* Fuck The Fucking Acronyms**
** Yes pedants, <whiny voice>it’s an intialism not an acronym</whiny voice>. That’s not how English works. My spell checker doesn’t even recognise the word “initialism” and neither does 99% of the population

TL;DR – Old Man Shouts at Clouds

Ever since I rediscovered gaming and the OSR (which I always assume stands for Old School Rules, except it doesn’t, but I can’t grok*** what it does stand for because it seems folks can’t agree on the R) there has been one aspect of the scene that pisses me off more than anything else: the ubiquity of acronyms. If you read through just about any gaming blog post you will find them scattered liberally throughout. When I discovered this community, everybody was talking about something called LotfP. In the last few days I’ve started stumbling on a new one: PbtA (apparently it’s a game which is quite popular). I keep seeing references to PVP and PBP which sound like they ought to be related but they’re not. 

This is, of course, not a problem unique to our community. When I worked at the BBC I drowned in acronyms, some of them BBC-wide, some broadcasting-related, some specific to the technologies we were using, and some specific to the iPlayer team that I worked on. I reckon it took me 18 months before I knew what they all meant. When I worked at Autodesk they even had an intranet page where you could look up the acronyms used in the company. It was called TAD****. Yes, the solution to the problem of acronyms was apparently to throw in another acronym that you would never know existed until it had been unpacked for you. There exists something similar for the gaming community, although it’s doomed to be incomplete due to the number of niche games and new releases bubbling under the wider community’s consciousness.

I’m also aware that I came to this community through a practice called RPG and a specific game called D&D (then AD&D, only now it’s called 5e). I’m willing to make the odd exception for very popular acronyms that have been around for decades, though even then I’m at pains to say “Dungeons and Dragons” when I’m talking to somebody who is not a gamer. But I also think that the reduction of the ur-game to its constituent initials is a major reason why every game that achieves a certain level of traction within the community needs to be condensed into jargon.

Every time a reader encounters one of these abominations for the first time, they have to somehow figure out what it means. Thank god we have Google, although if you try googling any of our communities acronyms you will was almost certainly find that there are others which share the same letters and are far more common. To discover what it means in a gaming context, you’ll find yourself having to throw in additional search terms such as “RPG” to narrow down the results.

The reason this makes me so angry is that it’s a fucking imposition on your readers. It’s tantamount to saying “my time is important; yours, less so”. To save yourself less than a second you’re forcing them to spend orders of magnitude longer figuring out what the fuck it is you’re talking about. They’ll also have break the flow of whatever they’re reading in order to do so, and the cognitive load of having to do such an apparently simple task can be punishingly high.

The solution to this is quite simple: introduce on first use. Nobody expects you to write out something long and daft like Lamentations of the Flame Princess (or is it Legends of the Flame Princess; or Lots of this Fucking Practice) every time you want to mention it. The first time you do so, write “LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)” and spare your readers a round trip to Google. If it takes you more than a couple of seconds to do that then you probably need to learn to type faster.

It’s a minor gripe and I’m some sub-minor Canute trying to hold back a tide of this shit. But I beg you: have some consideration for the fuckers whom you (presumably) want to read your stuff. Spend that extra couple of seconds. Somebody somewhere will thank you for it. Perhaps many bodies manywhere.

I don’t always agree with Elon Musk (no, an interest in cave diving and saving lives does not make you a paedophile), but I’m totally with him on this:

There is a creeping tendency to use made up acronyms at SpaceX. Excessive use of made up acronyms is a significant impediment to communication… No one can actually remember all these acronyms and people don’t want to seem dumb in a meeting, so they just sit there in ignorance. This is particularly tough on new employees.

That needs to stop immediately or I will take drastic action – I have given enough warning over the years… If there is an existing acronym that cannot reasonably be justified, it should be eliminated, as I have requested in the past.


*** In this post I shall use words which may perhaps not be common parlance. Fucking google it you twat. Without inconsistency I am nothing.
**** The Autodesk Dictionary
***** A little bit too long; didn’t read: just reading the fucking post. It’s a lot easier than reading the first letter of every word.******
****** Also, I’ve edited the post since condensing it to initials. Don’t @ me.



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3 responses to “FTFA*”

  1. Dick McGee Avatar

    I'm guessing GURPS isn't your favorite RPG ever. Don't think even Steve Jackson ever calls it by its full name. 🙂

  2. dansumption Avatar

    Haha! TBH (oops, there I go) I have never played or read it, though I think it was already around when I was playing back in the 80s.

    I was exaggerating slightly for effect, and am OK (what does OK even stand for?) with some acronyms. What prompted this post was a game – something to do with The Apocalypse? – that I keep seeing initialised, and have to google every single time. Seems from posts mentioning it that it's a very popular game, but it hadn't crossed my radar before.

  3. Dick McGee Avatar

    Oh, Powered By the Apocalypse. It gets saddled with PBTA because it's too damn long, and for some arcane reason just calling it the Apocalypse game engine never caught on. Can't stand it personally, but it sure seems to be popular with some folks – all of whom seem to think everyone in the universe knows what PBTA is on some fundamental level, as though that knowledge were encoded in all terrestrial DNA or perhaps part of the quantum structure of the universe. 🙂

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