N3rd Sp33k: Newbie vs Noob

When you play a lot of video games (as I do), you come across all sorts of slang and shorthand. Things like “pwn,” “l33t,” and “w00t.” And that’s to say nothing of the liberal use of slurs and epithets that haunts certain communities. *cough*Xbox Live*cough* Using these improperly can be an awkward, since even though gamers and nerds fancy themselves outsiders from mainstream culture, they can be depressingly intolerant of outsiders themselves. This is compounded by the fact that a lot of this slang can have different meanings to different people. So today, I’d like to talk about two very similar terms that, in my mind, have two very different connotations: “newbie” and “noob.”

Both terms can be used to refer to a new, inexperienced player. We’ve all been there: bullets are flying, the body count’s rising, and you barely take your first tentative steps away from the spawn point before watching brightly colored giblets that were formerly attached to your body go flying. It can be discouraging, but like I said, we’ve all been there. And not just in gaming: think of the first few times you tried a new skill and felt completely and utterly hopeless and out of place.

For me, a newbie is someone who lacks experience. There’s no judgment inherent in the term; it just describes someone who has just started out. They don’t know much and/or aren’t very good, but that’s through no fault of their own. Newbies are to be encouraged, since they are often ready and willing to learn, eager to improve. They may have an idea of how little they know, and while their questions may seem simple or obvious to you, they are asked earnestly and honestly.

Noobs (also seen as “n00bs,” “newbs,” or other, saltier variations), on the other hand, are not so kind-hearted. These are people who revel in their ignorance, seeming to wear it as a badge of (dis)honor. They may be brand new, but they’re already convinced they know everything. These are the people that heed no advice; attempts to help, no matter how well-intentioned, are deflected by the cosmic force of their ego shield. They may completely ignore objectives, rushing straight towards some piece of equipment (weapon, vehicle, etc.) that they think is “ZOMG SOOO KEWL” but can barely use, let alone be effective with.

In other words, newbies are just new, probably ignorant. Noobs are just stupid, and stupid is really hard to cure. The latter one has a derogatory connotation in my vocabulary, while the former reflects an uncomfortable place we all started from. Telling the difference can be challenging, but as you go you’ll probably be able to tell. What if you’re a newbie? Don’t worry: ask you questions in an intelligent manner, show some respect, and the favor should be returned. And what if you’re a noob? Well, I don’t want to just say “STFU & RTFM,” but try checking your ego and get comfortable with how much you don’t know.

If not, there’s always mutes and bans.

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