3

I decided to try to read a videogame guide/walkthrough in German and noticed that the custom seems to be to use the informal second person plural imperative. For example not Betreten Sie sodann den Teleporter or even Betritt sodann den Teleporter but Betretet sodann den Teleporter. This seems odd to me, as though a group of people were going to follow the guide and not an individual. So

  1. Is there a reason for using the plural? I can understand using informal since game guides are usually written as if addressed to a friend and are rather informal in general.
  2. Are there other circumstances where a set of instructions or a guide would use the informal second person plural imperative? I half expected to see the impersonal imperative (Sodann den Teleporter betreten)
  3. Would that be inappropriate for this type of thing?
8

It does not seem unusual to me that a video game walkthrough on the internet is written in informal second person plural imperative. Going for singular would be fine, too. The difference is whether the writer thinks of a prototypical reader, or his readership in total. For some people (including myself) using singular can feel overly personal here.

Using the formal mode of address is very uncommon in the videogame "culture". In my experience, for example German players in MMORPGs will address even strangers with "du", not with "Sie".

The impersonal imperative makes me think immediately of the Bundeswehr (the German army), even without ever having served. I would only expect it in an "immersive" guide for a game where the player character is in some very hierarchical organization (like an army).

2
  • I can see where the impersonal imperative would have an "institutional" connotation, something you might see in a post-office or in the army. Off-topic, but I wonder how other languages deal with this. English only has the single, boring "you", so the issue doesn't really come up.
    – RDBury
    Aug 5 '21 at 0:04
  • 1
    @RDBury True, an English speaker does not have to decide between singular and plural, nor stranger or acquaintance. That's really easy. Other languages may force the speaker to make even more distinctions: Gender, whether they belong to the mother's or the father's clan, whether the addressee is younger or older etc. Aug 5 '21 at 5:45
3

It is somewhat odd, but some Google searching (triggered by David Vogt's comments) shows that it is used a lot nowadays. Most game guides I knew in the past used the informal second person ("Betrete sodann den Teleporter" or, in a narrative tone: "Dann betrittst du den Teleporter."). I have also often seen "Wir betreten den Teleporter", and sometimes "Dann betritt man den Teleporter" (which is very impersonal) or a third-person perspective ("Dann betritt Picard den Teleporter").

The authors seem to be addressing a virtual community of readers or players of the game here, and they often make a distiction between the player (whom they are addressing) and the in game character, while the older style often tried to stay in the game world and not "break the 4th wall".

New style:

"In der Regel nutzt ihr ein Medi-Kit nur, wenn Joel kurz vorm Abkratzen ist und sich noch im Kampf befindet oder bald befinden wird."

Older style:

"Nachdem unser kleines Gespräch mit dem Ausguck beendet ist, gehen wir die Klippen hinunter. Über den Steg gelangen wir zur Scumm Bar."

As a forum moderator in a classic internet forum, I have been using 2nd person plural before when addressing "the community", even though everyone is alone in front of their computer:

Wir haben für Euch ein neues Forum 'Isländische Teekultur' eingerichtet. Bitte haltet Euch an die Forenregeln.

Using this also in game walkthroughs is less personal than using singular "du". "Sie" is not used at all when writing about gaming. And I can see the problen with "wir", because it also sounds a bit assuming and mixes the two time levels of the author playing the game and the readers playing the game.

6
  • Googled a game at random, example sentence from first match: Schon bald trefft ihr auf das erste Monster - eine kranke Riesenratte. Beachtet die Hinweise unter der Rubrik Kampf, um die Ratte ohne größeren Energieverlust zur Strecke zu bringen.
    – David Vogt
    Aug 4 '21 at 20:34
  • @David Vogt: yes, and that article begins in exactly the sprit that I talked about, talking to the community: "Wir erklären euch in unserer Komplettlösung, wie ihr alle Quests des ersten Kapitels von Elex beendet." The author just continues that tone into the actual solution in that case.
    – HalvarF
    Aug 4 '21 at 20:56
  • 1
    I'm just objecting to the characterisation of this being odd. Some further examples: Nehmt den Kerl mit X/A in Gewahrsam, sobald er euch seine Hände entgegenstreckt.Geht durch die Tür, wo ihr Zeugen des Kampfes werdet, in welchem auch eure Eltern erschlagen werden.Steht auf, geht um die Bar herum und lauft rechts die Treppen hinauf, um oben mit besagtem Gangster Kirk zu sprechen.
    – David Vogt
    Aug 4 '21 at 21:08
  • 2
    It might be helpful to note that it is commonly used because the author is not addressing the single person playing the game, but instead the broad community of the website he is posting on. If it was published as a book I could understand seeing it as "odd" though.
    – Trae
    Aug 5 '21 at 6:15
  • 2
    Ok, I did some Google searching, and while I still find it odd, I agree it does seem to be quite prevalent today. My gaming days are in the past and I didn't know this. I will edit.
    – HalvarF
    Aug 5 '21 at 7:42
0

As additional information for the second point of the question, German has various forms of conditionals that can be used instead of imperatives. These can be "Konjunkiv" variants of verbs, as shown by conjugation/declension tables, e.g. Konjunktiv I Futur:

"Würdest du/Würdet ihr den Transporter betreten, ..."

or Konjunktiv II (rare in everyday lanaguage, but fancy):

"Beträtest du/Beträtet ihr den Transporter, ..."

"Hättest du/hättet ihr den Transporter betreten, ..."

or through sentence forming like

"Wenn/Falls du/ihr den Transporter betrittst/betretet, ..."

followed by Konjunktiv depending on circumstance.

"Wer den Transporter betritt/beträte/betreten würde, der trifft/träfe/würde treffen ..."

Various forms of Konjunktiv I/II in present, past or future tense are usable. They may be rare in informal language, but they are perfectly possible and a somewhat fancy use of language keeps the reader's mind focussed. Skillful use of these forms, together with genitive forms of nouns for instance, can also paint a retro style to a monster game walkthrough.

2
  • I can imagine a similar construction in English: "If you step into the teleporter you will be taken to the next area." Both English and German have a host of ways to tell someone to do something without using the grammatical imperative. My understanding is, just as in English, the bare imperative can be rather rude in many circumstances. I assume it's acceptable in a guide/recipe/instructions because the alternatives would be rather wordy.
    – RDBury
    Aug 5 '21 at 19:28
  • Yes, it is also monotonous to build a walkthrough only on basic grammar. Some grammatical variety doesn't harm :-)
    – user41853
    Aug 5 '21 at 20:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.