In this paper the authors explore the use and adaptation of a language specifically developed for, and by, a community of young people who play computer games. Leet speak or 1337 5p34k, the language used by the participants in this study, incorporates symbols and numbers as substitutes for the letters contained in words. Described by the group as an ‘elite’ language or ‘leet speak’, the authors’ interest was captured by the derisive and ironic use of the language in an online forum for a tertiary first year unit of study. Rather than merely defining its participants within an elite cultural boundary, ‘leet speak’ is utilised ironically to unearth ‘wannabees’ (those seeking entrance and acceptance into the game world, generally 12 –16 year olds). Of particular fascination to the authors was that despite the clear self- demarcation of the group from the users of ‘leet speak’, and their insistence on its use solely by ‘newbs and wannabees’, the group continued to use the language to communicate with each other online. In this research, language defines the cultural group of games technology students in terms of the group’s continual subversion of the language’s very foundations whilst still using it to communicate. Perhaps most interesting was the group’s nonchalant admission that they perceived this to be the function of all languages ‘all languages are created purely for communication so dont [sic] have a cry about ppl been [sic] lazy’.
Australian Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society 2005