Langue Française, vol. 114, 1997, pp. 6–15. Google Scholar

de Larios, Margaret, and John T. Lang. “Pluralistic Ignorance in Virtually Assembled Peers The Case of World of Warcraft.” Games and Culture, vol. 9, no. 2, 2013, pp. 102–121. Google Scholar

Ensslin, Astrid. The Language of Gaming. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Google Scholar

Even-Zohar, Itamar. “Polysystem Theory.” Poetics Today, vol. 1, no. 1–2, 1979, pp. 287–310. Google Scholar

Frasca, Gonzalo. “Ludologists Love Stories, Too: Notes from a Debate That Never Took Place.” Proceedings of DiGRA 2003, Google Scholar

Genette, Gerard. Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation. Cambridge UP, 1997. Google Scholar

Gibbs, Donna, and Kerri-Lee Krause, editors. Cyberlines 2.0: Languages and Cultures of the Internet. James Nicholas Publishers, 2006. Google Scholar

Gilder, Alfred. Et si l’on parlait français? Le Cherche Midi, 1993. Google Scholar

Goudaillier, Jean-Pierre. “De l’argot traditionnel au français contemporain des cités.” La linguistique, vol. 38, 2002, pp. 5–24. Google Scholar

Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. Routledge, 1979. Google Scholar

Humbley, John. “Peut-on encore parler d’anglicisme?” LDI (Arnaud L’eturgie). Lexique, normalisation, transgression. Mes Mots Edition, 2010, pp. 21–45. Google Scholar

Huq, Rupa. Beyond Subculture: Pop, Youth and Identity in a Postcolonial World. Routledge, 2006. Google Scholar

Jenkins, Henry. “Game Design As Narrative Architecture.” Computer, vol. 44, no. 3, 2004, pp. 118–130. Google Scholar

Juul, Jesper. “A Clash Between Game and Narrative.” Danish Literature, 1999, Google Scholar

Juul, Jesper. Half-Real: Video Games Between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. MIT Press, 2011. Google Scholar

Laufer, Batia. “Appropriation du vocabulaire : mots faciles, mots difficiles, mots impossibles.” Acquisition et interaction en Langue Etrangère, vol. 3, 1994, pp. 97–113. Google Scholar

Lefkowitz, Natalie. Talking Backwards, Looking Forwards: the French Language Game Verlan. Vol. 3. Gunter Narr Verlag, 1991. Google Scholar

Lenoble-Pinson, Michèle. Anglicismes et substituts français. Duculot, 1991. Google Scholar

MacCallum-Stewart, Esther. “Conflict, Thought Communities and Textual Appropriation In MMORPGs.” Online Gaming in Context, edited by Garry Crawford, Victoria K. Gosling, and Ben Light, Routledge, 2011, pp. 44–59. Google Scholar

McMahan, Alison. “Immersion, Engagement and Presence.” The Video Game Theory Reader, edited by M.J. Wolf and B. Perron, Routledge, 2003, pp. 67–86. Google Scholar

Mela, Vivienne. “Parler verlan : règles et usages.” Langage et société, vol. 45, no. 1, 1988, pp. 47–72. Google Scholar

Mela, Vivienne. “Verlan 2000.” Langue Française, vol. 114, 1997, pp. 16–34. Google Scholar

Muggleton, David. Inside Subculture: The Postmodern Meaning of Style. Berg, 2000, Google Scholar

Nachez, Michel, and Patrick Schmoll. “Violence et sociabilité dans les jeux vidéo en ligne.” Sociétés, no. 82, 2003, pp. 5–17, Google Scholar

Pearce, Celia. “Theory Wars: An Argument Against Arguments in the so-called Ludology/Narratology Debate.” 2005, Google Scholar

Pergnier, Maurice. Les anglicismes : danger ou enrichissement pour la langue française? Presses universitaires de France, 1989. Google Scholar

Pichlmair, Martin. “Pwned-10 Tales of Appropriation in Video Games.” 2006, Google Scholar

Ross, Travis L., and Lauren B. Collister. “A Social Scientific Framework for Social Systems in Online Video Games: Building a Better Looking for Raid Loot System in World of Warcraft.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 36, 2014, pp. 1–12. Google Scholar

Squire, Kurt D. and Costance A. Steinkuehler. “Language and Literacy in Star Wars Galaxies.” Cyberlines, vol. 2, 2006, pp. 177–198. Google Scholar

Strong, Samuel. “Achievements: Unique Texts, Unique Localisation.” The Journal of Internationalization and Localization, vol. 4, no. 1, 2017, pp. 22–39. Google Scholar

Thorhauge, Anne Mette. “The Rules of the Game – The Rules of the Player.” Games and Culture, vol. 8, no. 6, 2013, pp. 371–391. Google Scholar

Trescases, Pierre. Le franglais vingt ans après. Guérin, 1982. Google Scholar

Trice, Harrison. Occupational Subcultures in the Workplace. ILR Press, 1993. Google Scholar

Verbeke, Martin. “Rapping through Time: an Analysis of Non-Standard Language Use in French Rap.” Modern & Contemporary France, vol. 25, no. 3, 2017, pp. 281–298. Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here


Author details

Strong, Samuel