Sunday, November 4, 2007

Ruminations upon a Pause

"Game Paused."

A gamer on his lunch break. Writing a paper. Be back later. Out.

Or as AIM put it, "away from my computer."

Pausing has connotations, and I'm not entirely sure what they mean. I'm a bit afraid they are gamer-ish. Not only gamer-ish, but evocative of '90s single player games. Like the guy who can't tear himself away for long enough to save and return later.

But I mean, what else should we say? "Time-out?" No. Teams call time-outs. The people who run the game don't call time out.

"Game Paused."

The verbiage here is, of necessity, imprecise and awkward. We're not sure what we're doing, but we're pretty sure it's something new. We're not an online game. It may say so on our home page right now, but the last month has shown us that our identity lies closer to a pickup game of coed football than World of Warcraft.

Okay, fair.

But what else do we say, then?

Game postponed? Too ominous. Baseball is postponed due to rain. They often don't reschedule the match.

Game on hold? What does this mean, exactly? It jumps out there, grabs you, and says "We don't know what we're doing with this thing." Too indecisive.

Game Break? "Now let's go to Chris Berman in the studio for an update on RPI!"

Game respite? Okay, now I'm just using

Now, let's get nerdy. The capitalization is critical here. "Game paused." means something totally different from "Game Paused." "Game paused." implies that we (the admins) took decisive action to pause the game, i.e., it is read as "[The] Game [was] paused [by us]." "Game Paused," on the other hand, is somewhat of a cultural meme developed within gaming circles and spread throughout society during the mid to late 90s. It's not a blatant example of such, but it does resonate as a state rather than a description of an action. That is, it is read instead as "[The] Game [is] Paused." rather than the more active "Game paused."

The implication is critical here. While "Game Paused." achieves the immediate communication objective better than "Game paused.", it nonetheless associates us with a specific gamer mindset and culture.

Note: To answer the inevitable cries that we spend more time thinking about this crap than actually fixing things, I assure you that many people with far more software development skills than me are extremely busy right now.