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What Is An MMO?
For those who might be a little unfamiliar with the world of MMOs, here's a quick primer. MMO, the usual shortening of MMOG, stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Game. Typically, hundreds or even thousands of players are all involved at once, online and connected to the same complex, interactive world.
MMOs cover a wide variety of genres, from fantasy to racing to sci fi first persons shooters, and a wide variety of playing styles, from soloists to those who prefer community efforts. There's an MMO out there for anyone.
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Learning French Through Gameplay
The mechanics of a language are often what scare people away from it—those repetitive grammar exercises, dusty old textbooks, the like. While playing MMOs might not teach the nitty gritty of the language, they certainly provide a different approach.
One of the first big hurdles you'll have playing a French MMO is navigating even simple menus and commands. The influx of new vocabulary may prove frustrating at first, but once you get hold of it, you'll be treating it as everyday—which is halfway to learning a language.
Of course, it's not just learning a few new words. MMOs are massively multiplayer, meaning that there are a lot of other players... and if you're playing in French, chances are that if you need to interact, you'll need to learn a few words. This functions as a sort of virtual immersion, safe at your desktop at home, yet still working in an immersive environment with the conversational, slangy, idiomatic side of the language. Granted, French gamerspeak may not be the same sort of thing you'll hear at La Sorbonne, but culture is culture and language is language—this is just another facet of it all.
Online dictionaries are a must, especially for the rapid-fire world of MMOs, for both translating all these bewildering French phrases being thrown at you and replying in kind. I would personally recommend the French portion of WordReference.com.
While it might be a little frustrating at first, it's well worth it. The influx of new vocabulary is far different from what you'd be getting out of a classroom environment. Playing a fun game also proves to be a fun and rewarding change of pace for either working on language skills or even just keeping up with old ones.
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The French aren't particularly well known for their MMOs, unfortunately. However, you've still got some options.
One of the better and more authentically “French" MMOs is called La Brute. It's a Colosseum-style game with a sort of Naruto visual style, which, while a turnoff for some people, delights others. It also has English and Spanish support for those who find the French a bit overwhelming.
Another, somewhat more immersive MMO is known as Hordes. Where there is some - some - English support, the game is entirely in French, from homepage to gameplay--which, by the way, involves hordes of zombies and you as yet another citoyen trying to retain some semblance of civilization alive.
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...And MMOs Made French
Because the selection of originally French MMOs isn't huge, it might be a better alternative to simply switch the language to French, if available. Most MMOs are available in multiple languages, so check to see if your current MMO(s) can be switched into French already.
MuOnline is a great example of this. This fantasy MMO has a separate home page for French users, with all the features of the usual English site, from tutorials to download guides.
Rappelz is another free MMO that offers French support—and a French community—with which you can work with the language a bit. The atmosphere is a survivalistic, deeply political dark fantasy, providing for a very satisfying gameplay.
Be warned, however, that while the menus and commands might all be in French, you're likely to end up interacting with other players in English, the more-or-less standard language of MMOs.
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MMO Forums & Beyond
There's not just the game itself, either. Many MMOs also have a corresponding forum, where users will discuss MMO strategies—or anything else that might come to their fancy—within their community. This is a great chance to interact with other users. Oftentimes, users will group by their language, especially when they are playing a game that is not in their native language. For this particular example, French users will often play the “MMOs Made French" as previously discussed, but still find their own set of forums elsewhere to speak in their native language.