Some readers (and apparently I have readers now, but thats for another post) may be familiar with Ran Lahav’s discussions of adjectives. Very briefly, Lahav has a lot to say about the fact that the criteria for being a red N vary wildly depending on what N is, and it is impossible to specify a rule that will tell you what the criteria will be. So for example, red apples are red on the outside, red crystals are red all the way through, watermelon is red because its red on the inside, red pens are those with red ink, and so on. Similarly for other adjectives.
Now, about the orc. One of my recreational pleasures is playing MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games). Now, in some of these virtual worlds one can find orcs. Literally of course one finds pixels and programing code, but in a large scale application of Kendall Walton’s ideas about makebelieve, we say we find orcs. And orcs, unsurprisingly, come in the greened skin variety. Interestingly, this is usually not what I mean when I tell a fellow player that the orc is green.
One more mmog fact. In the killing and slashing varieties of mmogs, the creatures (mobs) are catergorized into groups depending on how difficult it will be for your character to cold bloodedly murder them with your vorpal sword of showiness. Frequently this categorization is represented to the player by colour coding — the creature is surrounded by a coloured circle, or described by text in a certain colour, etc. Of course this classification is relative to my character — as she gets meaner and nastier, mobs will change colour. The slang for this is that the mob cons red (or blue or green …) — con being short for consider, which is the command by which you get this information in Everquest, one of the biggest mmogs.
In most games, creatures that are so easy for your character to kill that she will not advance her skills by killing him are assigned the colour green.
“That orc is green!” means that the orc is in this category for my character. In general, in the context of mmogs, a red N is a N who cons red, regardless of what the usual criteria for being a red N are. To say that an orc has green skin or a dragon red scales, I have to do exactly that.
Its interesting (well, perhaps only to me) how quickly and smoothly new players adapt to this system. On anecdotal evidence alone, it seems that as soon as the con system is explained to them, they immediately shift to the mmog criteria for colour attributions. It rather supports Lahav’s assertion that if we found ourselves in a world in which rats changed colour, and did so at different speeds depending on the rat, we would immediately know what a gradual rat was.
There is no point to this post really. I guess I should have warned you about that upfront.