Video game glossary

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This is a glossary of video game terminology.

0-9

1CC

See 1-credit completion.

1-credit completion

Describes completing a game on a single credit with the usual compliment of starting lives, which is usually quite difficult, instead of using multiple continues, which anyone can do. Mostly refers to games of arcade origin. Also referred to as one-coin clear.

1-bit color

See monochrome.

1-on-1

Playing a game with one human player against one other human player. This match up may be varied in any manner: 2-on-2, 3-on-3, 1-on-2, etc. See also "versus."

1-up

An Engrish form of the term, extra life.

1V1

See "1-on-1."

2-bit color

Refers to displays which can display up to 4 unique colors at a time.

2D

Refers to something existing in two spacial dimensions, typically graphics, but may also describe a game world. 2D graphics may either be renders as a vector or bitmap. Also written as "2-D."

2.5D

Refers to something existing in two spacial dimensions, but appearing as though it's in three dimensions. Often applied to games which use early 3D engines which didn't have full 3D capabilities as well games which use an isometric view, or a game with a first-person perspective that is rendered with 2D bitmaps. In more recent years, the term is used for 3D games which use mock-2D visuals and mechanics.

3½-inch diskette

A three-and-a-half-inch-wide diskette with a hard plastic shell. Primarily used on home computers around the 1980s to 2000s. Replaced by the CD-ROM.

3D

Refers to something existing in three spacial dimensions, typically graphics composed of vectors, but may also describe a game world. Also written as "3-D."

4-bit color

Refers to displays which can display up to 16 unique colors at a time.

4K

Refers to a display resolution of 4096 × 2160 pixels.

5¼-inch diskette

A five and a quarter-inch-wide floppy diskette. Primarily used on home computers around the 1970s to 1980s. Replaced by the 3½-inch diskette.

8-bit

A term used to describe hardware that uses an 8-bit CPU or bus, or games designed to simulate the style of games released on such hardware.

8-bit audio

A non-specific term which typically refers to any audio played on an 8-bit device, the majority of which used programmable sound generator which have very distinct timbres.

8-bit color

Refers to displays which can display up to 4 unique colors at a time, typically chosen from a palette of many more possible colors.

8-inch diskette

An eight-inch-wide floppy diskette. Primarily used on computers around the 1950s to 1970s. Replaced by the 5¼-inch diskette.

15-bit color

Refers to displays which can display up to 32,768 unique colors at a time.

16-bit

A term used to describe hardware that uses a 16-bit CPU or bus, or games designed to emulate the style of games released on such hardware.

16-bit audio

A non-specific term which typically refers to any audio played on an 16-bit device, the majority of which used FM synthesis which have distinct timbres.

16-bit color

Refers to displays which can display up to 65,536 unique colors at a time.

24-bit color

Refers to displays which can display up to 16,777,216 unique colors at a time.

32-bit

A term used to describe hardware that uses a 32-bit CPU or bus, or games designed to emulate the style of games released on such hardware.

32-bit color

Refers to displays which can display up to 16,777,216 unique colors at a time as well as an 8-bit alpha channel.

64-bit

A term used to describe hardware that uses a 64-bit CPU or bus, or games designed to emulate the style of games released on such hardware.

100%

Describes completing everything possible related to an aspect of a game, or an entire game. See also "completionist."

255

A number common in 8-bit video games due to technical limitations of the hardware.

720

Refers to a display resolution of 1280 × 720 pixels. Often described as 720p, for progressive display, or 720i, for interlaced display. At the time, it was also called "high definition" or "HD," though few would describe it as such now.

1080

Refers to a display resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels, also called "full HD." Often described as 1080p, for progressive display, or 1080i, for interlaced display.

A

AAA

Refers to a high-budget development studio or games developed by them. Vocalized as "triple A."

abandonware

Video games or software which are still protected under copyright, but are no longer sold by the copyright holder. Gamers typically don't have an ethical problem pirating abandonware since, as they claim, the copyright holders won't lose money since they aren't trying to sell the title anyway. "Abandonware" is not a legal term, and still constitutes as breaking the law.

AC adapter

A power adapter typically used to plug in otherwise battery powered devices. Prior to long-life rechargeable batteries, AC adapters were sold for most portable video game platforms.

achievement

An award for the completion of a special task within a game, or the process of getting said award. Also known as a badge, trophy, medal, etc.

action

A genre of video game which requires quick reflexes in order to succeed.

Actiplaque

The breakdown of the label, especially on second-generation Activision cartridges.

activation code

A copy protection system where the owner of a game uses an activation code to prove ownership of a game.

active puzzle

A puzzle which requires the player to actively interact with it usually due to it changing dynamically or a short time limit. Contrasted with a passive puzzle.

add-on

See "expansion."

adult

A category of video game designed for adults which has erotic or pornographic content.

adventure

A genre of video game in which the player leads a character on an adventure. Often subdivided into text adventures and graphic adventures.

aggro

Short for aggravation. An amount of hostile attention from an enemy or other player. AI-controlled enemies are typically programmed to attack the player who cause them the most aggro.

agile development model

A game development model where less emphasis is placed on planning out exactly what the game will be like. Instead, developers frequently design and play test demos in an attempt to find what works and use feedback from the testers to guide the game's progress. Developers usually prefer this method because it makes it much easier to change game play elements that don't appear to be working, but publishers rarely like this model because it's much more difficult to figure out where in a game's development cycle in order to plan for advertising and distribution. The agile development model is contrasted with the waterfall development model.

AI

See "artificial intelligence."

AI vs. AI

When an AI faces off against another AI. Some games allow this as a feature, particularly sports games which allow you to serve as "coach" for the AI. Other games use this as the basis of their game play and expect players to program their own AIs to battle each other.

all levels

Describes beating a game including all of the optional levels. A more complete run than a no warps run.

all-rounder

A character type with evenly distributed attributes. Doesn't excel in any category, but isn't a detriment in any either.

alpha (development)

A stage in game development where the game is being produced, but enough of it has been completed that it can be played to ensure it's fun and balanced.

alpha (graphics)

See "transparency."

analog stick

A small analog joystick controller, usually part of a gamepad.

Android

Refers to the operating system created by Google, the software which runs on it, and the devices which use it.

anti-aliasing

Any process which reduces the distortion known as aliasing. In video games, this typically refers to graphics and describes a smoothing process which eliminates sharp edges or Moiré patterns that occur when textures are scaled.

any percent

Describes beating a game by completing what is necessary to see the ending sequence. Usually written, "any%."

Apple

Relating to the company or any of the hardware or software they've sold. Depending on the context, this could refer to one of their computers, like the Apple II or Macintosh, the OS used by those computers, or devices like the iPhone, iPod, iPad, etc.

APU

Short for audio processing unit, a special section of a circuit board dedicated to processing music, sound effects, and speech.

arcade

A place of amusement which houses arcade cabinets or electro-mechanical games.

arcade cabinet

A video game machine in a dedicated cabinet.

artificial intelligence

An entity in the game that is controlled by a program instead of a human player or the process of doing so.

artillery

A genre of video game where players lob projectiles at each other's character.

artist

A game developer who creates the visual aspects of a game. This may include textures, character art, models, animation, and the like.

aspect ratio

The ratio of vertical to horizontal resolution of a video display. When graphics are displayed on an aspect ratio different from what they were designed for, the result is a stretched or squished image.

asset

A video game development term to refer to a single aspect of the game. For example, a background graphic, animation, sound effect, etc.

Atari

Refers to the American video game company, and the many video games and video game consoles they sold, especially the Atari 2600.

auto aim

In a shooting game, when the game automatically aims at a nearby target thereby helping the player score hits. Some games include a limited form of this as a feature, especially when transitioning from a mouse to an analog joystick, but this is also a common form of a cheat.

auto run

A feature in a game which keeps the player in run mode rather than walk mode to expedite travel, or one where the player sets a point of destination and the game automatically moves the player to the location while frequently updating the pathfinding.

attract mode

A special mode in a game used to entice people into playing the game. Attract modes were created for arcade games as a way to attract potential players by showing demos of game play, often focusing on the more technologically advanced aspects of the game. Attract modes also usually showed the game's title screen, high score list, and some backstory, while also serving as a screen saver. Although console games don't really need an attract mode, many game designers included them to make the game feel more like an arcade release. The home line of Atari 8-bit platforms would include an attract mode which cycled colors in order to prevent burn-in.

auto scrolling

When the map scrolls on its own outside of the player's control.

automatic transmission

In games which feature driving, a transmission that automatically shifts gears for the player, as opposed to a manual transmission.

autosave

When the game automatically saves your progress without you needing to do so. Designers usually have the game autosave before a significant event.

avatar

A representation of the player inside the game. Similar to a character, but an avatar is typically meant to refer to the player herself, not a different character.

B

back-of-the-box

Often abbreviated to BOB or BOTB. Refers to what is printed on the back of a boxed game. Without any other knowledge of the game, potential buyers used what was printed on the back of the box to gauge the quality of the game, and, as such, box designers used them for advertising. The text often over-sold the game, and the impressive screenshots were often from better ports or cut scenes, not the typical game play.

backup

A copy of video game media (diskette, CD-ROM, etc.) or the process of making a copy, to ensure the original is kept safe. Some nations allow for the owner of any software to make and use a single backup provided it is not shared with anyone else. Also refers to backing up files generated by a game (save states, configuration files, etc.)

bad ending

A ending sequence of a game which doesn't present a positive outcome, as opposed to a good ending.

ball and paddle

A genre of video game where the player controls a paddle which must hit a ball.

ban

To prevent a player from taking part in a game or online community. Bans are typically implemented when a player brakes the rules. Ban may be temporary or permanent. A permanent ban can be referred to as a "permaban."

beat 'em up

A genre of video game where the player controls a character who beats up other characters. Also called a "brawler" or, when the characters wield weapons, a "hack-and-slash."

beginner trap

Something that results in a bad outcome with no way to know it's bad until you fall for it. As the name suggests, it's a trap for beginners; only after being burned by it, the player will know to avoid it. An example of "fake difficulty."

beta

A stage in game development where all the principle work is done, but it still needs to be tested for bugs and balance issues. Promotional advertising ramps up at this point.

best testing

See quality assurance.

bezel

On an arcade cabinet, it's the area around the display. Bezels are typically decorated with art befitting the game.

bird's eye view

See top-down.

bit

Short for binary digit. The smallest amount of information a computer can process. Typically viewed as 1 or 0, on or off, true or false, yes or no.

BITBLT

Short for bit block transfer. Describes quickly moving data in memory from one location to another, and is typically used to move bitmapped graphics from a buffer to the screen or another buffer. Masking usually takes place at this time.

bitmap

A mapping of information to bits. In video games, this is typically the mapping of pixels to bits in order to store graphics.

black and white

See monochrome.

blast processing

A marketing gimmick used by Sega's American advertising agency which doesn't refer to any hardware that was ever actually used in games. The term later became synonymous with useless marketing jargon designed to make something sound impressive when it isn't.

block pushing

Games which require the player to move around blocks, usually as part of a puzzle.

Blu-ray

An optical disc capable of storing data which can be read from it with a laser. It was used as the primary video game media of home computers from the 2010s to 2020s as well as several video game consoles.

Bluetooth

A wireless technology used since the 2000s by a lot of video game platforms.

bonus

An additional positive result typically awarded when the player does something beyond what was expected.

bonus stage

A stage separate from normal game play where the player play a minigame where they can gain extra points or lives and is typically safe from dying.

boot (players)

To remove a player from a game, typically because they are being disruptive, a troll, or their ping is so high, it's causing lag. If a booted player returns without correcting their problems, they may be banned.

boot (process)

The process of starting a device. The boot process can be divided into a cold boot or warm boot. A cold boot occurs when the device first receives power and must begin fresh. A warm boot refers to having a device which already has power to perform most of the same processes, but often skips some of them.

boss

A particularly difficult enemy who guards the end of a stage or a section in a game.

boss rush

Having to re-fight some or all of the previous bosses from earlier in the game, often in a single long combat.

boss tease

When the player is tricked into thinking they have defeated the boss, only to have it replaced with something much worse.

box art

The graphic art seen on the exterior of a box. Since video game distribution has largely become digital, box art has been replaced by title cards.

brawler (character)

A type of character in a game that relies heavily on hand-to-hand combat.

brawler (genre)

See beat 'em up.

big box

Describes early video game boxes which were frequently much larger than those from the 2000s when computer game companies began shipping them in smaller boxes similar to the size of console games. The larger boxes were often mostly empty space, but occasionally necessary to fit larger manuals, maps, posters, and trinkets.

buff

Something which increases the power of a character. An example would be a potion of strength which temporarily increases a character's strength.

buffer overflow

When data is written to an area of memory that cannot hold it resulting in a bug.

bug

A coding oversight the results in behavior undesired by the developers. Also called an error or glitch.

bullet hell

A sub-genre of shooter where the player is expected to avoid a large number of enemy projectiles.

burn-in

The process in which a television or monitor is damaged by showing the same high-intensity display for a prolonged period of time. The term "burn-in" is used because the image will still be seen even after it's no longer displayed, as though it has been burned into the screen. Burn-in was common on older CRTs, RPTV, as well as plasma and OLED displays, but not as common in LCD displays. Early video games, like those developed for the Atari, had special modes to cycle through colors in order to prevent burn-in.

byte

A unit of information which is made up of several bits. In the early days of computing, bytes were made up from various numbers of bit, but most manufacturers have settled on eight (also known as an octet). When in a byte, bits are usually not meant to be interpreted as individual pieces of information, but combined to form a value from 0-255. What this value is dependent on how it is meant to be interpreted.

C

calibration

A process used to ensure the accuracy of control devices by comparing the current value to a know standard. Primary used for analog joysticks and touch pads.

camera screw

When a poorly programmed camera causes the player to mess up. Especially common in early 3D games, and a form of "fake difficulty."

campaign mode

See "story mode."

camping

Remaining at a certain area in a game. In versus mode, camping is typically done to protect an area from attackers, rack up a high number of frags by having a clear view of a high traffic area (especially a spawn point), or waiting until other players injure each other and then finishing them off. Camping is often looked down upon and some games punish campers by revealing their location to all other players. When not in versus mode, camping is usually referred to as "grinding" or "farming."

canon

Aspects of a game that are part of the official story, as opposed to non-canon.

capture the flag

A form of multiplayer where teams try to capture an object, often a flag, that is located in the opposing team's base and bring it to their own base. Based on the traditional game. Often abbreviated to CTF.

carry

Players who do more work on a team than others are said to "carry" the less useful members. Players who are being carried are looked down upon by those who are carrying them, and may be booted from the team. See also "twinking."

cartridge

See "ROM cartridge."

cartridge port

A connector where a ROM cartridge can be plugged in. Common on 8 and 16-bit video game platforms.

cartridge tilting

Deliberately interfering with the connections of a ROM cartridge, often by tilting one side so the contacts aren't fully connected, in order to cause glitches in the game. Tilting the cartridge too much will cause the game to crash or the console to reboot, but just enough will corrupt small portions of the game in a way similar to a corrupter. Cartridge tilting is done to add a twist to existing game play.

case

An protective covering or carrying device for a, usually portable, game console. Cases are usually made out of plastic, rubber, or silicone.

cassette

See cassette tape.

cassette tape

A double-sided magnetic tape housed in a plastic shell with two reels. Data can be stored on it or read from it with a tape recorder. It was a popular media for storing video games, especially in the Japanese and European markets during the 1980s. It was made obsolete by the 3.5" floppy disk.

casual game

A genre of video game that can be easily picked up and played at a leisurely pace without much commitment. The game play usually has very shallow learning curve and limited controls or possible actions. Casual games typically auto-save the player's progress and can be ended at any time without negative consequences and are usually designed for portable gaming platforms or web browsers so they can be played at any time.

Cat 5

Short for Category 5, a type of twisted pair cable used for networking video game platforms together through Ethernet. Usually uses RJ45 connectors.

cathode-ray tube

The older "tube" style of television or monitor which uses an electron emitter to excite phosphors painted on the back side of the tube. Most games developed in the first six video game generations were designed under the assumption the player would be using a CRT.

CD-ROM

An optical disc capable of storing data which can be read from it with a laser. The data is formatted according to the Yellow Book standard. It was used as the primary video game media of home computers from the 1990s to 2000s as well as several video game consoles. Replaced by the DVD-ROM.

CERO

Short for Computer Entertainment Rating Organization, a video game content rating system used by Japan for video game consoles.

CGA

Short for Color Graphics Adapter, a display technology developed by IBM to give color display to IBM Personal Computers.

challenge mode

A common game style where the player is expected to play the existing game but with additional challenges like less time, fewer items, strong opponents, and the like. Often synonymous with "hard mode."

channel selector

For platforms that connect to a television through RF output, a switch which lets the user decide which channel on their television the video game signal would be sent to. Common channels for NTSC platforms were 2, 3, and 4. This is sometimes labeled "high and low," and sometimes and analog dial instead of a switch.

chaotic cooperation

In cooperative games, this refers to players who are trying to achieve the same goal, but haven't developed or practiced strategies together, so they aren't as effective at it. This is contrasted with "symphonic cooperation."

character

A representation of a character inside a game. Similar to an avatar, but a character is meant to represent someone other than the player. If the player can control the character, it is a "playable character," otherwise it is a "non-playable character."

character creation

The process of creating a new character and deciding its attributes. This typically includes the character's appearance, but might also include other attributes like race, class, stats, skills, etc. This is common in character-centric genres like role-playing games.

charged shot

In shooters, a weapon that allows the player to charge up their weapon in order to shoot a projectile that is more powerful than normal.

charisma

An attribute for a character or unit which typically affects how well they interact with other characters or units.

cheat

The process of exploiting a game by subverting its rules. Also, a piece of software or hardware that allows a player to cheat, or a person who cheats.

cheating artificial intelligence

When the AI-controlled opponent doesn't have to abide by the same rules as the player.

checkpoint (navigation)

A location on a map that a player is expected to reach, typically as part of a mission.

checkpoint (racing)

The next location the player must reach before time runs out.

cheesing

Repeatedly using a tactic in a game, especially one which doesn't require much skill or is overpowered, especially in fighting games. For example, repeatedly using Ryu's hadoken in Street Fighter II: The World Warrior. Cheesing is not the same as cheating, as it falls within the allowed rules of the game, but it is still generally frowned upon because it's annoying to the player on the receiving end and it doesn't result in interesting game play. However, cheesing remained commonplace in any game where it's effective, which is an indication that a game isn't properly balanced.

chiclet keyboard

A keyboard which uses a single flexible sheet over a membrane keyboard to give the keys some tactile feedback. Typically associated with lower quality computers in the 1980s. The name is derived from the fact that the keys look similar to Chiclet brand chewing gum.

cinematic

See "cut scene."

class

A specific type or category of character which has attributes or abilities befitting it. There are classes common to specific settings, for example knights and wizards in fantasy settings, medics and soldiers in military settings, etc. Classes are typically used in role-playing games, but also show up in various other character-centric genres.

client

Computer platforms that connect to a server.

clip

The prevention of an entity from going through something which is solid. Also bypassing the process.

code wheel

A wheel-shaped device similar to a decoder ring and used as copy protection. They were typically printed on paper or cardboard and contained many different codes. Most of the codes would be obscured by the wheel, and only a handful would be visible through cut out windows. To operate them, a game would tell the player to turn the wheel to a specific position, then read the code visible in a particular window. These shapes were chosen because they required more effort to duplicate than other methods.

coin door

A locking door at the front of an arcade machine which gives access to the coins. Often the same as the service door which houses the coin slots and coin return chutes.

collision

When two entities in a video game collide, that it, occupy an overlapping area in game space.

collision box

The area around a video game object which is capable of colliding with something else. Collision boxes often do not match the shape of the shape of the entity they are applied to. In early video games this was almost always a box due to hardware restrictions, but later games employed circles, complex polygons, and, in the move to 3D, 3D polygons.

collision detection

The process by determining when two game entities collide. Many different methods have been devised over time, each with different benefits and shortcomings. Poorly designed collision detection causes game entities to exhibit undesired behavior like walking through or getting stuck in solid objects, falling through the floor, taking hits when they aren't visually near another entity, etc.

color cycling

Shifting the colors in a palette. Early 8 and 16-bit games often used color cycling to create the illusion of animation without having to draw different graphics.

combo

Short for combination, a set of actions in a series. Common in fighting and rhythm genres.

comedy

A genre of video game which incorporates humor, satire, jokes, and various other comedic elements.

Commodore

Anything related to the Commodore company or the hardware they produced. In the early 1980s, Commodore was one of the primary developers of the home computer. Their Commodore 64 remains the best-selling single computer model in the USA.

completionist

A gamer who tries to complete every aspect of a game 100%. For example, unlocking all hidden content, getting every achievement, seeing every ending, etc.

component video

An analog signal format which separates the video signal into three channels which results in a clearer picture than composite. It usually uses cables with RCA connectors. Many 16 and 32-bit video game platforms used this for video output. Although the plugs are colored red, green, and blue, only a digital signal uses RGB, an analog signal uses YCbCr, but still has RGB plugs.

composite video

An older analog signal format for NTSC, PAL, or SECAM video using a cable with an RCA connector. As the name suggests, everything aspect of the video signal is merged together in a composite signal. Many 8 and 16-bit video game platforms used this for video output.

console

A home video game platform designed primarily to play video games. This differs from a portable video game platform, or a home computer. The term "console" typically refers to the primary unit of a home video game system where the bulk of the hardware is housed.

console generation

How home video game consoles are grouped throughout history. The criteria is quite arbitrary and is typically based on release by the best-selling hardware. Typically, each subsequent generation is more powerful than the previous.

console war

Refers to aggressive marketing campaigns between the more popular video game consoles. Popular console wars included Nintendo and Sega in the 1980s and 1990s and Sony and Microsoft in the 2000s.

constitution

A character or unit attribute which typically affects how hard they are to hurt or kill. Often correlated with energy and life units.

content rating

A grouping system handled by a governing body designed to inform parents of possible objectionable content in a game. Examples include the ESRB, PEGI, IARC, etc. Despite their intentions, content ratings invariably lead to censorship.

continue

After getting a game over, the act of returning to the game while maintaining some or all of your progress. Arcade games require the player to purchase an additional credit to continue, while games made for the home market usually offer a limited number of continues.

control panel

On an arcade cabinet, it's the surface where the controls (e.g., joysticks and buttons) are mounted.

controller

Any input device used to control an aspect of a video game. Examples include a joystick, gamepad, keyboard, mouse, flight yoke, pressure sensitive mat, etc.

conversion kit

A collection of arcade hardware and materials necessary to convert an existing arcade cabinet into a different game, typically at a much lower cost than buying the new cabinet outright.

cool down

The length of time a player must wait until the next time they can do something. Cool downs are often applied to special moves in order to prevent the player from spamming them.

co-op

See "cooperative."

cooperative

A form of multiplayer where the players work together for a common goal.

copy protection

A deliberately misleading term for "copy prevention."

copy prevention

Any of the many methods game developers use to try and prevent people from making illegal copies of their games. Some of these methods include requiring the player to type a specific word from the manual, code wheels, writing the data to media in an uncommon way which prevented them from being easily copied, and so forth.

corrupter

A device used to purposely corrupt an area of memory where a video game is stored. This is used during the reverse engineering process to help map where specific areas of the game's data are stored by observing what is changed after the area is corrupted. For example, if you corrupt an area of the the game's memory, and it changes the appearance of the character sprite, you can assume that area you corrupted contains the character's bitmap graphics. The Game Genie is a popular hardware-based corrupter, but modern emulators now feature software corrupters.

cover art

Refers to the art on the cover of a game box or case. Early video games were notorious for having gorgeous cover art that looked far more impressive than the game itself.

cover shooter

A sub-genre of the shooter where the player has their maneuver their character behind various forms of protective cover while shooting back at their opponents.

CPU (hardware)

Short for central processing unit. The part of a circuit board which performs the bulk of the processing. CPUs usually take the shape of integrated circuit microprocessors.

CPU (AI)

Often used as shorthand for a computer-controller player (AKA artificial intelligence) in the 8 and 16-bit eras.

CPU vs. CPU

See "AI vs. AI."

crack

A modified version of a video game where copy protection or DRM has been bypassed, or the process of making a crack.

cracker

A person or group of people who crack video games.

craft

Building something in a game from constituent parts. Many games include crafting minigames, especially sandbox games.

credit (unit)

The cost of a single play for an arcade-style game. Usually, paying for one credit will buy the player multiple lives (or attempts). For many years a credit was synonymous with a quarter, but inflation increased the cost of play, so games would charge more than $0.25 for a credit. Many arcade games let you purchase additional credits before and during game play. If the game supports it, buying a credit after a game over lets you continue where you left off. Although the term originated with pay-to-play arcade games, it was carried over into many home games as well.

credits

A cut scene which displays the names of the game's production staff. Typically displayed at the ending of game, or, sometimes the beginning, just like with films. Also called a staff roll.

critical

A special type of attack which does more damage than normal. Typically occurs randomly, though the game may include ways to increase their likelihood. Can also refer to a condition where a character is extremely close to death. Often shortened to "crit."

cross genre

See multi-genre.

crossover

A game which combines the characters or settings of two established franchises. For example, Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000 is a fighting game which includes characters from several franchises owned by either company.

CRT

See cathode-ray tube.

crunch

The time during game development when developers work overtime to try to finish the game before the deadline. This usually occurs late in development as the deadline draw near and is a symptom of unreasonable deadlines, poor management, or both.

CTF

See "capture the flag."

cut scene

A narrative scene outside of the player's control. If the player has some control, it's a quick time event.

cute'em up

A sub-genre of shooter which incorporates cute graphics. A portmanteau of "cute" and "shoot 'em up."

D

D-pad

Short for "directional pad," a flat control device with multiple directions which is slightly raised to allows the user to press the D-pad in different directions. The most popular configuration is a 4-way game pad with directions for up, down, left, and right, mounted on a rocker which allows two neighboring directions to be pressed at the same time, but prevents opposite directions from being pressed at the same time.

D-subminiature

A family of connectors used in a wide variety of video game platforms.

DA-15

A 2-row, 15-pin D-subminiature connector used on IBM-compatible home computers for connecting joysticks. This caused it to frequently be referred to as a "game port." IT was also used on several video game consoles as an expansion port including the Famicom, Atari 5200, Jaguar, and others.

damage boost

See "rocket jump."

damage sponge

Something which takes an obscene number of hits to defeat.

damsel in distress

A common trope where a woman, often a princess, needs rescuing, usually by a man.

dash

A common control mechanic where a player can cause their character to move at an accelerated rate for a short time. When moving in reverse, this is usually called a back-dash. When moving forward, this is commonly an offensive technique, but, when moving backward, it's commonly a defensive technique. It has similarities with a "slide."

dating simulation

A genre of video game which attempt to simulate romantic dating. They often use erotic imagery.

DE-9

A 2-row, 9-pin D-subminiature connector used on a number of 8 and 16-bit video game platforms for connecting controllers including the Atari 2600, Commodore 64, Amiga, Master System, Genesis, and more, as well as used by many home computer models for peripherals.

DE-15

A 3-row, 15-pin D-subminiature connector most commonly recognized as the VGA connector.

death

Occurs when a character takes lethal damage, usually by being hit by an opponent or hazard. If the game uses lives, this will result in the decrease of a life.

deathmatch

A form of multiplayer versus mode where players try to frag (or kill) the characters of their opponents as many times as possible while being fragged as few times as possible. When you are fragged, you typically respawn. Deathmatches are won usually by the player or team who first gets to a set number of kills, or, if the game is times, the player or team with the highest number of kills at the end of the time.

deathwarp

Using death, often by suicide, to have the character warp or teleport to a different place in the game world. Often used to save time.

debuff

The removal of a "buff," or a decrease in a character's attributes.

degauss

Removing an unwanted magnetic field. Most cathode-ray tube displays automatically degauss when turned on, but arcade cabinets were often left on for many days at a time and the magnetic fields of nearby speakers or other CRTs nearby could cause a visual distortion. Special deguassing hardware could quickly degauss the CRT while it remained in operation. Many higher-quality CRT monitors also featured the ability to degauss while running. Magnetic storage media like diskettes, cassettes, and reel-to-reel tapes can be cleared of data by degaussing them.

delivery quest

A quest where the player is expected to deliver something to another person.

demo

A computer-controlled demonstration of game play which is shown when games are in attract mode. Demos were created for arcade games as a form of advertisement, but many home games incorporated them even though they didn't serve the same purpose. Some game designers cleverly revealed game secrets to those players perceptive enough to see them during the demo.

demoscene

People involved in developing software which demonstrates interesting or clever techniques initially not thought possible, usually set to custom music.

designer

A game developer who works on the overall design of the game. What the game will be about, which mechanics to use, how things will interact, etc.

development hell

Describes games that have had serious issues during development which have prevented them from being released on schedule. This often leads to them being described as "vaporware." This can happen in all forms of media, but it is especially problematic in video game development because technology is made obsolete so quickly that, by the time the game is finally released, it may look inferior to the other games being released at the same time.

developer

The company or individuals who created a video game, especially the programmers, but also including the designers, artists, writers, musicians, and so forth.

dexterity

A character or unit attribute which typically affects how well they can evade attacks and maintain balance.

difficulty

Levels of complexity that can be adjusted by the player, usually at the beginning of a game, but sometimes during game play as well.

digital restrictions management

Any methods used by a copyright holder to restrict the use of a product by the owner. This may include preventing the owner from playing the game on hardware that is unapproved by the copyright holder, preventing them from making legal backup copies of their media, and the like. Copy protection is a form of DRM. Copyright holders prefer the term "digital rights management," because it sounds much more positive, but it's really just control the copyright holder has over the purchaser.

digital rights management

A purposely misleading term which more accurately means "digital restrictions management."

DIN connector

A family of circular connectors which stands for Deutsches Institut für Normung. Typically used by keyboards on older computers.

DIP switch

A binary switch made to fit in a dual in-line package slot on a circuit board. These appeared on a lot of video game hardware, especially arcade cabinets, and allow the owner to configure the hardware at a circuit level. Many arcade games from the 1970s-1990s used them to configure setting like when players would receive extra lives and the orientation of the display. They were used less and less as affordable permanent storage became popular and the owner could save the configuration on board.

direct sequel

A game which is set immediately, or very shortly after the previous game ends. For example, Half-Life 2: Episode One takes place only a few minutes after the end of Half-Life 2.

display

The "video" aspect of a video game, also called a screen, monitor, etc. For most home video game systems, the display is a television or computer monitor. Portable devices usually have a built-in display.

distributor

The company which distributes a video game, which usually includes the warehousing, shipping, and monetary transaction. Until digital distribution became popular, it was usually the publisher, but now they're frequently different.

DLC

See "downloadable content."

Doom clone

An early term, prior to the ubiquity of "first person shooter," for games which looked similar to Doom.

double buffer

Using an additional area of memory to prepare graphics before they need to be displayed to the screen. This is used to prevent flicker, tearing, and other visual artifacts.

double density

Refers to floppy disks which used a different storage method from single density which allowed them to store twice as much information.

double jump

A common control mechanic where a character can jump once into the air, then jump again while still in the air before landing.

double sided

Refers to magnetic media (floppy disks, cassettes, etc.) where data could be stored on both sides.

downloadable content

An expansion for a game that may be purchased and downloaded online. DLC became popular slightly before video games shifted to online distribution. Few people had high speed Internet access, so games still had to be purchased on disc media at stores, but additional content was small enough to be downloaded which saved the publishers a lot of money not having to deal with all the packaging.

driving

A genre of video game where the player drives a vehicle. Similar to racing, but that genre requires the player to competing against opponents or a time limit.

DRM

See "digital restrictions management."

drop

Describes what is left behind when an enemy is killed. See also "loot."

dungeon crawler

A genre of video game where the players move through a dungeon environment defeating foes. Common among role-playing games or action adventures with a fantasy theme.

DVD-ROM

An optical disc capable of storing data which can be read from it with a laser. It was used as the primary video game media of home computers from the 2000s to 2010s as well as several video game consoles.

dynamic difficulty

When the game's difficulty is adjusted to better fit the player's ability as they're playing.

E

Easter egg

Something which is hidden in a game by the developer and meant to be found by the player.

editor

A software tool which allows a game designer to create or modify a game asset. For example, a map editor, graphic editor, etc.

educational

A genre of video game where the player is expected to learn an academic skill while playing.

EGA

Short for Enhanced Graphics Adapter, a display technology developed by IBM to give additional color graphics to IBM Personal Computers.

ego

A term popular in adventure games which originally referred to the player, but, as graphical adventure games began including a character, began referring to the character instead.

electro-mechanical game

Games which use electricity and mechanical movement, but not a video display. These are very similar to video games and includes pinball machines, sporting machines, and various other arcade games.

emulation

The process by which software or hardware simulates the workings of other software or hardware. That which uses emulation is called an emulator.

encounter

In an RPG, a meeting of entities. This usually refers to the party randomly meeting enemies in combat, but also refers to scripted meetings with non-hostile NPCs, other player characters, and the like.

ending

A cut scene which occurs when a player reaches the end of a game. There are a variety of ending types including a game over, bad ending, good ending, true ending, etc. Some games feature two or more endings.

endless runner

See "runner."

Engrish

When something is poorly translated into English (typically Japanese). The spelling of the term is a based on the fact that Japanese-to-English translations often suffer from conflating the letters L and R. Engrish is sometimes an example of wasei-eigo. The term is also sometimes viewed as derogatory.

episode

A large section of a game's complete story, usually broken up into several "missions."

eroge

A Japanese portmanteau of "erochikku gemu," or "erotic game." A genre of adult video game which includes eroticism or pornography.

error

See "bug."

escort mission

A mission where the player must lead a person to a specified location while protecting them from harm. Escort missions are typically failed if the person is killed.

esports

Short for electronic sports. Refers to professional competitive video game tournaments where professional gamers compete for money.

ESRB

Short for Entertainment Software Rating Board, a video game content rating system used by the USA and Canada.

Ethernet

A family of wired networking protocols used for communicating between devices. Used on computers since the 1970s, but incorporated into home console in the 2000s. Devices are typically wired together using Cat 5 cable with RJ45 connectors.

expansion

Additional content to a game that is not part of the original. Expansions are typically made for popular games to capitalize on their success.

experience points

A value attributed to a character which is increased each time they succeed in a task (e.g., killing a monster, finishing a dungeon, etc.). Usually, when the character earns enough experience points they will be promoted to the next level. The term originated in role-playing games and is still used most commonly in the genre.

exploit

Abusing a glitch or programming oversight in a video game.

exploration

A video game genre where part of the enjoyment comes from exploring new areas, items, and ideas. Common to adventure and sandbox games.

extra life

The increase of a player's total lives. Usually presented as an object the player must collect, but is sometimes awarded for performing a difficult task.

F

facing button

A button on a controller which faces the user as opposed to those on the shoulder, rear, etc.

fake difficulty

A game or section of a game that is hard because it was poorly designed.

fan service

Something in a game that was added specifically to appeal to the player. Initially, this referred to adding material of an overt sexual nature, even if it didn't make sense in the story, but the term has broadened to refer to anything that will appeal to the fans.

fantasy

A setting which uses tropes common to the fantasy fiction genre (swords, magic, elves, etc.).

farming

Working to gain a lot of a particular thing, like money, items, or 1-ups. Similar to grinding, but farming usually has a guaranteed reward.

female

In reference to a connector, the end with an aperture into which the male end plugs into. When attached to a larger object, the female end is usually referred to as a "jack" or "socket."

fetch quest

A quest where the player is expected to find something and bring it to the quest giver. Named after a pet fetching an toy.

fighting

A video game genre where the player controls a character who fights with another character, usually in one-on-one matches. Similar to a beat 'em up, but it focuses on the complexity of the fights rather than the quantity of the fights.

final boss

The last, and usually most difficult, boss in a game.

first generation

Describes consoles from the early 1970s to the late 1970s like the Magnavox Odyssey. These consoles were dedicated systems which didn't support interchangeable games.

first hit

A bonus for being the first person to score a hit in a multiplayer game. Commonly used in fighting games. Sometimes called "first blood."

first-person

A perspective where the player views the game world through the eyes of the character they control.

first-person shooter

A genre of video game which combines a shooter with first-person visual perspective.

fixed shooter

A sub-genre of the shooter where the player's character is confined to a fixed area on the screen.

flicker

A display artifact where a sprite appear to flicker on the screen. This can sometimes be fixed by using double buffering.

flight yoke

A controller designed to function like those used in airplanes. Like a steering wheel it allows for rotation, but it also allows for the controlling of pitch.

flipper

In a pinball machine, it's the pivoting arm a player can control which hits a ball further up into the table.

floppy disk

A magnetic disk encased in a plastic protective shell and used to store data. The primary media for video games on home computers from the 1970s to 2000s.

FM synthesis

A form of generating audio seen in a lot of 16-bit video game systems.

fog of war

A military term which refers to anything happening outside of the player's perception. Many games actually depict this with actual fog.

Foley artist

A game developer who creates sound effects for a game.

frag

Killing a another player's character in a deathmatch. Taken from military slang which referred to murdering a fellow officer, typically with a fragmentation grenade (thus the name) to look like an accident. See also "team kill" and "friendly fire" which are often used interchangeably.

framing narrative

The primary story the game is meant to tell as designed by by the game's writer. Framing narratives may have some interactivity, but are essentially predetermined. This is opposed to the ludonarrative which is a product of how the player plays the game.

franchise

A video game idea which has expanded well-beyond a single game. Franchises typically have many games or even multiple game series, as well as novels, albums, comic books, toys, and so forth. Similar to a universe, only the universe refers to the in-game aspect, not just the products.

free play

When in this mode, a game which normally charges money for a credit can be played without paying.

free to play

A business model where a game is given away for free. However, most games which are advertised as "free to play" are more likely to be adware, nagware, crippleware, or some other pay model.

freeware

Games that are released for free.

friendly fire

When a player inadvertently injures or kills one of their teammates. A troll will probably do so purposely. See also "team kill" which is sometimes used interchangeably with friendly fire.

G

game

Any activity with established rules played for enjoyment or competition.

game-breaking

A problem with a game that is so severe it ruins it for the player.

game loop

The general set of actions a player repeats as they play a game. For example, enter the dungeon, kill monsters until your inventory is full, return to town, sell items, buy new gear, repeat.

game over

Engrish for the end of a game. This may be due to the loss of lives (or attempts) in which it's a bad ending, although it is sometimes also employed when player has won the game to signify when the ending sequence is completed.

game port

See "DA-15."

gamer

A person who frequently plays games or is part of gaming culture.

games as a service

See "subscription."

genre

A category or group of similar video games. Genres are often made based a game's mechanics, themes, settings, play style, etc.

generation

An arbitrary grouping of video game consoles and handhelds over time. Generations are grouped less by the capabilities of the hardware or the time between releases, and more by which other consoles they competed with in sales.

genre fatigue

Occurs when a player repeatedly plays the same genre of video game and becomes bored with it.

gib

Short for "giblet." When a creature is blown up and their body explodes into a pile of "giblets." Coined by Adrian Carmack during the development of Doom.

glitch

See "bug."

god game

A game where they player plays a character with god-like abilities, and is sometimes literally a god. For example, Populous.

gods of RNG

Anthropomorphic gods of randomness. When hoping for good luck, plays may say something like, "pray to the gods of RNG." See "rngesus."

gone gold

When development is completed on a game. At this point, the publisher needs to complete the packaging and distribution for the game, but the finished playable game is ready.

good ending

The ending of a game which has a positive outcome as opposed to a "bad ending." A good ending is often the same as a "true ending," but not always.

GPU

Short for graphics processing unit, the area of a circuit board which performs the bulk of the graphics processing.

graphic (design)

A visual image, typically used to denote those used to promote a video game like on the cover of a box, a marquee, promotional material, title card, or the like.

graphic (video)

An image displayed on a video screen, usually built from a bitmap or vector graphic.

graphic adventure

A sub-genre of the adventure game which relies heavily on graphics to describe the environment.

graphical user interface

A game which uses graphics for most of the interface with the player. Usually though icons, simulated buttons, and the like. This is in contrast to the older text interface.

griefer

See "troll."

grinding

Refers to repeatedly performing a task in a game, typically to increase a value like experience points, but also for items. A player may grind for hours killing monsters in the hope that one will drop an especially rare item. Similar to farming.

guess the verb

A form of "fake difficulty" common in poorly-programmed text adventures where the player has a good idea what they need to do, but can't guess the precise wording the designer expects. In the conversion to graphic adventures, a similar issue surfaced called, "hunt the pixel."

H

hack

A modification to a video game which changes the behavior of play in a manner not intended by the original developer. Also a video game which has been hacked.

hacker

A person or group of people who create hacks.

hack-and-slash

A video game theme where the characters use weapons to defeat their foes. Often a form of beat 'em up, although sometimes used to refer to any game where characters use bladed weapons.

hard mode

A generic term for hard or hardest difficulty settings in a game.

hblank

See "horizontal blank."

HD

Short for high definition, which is a vague term that typically refers to a display resolution of 1280 × 720 or higher.

HDMI

Short for High-Definition Multimedia Interface, a type of connector and protocol used for transmitting audio and video information. Used on many video game platforms from the mid-2000s on.

headphone jack

Most portable video game platforms have a headphone jack which fits a 3.5 mm plug.

hex

Short for hexadecimal, a base-16 number system commonly used by computer programmers instead of the base-10 decimal system used by most people. Hexadecimal is preferred in low-level programming because it more-closely reflects the bytes and bits of the hardware.

hidden object

A genre of puzzle game where the player must find objects hidden in large scene.

high density

Refers to floppy disks which used an improved storage method from double density which allowed them to store even more information.

high score

The highest score in a game, often saved by the player's initials in a top 10 list.

hint book

A publication which consists primarily of hints on how to improve a player's ability to play a video game or games.

hit point

See "life (unit)."

hit scan

An instant check for a hit toward a target, as opposed to processing the actual physics of a fast moving projectile. Used to shortcut more complicated physics, typically used in a bullet from a gun.

home computer

A multi-purpose microcomputer designed to work in the home environment and often used as a video game platform.

horizontal blank

The brief time when the electron gun of a CRT is resetting to the left of the screen. Programmers will try to perform graphic changes to the scan line during this time.

horror

A genre of story meant to induce fear or terror in the player.

hunt the pixel

A for of "fake difficulty" in graphic adventures where the player is expected to click on a very small area of the screen, sometimes no bigger than a single pixel, in order to interact with it. A similar problem to "guess the verb" in text adventures.

I

IARC

Short for International Age Rating Coalition, a video game content rating system created to appeal to all nations.

IBM

Relating to the company or the computers they produced.

IBM-compatible

A term used to describe home computers designed to run software and use hardware that was initially designed for the IBM Personal Computer line.

icon

A small graphic used to symbolize something. Most games designed to run in an operating system with a graphical user interface have an icon for starting the game. Games which use graphical user interfaces often have many icons within them.

in-house

A game developed by a company owned and operated by the publisher.

incremental

A game mechanic where progress is made in small frequent discrete improvements.

input random

Refers to randomness sent to the player entirely outside of their control. Which cards a player is dealt in poker is an example of input random. This is contrasted with output random.

intellectual property

Information owned by a company that is or may be subject to copyright law. Often shortened to IP.

intelligence

A character or unit attribute which typically affects how many new ideas they can learn and how easily they learn them. In fantasy settings, this is often correlated with magic use.

interlacing

A display term which describes drawing only half a screen's lines per refresh frame using an interlacing pattern of skipping every other line. On one frame, all the odd lines will be updated, on the next frame, all the even lines will be updated, and then it repeats to the odd lines. This is contrasted with progressive which updates every line in every refresh. Most CRTs and early LCD screens used interlacing.

interquel

A game whose story is set between two sections of a single existing game. Interquels are typically used to flesh out events that were skipped over in the previous work.

indestructible

When an entity cannot be damaged, but is still solid and may experience knock-back.

invincible

When an entity cannot be damaged, and damages other entities when they collide.

invulnerable

When an entity cannot be damaged, and doesn't damage other entities when they collide.

IPX

Internetwork Packet Exchange, a network protocol used in early home computer multiplayer games.

isometric

A perspective where the player views the game from a raised vantage point, typically 45°, and at a diagonal angle, also typically 45°.

J

jiggle physics

When parts of a character's body are given bouncy movement. Typically refers to the breasts of female characters, a form of fan service, but could also refer to hair, or other similar body parts.

joystick

A controller modeled after the joystick of an airplane consisting of a moveable shaft attached to a base. Most joysticks allow for movement left and right and forward and back, while some also allow for rotational motion. Joysticks can be digital or analog. Joysticks are typically paired with buttons, triggers, throttles, and hat switches for additional input. Most early video game controllers were joysticks, but they were replaced by the gamepad in the mid 1980s. Joysticks made a partial come back with the advent of 3D gaming in the mid 1990s, though in the form of the much smaller analog stick. Full sized joysticks are now really only popular for vehicular combat games, especially flight simulators.

K

keyboard

Any peripheral which has a large number of keys or buttons, typically including keys for the 26 letters of the alphabet. Nearly all home computers rely heavily on a keyboard for input, but many video game consoles have optional keyboards. If the device has just number keys, it's typically referred to as a keypad.

keypad

A peripheral which has a set of 0-9 number keys and often a few other symbols. Most early phone games expected keypad input and several 8-bit video game consoles featured these as controllers.

kick

See "boot."

kill quest

A type of quest where the player is expected to kill a specified enemy.

kill screen

Reaching a point in a game where the player is guaranteed to die, typically due to a bug.

kill stealing

Killing an enemy just before another player was about to and thus getting the benefit of the kill without having to take part in most of the combat. Typically frowned upon in the games which allow it.

killer app

A game that is so successful that it helps sell consoles.

king of the hill

A form of versus multiplayer where players try to occupy a space in a map, often at the top of a hill, for the longest length of time.

knock-back

Describes how a character is uncontrollably pushed when it is hit or injured. Knock-back is employed by game designers for multiple reasons. It may be used to punish the player for taking a hit, that is, to potentially knock them off a platform or into another hazard, but it is also a helpful way to push a character outside of the enemies collision box.

Konami Code

A button sequence consisting of ↑, ↑, ↓, ↓, ←, →, ←, →, B, A. It was created by the company Konami initially to award the player extra lives, and was used in several popular games made by the company. Because of this, other developers began implementing as well, and it has now been included in dozens of games and game-related projects.

L

lag

A slowdown in a game. This may be caused by the hardware failing to render the game at full speed or a network connection failing to transfer data fast enough for smooth game play.

lap

A complete circuit of a closed track. Races on such tracks usually require multiple laps. Also used to describe getting an entire lap worth of distance ahead of an opponent.

last hit

A mechanic where the person to score the killing blow on an enemy receives the reward. In multiplayer games, a last hit system encourages "kill stealing."

last man standing

A deathmatch mode where the victor is the player who is the last to remain alive.

launch

The stage in game development when a game can be bought. Any bugs found after this point must be patched in post-production.

launch title

A game the is available to be purchased the same day a platform is released.

LCD

See "liquid-crystal display."

LCD game

Typically refers to video games which use a dedicated LCD rather than those with a programmable LCD like the Game Boy.

learning curve

The speed at which a game requires players to assimilate and understand new concepts, so named as if it were plotted on a graph. A shallow curve gives the player ample time to figure out new concepts, while a steep curve requires the player to learn many new concepts in a short amount of time. Part of balancing a game means ensuring that most players will not become bored with a curve that is too shallow or overwhelmed with a curve that it too steep. Games often incorporate tutorials to make the initial learning curve less steep.

LED

See "light-emitting diode."

legacy sequel

A game which is set long after the previous game. For example, Ultima VII: The Black Gate is set 200 years after the conclusion of Ultima VI: The False Prophet.

let's play

A recording of someone playing a video game, typically with commentary.

level (advancement)

A discrete improvement upon the statistics of a character. Levels are often tied to experience points.

level (map)

A discrete section of a game. Also referred to as a stage, area, map, zone, round, section, etc. The name is derived from the levels found in platformers.

level cap

The maximum level or advancement that a character can obtain.

level requirement

When a minimum level is required from a character before they can do or use something. Often applied to equipment and special abilities to prevent twinking.

licensed

Video games which are based on existing media like a book, movie, TV series, or the like.

life (attempt)

An attempt at playing a game. Some games only give the player a single life, or one attempt to play the game, while others give the player multiple lives (see starting lives). A life is lost if the character dies in the game, and many games feature a way to increase lives as well (see extra life).

life (unit)

A unit tied to a character's survival. In most games which use them, being hit by enemies or hazards decreases life units, while finding revitalizing objects increases life units. A character usually starts a game with a set number of life units, and, if they ever reach zero, the character dies. Life units are frequently represented by bar graphs or discrete graphics like rectangles, hearts, or similar shapes. Life units go by a variety of names like health, hit points, energy, and so forth.

light-emitting diode

A semiconductor which produces light when a current is passed through it. Most video game consoles and computers feature one or more LEDs, usually to indicate when they're on or processing data. Later controllers used LEDs as well for a variety of reason like indicating when they're turned on, connected via wireless, or set in analog mode.

light gun

A video game controller which simulates the function of a gun by using well-timed flashes of light to judge a hit from a miss.

light gun video game

A game which employs a light gun as a controller.

life steal

The act of stealing another entities life (health, hit points, etc.) to add to your own. Many games apply this ability to characters or monsters. In fantasy or horror settings, it's typically associated with the undead.

liquid-crystal display

A display technology which uses liquid crystals. Early LCDs were monochromatic or used gray scale and typically utilized on handheld video games, but when display manufacturers began producing color flat screen televisions and monitors, they became a common display device for console and computer video games. LCDs are less likely to suffer burn-in than other display technologies.

loading bars

In the Commodore line, the colorful flashing horizontal bars seen around the edges of the screen while a program is loading.

localization

The act of not only translating a game's dialog into a different language, but also refactoring the graphics, sound, and game play to better suits the expectations of the culture in which it's being localized to.

localizer

Someone who works to localize a game. Typically one who is skilled in two or more languages and cultures.

longplay

A recording of a player beating a game from beginning to end and including most of the game's content. Different than a speed run.

loot box

An in-game object which, when used, gives the player beneficial items or upgrades. Loot boxes are often expected to be purchased with real money making them a "pay-to-win" feature, and are consumed when used.

looter shooter

A video game genre which combines shooters with the loot mechanics of RPGs. A popular example is Borderlands.

ludology

The study of games and how they are played.

ludonarrative

The portion of the game's story that is described by how the player plays the game. Because each player plays a game differently, the ludonarrative is different each time a game is played. This is in contrast with the predetermined framing narrative created by the game's writers.

ludonarrative dissonance

A variation of the term "cognitive dissonance." The disconnect players feel when the actions they take as part of the ludonarrative do not fit with the way their character is described by the framing narrative. For example, committing heinous acts of evil in a game where the player's character is supposed to be a virtuous hero, but the cut scenes still depict the character as good.

M

Macintosh

Refers to the line of computers created by Apple and the software which runs on those computers.

main menu

The primary menu in a video game, the one the game often starts into and lets you navigate to secondary menus.

male

In reference to a connector, the end with the bare metal protruding out of it which is inserted into the female end. Commonly referred to as a "plug."

manual

A booklet, often included with a video game, which gives useful information about the game. This typically includes fleshing-out the game's story, describing how the controls work, and so forth. Manuals were more popular when games had to be fit into very limited space and couldn't include all the necessary information for playing the game. These days, most games have their manuals built into the game making a printed manual unnecessary.

manual transmission

In games which feature driving, a transmission where the player must shift gears as they accelerate and decelerate, as opposed to an automatic transmission.

map (item)

An item in a game which allows the player to see their surrounding area.

map (technical)

A discrete area of a game world stored together in the game's data. Usually, an entire map is loaded into memory and moving from one map to another incurs loading time. In 2D games, the player can typically scroll around a map, but there is a different segue when traveling into a new map (like a fade out). In 3D games, traveling from one map to another requires a bottleneck of some sort like an narrow tunnel, elevator, etc. Some games feature seamless maps which require the game to constantly load and unload chunks of the map as the player moves around them.

marquee

On an arcade cabinet, it's the area facing the player above the monitor which typically includes the game's title. Marquees are frequently backlit to help advertise the game.

mask

A secondary bitmap used to affect a primary bitmap, usually to apply transparency, clip regions, or apply visual effects.

maze (genre)

A genre of video game where the game play takes place in a maze.

maze traversal

A sub-genre of the maze genre where the player must traverse all or most of the maze.

mechanical keyboard

A keyboard which uses mechanical switches in each key which offer good tactile feedback. Typically associated with higher-end computers.

membrane keyboard

A keyboard which uses a series of switches covered in a membrane sheet. Offers little to no tactile feedback and is associated with the cheapest quality computers.

Metroidvania

A genre of video game that mixes real-time combat with adventure and exploration.

MIDI

Short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a technology for electronic music. Includes technical specifications for connectors, data transmission, and file formats. Used in a large number of video games, video game platforms, and electric audio devices.

midquel

A game whose story is meant to take place between two existing games as a sequel to one and a prequel to the other.

mini-DIN connector

A family of connectors based on the DIN connector, but smaller. mini-DINs popular in video games include the PS/2 and S-video.

miniboss

An enemy that is more powerful than the generic enemies in a game, but not as powerful as a boss. Like a boss, they typically prevent progress until they're defeated, but defeating them usually doesn't complete a stage or unlock anything special.

minigame

A smaller game within the main game. Minigames are frequently optional and give the player a special reward when they win.

miss

A generic term for failing to succeed at a task including dying or getting a game over.

mission

A major objective in game with a military or espionage theme. Also, a discrete section, similar to the term "level," of a larger game, often called an "episode."

MOBA

See "multiplayer online battle arena."

mod (modification)

Short for "modification," a game which has been modified, or the modification to the game.

Mod (music)

Short for "module," a format of music, or song in that format, which modulates samples to create music.

mode

A style or form of game play. Popular modes include story mode, versus mode, and puzzle mode.

mode 7

A form of hardware scaling incorporated into the GPU of the SNES and used in games like Super Mario Kart. The SNES has 8 display modes, but the others are standard fixed 2D modes, only mode 7 has hardware scaling and it was hyped a lot in the platform's advertising.

mode 13h

A graphical display mode used by VGA with a screen resolution of 320×200 pixels in a linear block of memory with 256 color indexes from a 6-bit RGB palette system. This was the most common graphical mode used by games which supported VGA graphics.

mode X

A graphical display mode used by VGA with a screen resolution of 320×240 pixels using planar memory with 256 color indexes from a 6-bit RGB palette system. This was a less-common and undocumented graphical mode, but made popular because it increased the screen size beyond what VGA was designed to do and allowed for square pixels. Other less common modes included mode Y and mode Q.

modem

Short for modulate demodulate, a device for converting an analog signal into digital information and vice versa. Used for remote communication between two platforms in order to play multiplayer games. The first modems converted digital information to sound to transfer over voice phone lines. Later modems were designed to use cable line and DSL line which are dedicated digital lines.

monitor

A display device. Typically used on computers, although video game consoles may be connected to them because they offer a clearer display than most televisions.

monochrome

Refers to displays which consist of only one color. Common monochrome displays were white, green, or amber.

moon logic puzzle

A puzzle with a solution so obscure, even when you know the solution, it still doesn't make sense.

mouse

A motion-tracking controller originally created for computers, but made for some video game consoles as well.

multi-ball

When multiple balls are simultaneously in play in a pinball machine.

multi-genre

A game which uses two or more disparate genres.

multiplayer

A game which allows two or more players to play. Multi-player games can be subdivided into cooperative and versus.

multiplayer online battle arena

Often abbreviated to MOBA. A video game genre where multiple players fight in a combat arena over a network. Often employs elements of real-time strategy and real-time tactics. One of the most popular esports genres.

multiple endings

A game which has more than one ending. This may include bad endings, good endings, and a true ending.

musician

A game developer who creates music for the game, including ambient music, leitmotifs, the score, etc.

N

narrative

The story being told by the game. This can be broken down into the framing narrative which is created by the game's writers and the ludonarrative which is created by the player as they play the game.

Nerf

To weaken something, usually through a software update, in an attempt to balance a game. The term is named after the company which produces soft foam toys for children.

new game plus

Replaying a game from the beginning, but keeping all or most of the abilities you gained from the previous play-through.

newbie

Some who is new to a game or gaming culture. Also written as newb, noobie, noob, n00b, etc.

Nintendo

The Japanese video game company, also a reference to any of their video game platforms, especially the Nintendo Entertainment System.

no clipping

The ability for a player to move their character through solid objects like walls. The term comes from early 3D games where a player's movement would be "clipped" inside the interior region of a wall. No clipping is typically a form of cheating, however, some games incorporate limited no clipping as a power up.

no deaths

Winning a game without dying or otherwise losing a life. A more challenging way to play a game, especially when combined with no warps or all levels.

no hits

Winning a game without taking a single hit. A much more challenging way to play a game, especially when combined with no warps or all levels.

no-scope

Hitting a distant target without using a scope, see also "quickscope."

no warps

Winning a game without using warp to bypass levels. Not necessarily the same as all levels. A more challenging way to play a game.

non-canon

Anything related to a game that the creators views as being unofficial. Games made by unlicensed developers, works made by fans, etc. are almost always viewed as non-canon. Sometimes a games creators may decide that older games or unpopular games are no longer canon rather than try to retcon them.

non-playable character

A character in a game that the player may not directly control. Contrasted with a playable character.

not-so-RNG

A random number generator which has rules to prevent it from always acting randomly. For example, it may be designed to prevent too many bad results in a row in order to prevent the player from getting frustrated.

NPC

See non-playable character.

NTSC

Short for National Television System Committee, one of three popular color encoding systems for analog television (along with PAL and SECAM). NTSC is used primarily by the USA, and Japan.

null modem

Communication between two computers directly through a cable. The term stems remote communication which normally uses a modem for each device, but a null modem setup bypasses both modems by connecting the devices together directly using a modified connector. Many early multiplayer computer games supported null modem communication.

O

obsolete

Hardware or software that is so old that what is currently sold no longer interfaces with it.

OCR

Short for optical character recognition. Refers to how well printed text can be understood as digital text. Used by some games to convert hand written input into machine-usable information.

OLED TV

See organic light-emitting diode display.

one-time activation

A mechanism to prevent video game owners from selling their game to other people by tying their ownership of a game to a single account and not letting it be transferred.

OP

See overpowered.

open source

Video games that are released along with their source code.

opponent

In versus games, the player you're trying to win against.

optional permadeath

A game which allows the player to use permadeath rules if they desire.

organic light-emitting diode display

A type of flat screen television which uses OLED technology. Although they produce a better contract ratio that other technologies, OLED televisions can suffer from burn-in when playing video games.

output random

Refers to randomness based on a player's decision. A player may choose to have their character attack a foe, and whether they hit and how much damage they do is the output random. This is contrasted with input random.

over-the-shoulder

A perspective where the player views the game world over the shoulder of their character; a form of third-person perspective.

over world

A region that is on top of the ground, as opposed to an underworld. Also referred to as above ground or surface.

overlay

A sheet, usually of plastic, cardboard, or paper, that would be laid over a controller, keyboard, or screen, to give the player useful information or add to the verisimilitude of the game.

overpowered

Something in a game that is too powerful and caused the game to be unbalanced. Overpowered things tend to be Nerfed through software patches.

P

pacifist run

A challenge where the player must beat a game by killing or damaging a few enemies as is technically possible, usually only bosses or scripted enemies.

pack-in game

A video game that comes bundled with a video game platform as an incentive to buy it.

paddle controller

A controller, usually taking the form of a rotational dial, used to manipulate a character in a video game. Common for video games in the ball and paddle genre.

PAL

Short for Phase Alternating Line, one of three popular color encoding systems for analog television (along with NTSC and SECAM). PAL is used primarily by the UK, the nations they colonized, and most of Europe except France.

palette

The limited number of colors that can be used by an artist to make their graphics. Early games had very limited palettes.

palette shifting

See color cycling.

palette swap

A graphic which uses the same pixel layout as another, but different colors. It was common in early video games to use palette swaps because the hardware didn't have enough memory to fit unique art, but by changing the colors, the graphic could look different enough.

parallel

A game whose story that takes place concurrently with a previous game. Also called a "paraquel" or "sidequel." For example, Half-Life: Blueshift takes place during the events of Half-Life, but through the eyes of another character.

party

A band of characters in a role-playing game, adventure, or similar genre.

passive puzzle

A puzzle which can be solved passively. It doesn't change much and doesn't have short time limits. Contrasted with an passive puzzle.

patch

A bug fix, balance fix, or similar improvement to a game. Usually distributed as a file or collection of files to replace the ones which have bugs.

pathfinding

A set of computer algorithms for finding the shortest distance from a starting point to a destination. A popular pathfinding algorithm is A*.

pay-to-win

A derogatory term which refers to games which feature benefits that must be purchased with genuine currency. This tends to hurt game balance for those players who don't buy the benefits. The term is a play-on-words of "play-to-win."

PC speaker

A simple speaker attached to computers which typically played very primitive audio.

PEGI

Short for Pan-European Game Information, a video game content rating system used by the majority of the European Union.

perception

A character or unit attribute which typically affects how well they notice things and how easily they're surprised.

perfect

When the player performs at the optimal level. Depending on the game, this may refer to a single action, a series of actions, or an entire segment of a game.

peripheral

External hardware add-on devices like controllers, keyboards, cameras, printers, etc.

permadeath

When a character dies, they are permanently dead, and the player must begin again with a new character.

PDP

A line of minicomputers developed by DEC through the 1960s and 1970s including models like the PDP-8 and PDP-12. Many early video games were developed on this line of computers.

ping

The time it takes to send information from one computer on a network to another. If the ping becomes too long, the player will experience lag, and may be booted to prevent problems with the rest of the players.

piracy

The process of sharing copies of a game illegally.

pirate

A person or organization which makes copies of games illegally.

pixel

Short for picture element. The smallest unit of a picture that can be shown on a display device. A graphic is made up of many pixels.

pixel hunting

Trying to find a small area on the screen where the player can do something. Common in graphic adventures.

planned game over

A condition in a game where the developer purposely ends the game even if the player hasn't died, run out of time, etc. A planned game over is typically used to prevent the player from overflowing memory and encountering a kill screen.

planning

An early stage in game development. The team figures out what type of game they want to make, what their budget will be, and on which platforms they intend to release. This occurs before any programming or art is made.

plasma display

A type of flat screen television which uses a plasma technology. Plasma televisions are notorious for suffering from burn-in when playing video games for prolonged periods of time.

platform (hardware)

Any system capable of playing video games including hardware or software. The Genesis, Commodore 64, Windows, and Game Boy are all examples of platforms.

platform (map)

A part of a map in a gravity-bound game world that a character may walk on.

platform shooter

A genre of video game which combines a platformer and a shooter, and typically features a scrolling background. Commonly referred to a run-and-gun.

platformer

A genre of video game where the player controls a character who is gravity bound to platforms across the map. The character can frequently climb ladders or jump to reach other platforms.

PLATO

Abbreviation for Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations. An educational computer system where many early video games were started, especially Western RPGs.

play test

The act of trying out a game to see if it works, the rules are clear, and it's enjoyable. Usually occurs in the prototype stage before alpha or beta testing. One who participates in a play test is a play tester.

playable character

A character in a game that the player may directly control. Contrasted with a non-playable character.

player

The person playing the game. In many games, a player commonly controls a character.

PlayStation

Any of the several home video game consoles produced by Sony bearing the name PlayStation: PlayStation, PlayStation 2, etc.

plunger

In a pinball machine, it's the shaft attached to a spring that must be pulled back and released to set a ball in motion up the shooting lane an into the play field. Typically positioned to the far right on the front of the table.

point of no return

Refers to a place in a game (typically adventure or RPG) where the player cannot return to previous areas or those areas are irrevocably altered.

polling

Checking the status of a external device, like a joystick, to get its current values.

port

A version of a video game modified to run on hardware different from what the original game was designed. In the early days of video games, porting was necessary for pretty much every additional platform, but it is less common now that so much hardware is identical across platforms and programming languages feature cross-platform compilers.

porter

The company or individual which modifies a game to work on hardware different from what the original game was designed.

post-production

A stage in game development after the game has been launched when patches for bug fixes are released and any further content like add-ons are released.

POV hat switch

A directional switch, typically at the top of a joystick, usually used to control the player's point of view. It's called a hat because it is similar in shape to an Asian conical hat.

power supply

An electrical circuit which converts the supplied electricity to whatever the device uses. For arcade machines and modern consoles and computers, these are usually built inside the device, but many older or compact devices use an external power supply which plugs into a wall socket.

power creep

An unbalancing of a game which occurs over multiple updates. Often expansions will allow a character to become more powerful by increasing their level cap or providing them with more powerful items, and this will disturb the balance of existing content.

power up

An item in a game which grants a player or character abilities better than when they're in their default state. Power ups are often temporary either being eliminated after a number of uses, a length of time, or kept until the player dies.

prequel

A game that is developed after a previous game, but its story takes place before it. Prequels are usually created to expand upon concepts or events from the previous game that were not fully developed.

pro gamer move

An action taken by a player which demonstrates expertise in a game. Also used satirically when a player makes a big mistake.

pro tip

Also "protip," a game play hint published in early video game magazines, especially GamePro. Also used satirically to describe doing something in a game that's very obvious.

procedural generation

The generation of something according to a set of rules with some randomness involved. Gives much better results than purely random generation.

producer

Someone who handles the business side of game development. They typically deal with accounting and budgeting, hiring and firing employees, and ensuring that everything that needs to be done gets done.

product manager

In video game development, it is their job to ensure the game is being built according to specification. Often employed by the publisher.

production

A stage in game development where the team begins actively developing the game. Programmers write code, writers finalize their stories, artists create graphics, musicians write music, etc.

professional gaming

The industry around professional gamers.

professional gamer

Someone who makes a sustainable income playing video games. Money can be made by streaming themselves playing, or by competing in esports tournaments.

programmable sound generator

An early audio chip seen in most 8-bit video game systems.

programmer

A game developer who writes the game's source code. They translate what the designer wants into code the computer can process.

progressive

Describes video displays where every line is updated every refresh frame as opposed to using interlacing.

proof of concept

A working prototype game developers use to show that a specific idea is possible.

prototype

An early stage of game development when where the team generates ideas and concepts and tests them with temporary assets to make sure they're enjoyable and possible on the target hardware. Also refers to a game that never left this stage. When a game is in this stage, writers create their scripts and storyboard the expected flow.

PS/2

A connector port based on Mini-DIN primarily used by computers for a keyboard or mouse.

pseudorandom

Something which appears random, but is actually determined. Most random number generators used by video games are pseudorandom and always give the exact same set of random numbers based on their seed value. However, the seed value is usually something very difficult to predict, like milliseconds since midnight, so the game always gives the appearance of random.

PSG

See programmable sound generator.

PSX

Abbreviation for the PlayStation based on its original code name, "PSX."

publisher

The company which sells a video game. Usually includes funding, promotion, and distribution, although these may each be handled by individual companies.

purposely taking damage

When the player purposely causes their character to take damage. Typically to put their character into an invulnerable state to bypass a difficult section.

puzzle

Any part of a game which requires logical thinking and memory to devise a plan to achieve a goal.

puzzle (genre)

A genre of video game based on solving puzzles.

PVP

An abbreviation for "player versus player." Refers to games where players are allowed to fight other players.

pwn

To have dominance over an opponent. Initially came from the misspelling of "own," but later purposely misspelled. Pronounced "pōne."

Q

QA

See quality assurance.

QTE

See quick-time event.

quad buffering

Two double buffers, one for each eye, used in virtual reality.

quality assurance

The department where testers ensure a game is well-balanced, bug free, and everything works as expected.

quality of life improvement

Describes a minor change to a game which has little affect on the game play or mechanics, but makes the game less annoying. Quality of life improvements are commonly made to the interface, menu system, or similar areas. For example, the original Final Fantasy would only let you buy a single item at a time at a shop which meant buying a dozen potions took a long time, but later remakes included a quality of life improvement where you could buy as many potions as you wanted in a single transaction. Often abbreviated to QOL. Not the same as "balance."

quest

The primary objective in a story-based game. Often used synonymously with side-quest.

quick load

Loading a game without going through the normal loading process. Usually introduced to decrease the length of time it takes to load by not requiring the player to choose a save slot or confirm having not saved their current game. Most games which include a quick load feature also let the player quick save.

quick save

Saving a game without going through the normal saving process. Usually introduced to decrease the length of time it takes to save by eliminating having to choose a save slot, naming the save game, or confirm overwriting an existing saved game. Most games which include a quick save feature also let the player quick load.

quick-time event

A moment in a cut scene when a player is expected to give input within a limited length of time.

quickscope

Shooting very quickly after scoping in and still hitting the target.

QWERTY

The standard keyboard layout used on computer keyboards.

R

race (attribute)

A common attribute employed in games with a fantasy or science fiction setting which identifies the biological type of person the character is. Common fantasy races include elf, dwarf, and gnome while sci-fi races tend to use a variety of aliens.

race (competition)

A task which the player is trying to perform faster than their opponents or within a time limits. Races which occur on a closed track are often broken up into laps.

racing

A genre of video game where the player attempts to perform a task faster than their opponents or within a time limit. Common races include running and drivinf a motorized vehicle. Similar to the genre driving, but driving doesn't use competitive elements.

radio frequency

Refers to how early video game platforms connected to a television for output. These platforms typically had RF output and an RF channel selector to choose the output's channel.

rail shooter

A shooter where they character's movement is confined to a predetermined path, as though they were riding on a rail.

RAM

See "random access memory."

random

When something happens in an unpredictable manner. Typically the result of a random number generator. Random can be broken into to main types, "input random" and "output random."

random access memory

Memory that can read to and written from in a non-sequential manner.

random encounter

An encounter which occurs randomly. Typically as combat against a monster.

random generation

The generation of something according to random values. Typically gives poor results and procedural generation is preferred.

random number generator

An algorithm that generates pseudo-random numbers. Common algorithms for generating random numbers include linear-feedback shift registers, the Park-Miller generator, and the Mersenne Twister.

raster graphic

A 2D graphic bitmap. Nearly every raster graphic is made up of pixels. This term is out of date as most modern display technologies no longer use raster scanning.

ratchet scrolling

When the map only scrolls in a single direction and prevents movement in other directions, similar to how a ratchet can move forward, but not backward.

RCA connector

Short for Radio Corporation of America which designed the connector. A single pin connector used for a variety of older forms of transmission like composite and component video and analog audio.

read only memory

Memory that can only be read from, not be written to.

real-time strategy

A genre of video game where the player must devise a strategy and carry it out in real time. Similar to real-time tactics, but more emphasis is placed on building and maintaining a base of operations. Contrasted with a turn-based strategy.

real-time tactics

A genre of video game where the player must devise a strategy and carry it out in real time. Similar to real-time strategy, but more emphasis is placed on giving units tactical orders. Contrasted with a turn-based strategy.

rear-projection television

A television which uses a mirror to project a display onto a surface larger than that of a CRT and the first consumer-level televisions to exceed 40 inches in size. Early RPTVs would be damaged by burn-in if video games were played on them, but later models used improved technology to prevent burn-in.

reboot (hardware)

The act of power-cycling hardware, or, as it is more commonly described, turning it off and back on again. Rebooting is typically done after system-level changes have been made to hardware or to fix a problem of unknown origin.

reboot (series)

Occurs when an existing series is abandoned in order to be given a fresh start. Typically occurs when game series has become stale, or when so much time has passed since the last game was released, few remember it. A reboot differs from a remake or reimagining because it doesn't try to remake an existing game, but rather creates all new stories based on the originals.

reference card

A card with many game details printed on it. Often included in games which required the player to know a lot of information.

refresh rate

How frequently a display screen is completely redrawn, typically measured in Hertz, with the higher number being preferred. A typical television or computer monitor will run at about 60 Hz.

region lock

A device which prevents a game from working in a region in which it wasn't designed to work. For example, a game made for the European region may be region locked so that it will not run on a console made for the American region.

registration card

A postcard included in pre-Internet games where the purchaser could mail their contact information to the game's publisher. While this would often be advertised as a way to get bug fixes for the game, it was usually just used to send advertising.

reimagining

When an existing game is remade, but the story, characters, and mechanics are changed significantly.

remake

When an existing game is remade using modern technology and techniques. Remakes may include higher quality graphics, music, voice acting, etc. and even a little retconning, but the story and game play are quite similar to the original work, unlike a reimagining or reboot. Closely related to a remaster.

remaster

Recreating a game using modern technology, to use higher quality graphics and sound, while also including bug fixes and quality of life improvements, but staying very close to the original story and mechanics of the game, even more so than a remake.

rescue mission

A mission where the player must defeat an enemy that is attacking an entity before the enemies destroy it.

respawn

When a character is brought back to life after being dying. Respawning is typically paired with a punishment like a time delay, reduction in score or stats, or being sent back to a previous respawn point.

respawn point

See "spawn point."

retcon

Short for "retroactive continuity." Refers to altering an existing story in order to accommodate incompatible differences in a newer one. This is typically done to change unpopular decisions or correct overlooked or unpredicted mistakes. For example, in the Ultima series, the evil demons from the first five games are retconned as intelligent and misunderstood gargoyles.

retrobright

Also written retr0bright, a process used to correct discoloration of old ABS plastic. It uses multiple chemicals and ultraviolet light to restore the plastic to it's original color.

RF

See "radio frequency."

RF adapter

A device which converts the signal of a video game platform to the radio frequency signal a television interprets. RF adapters take baseband input from the video game platform, convert it to a radio frequency the TV can interpret and sends the signal to the antenna input of a television. Most RF adapters were also switch boxes which had a connector for an antenna and could switch between game and antenna signals. Once televisions began including composite and component input, consoles stopped using RF adapters and connected directly to the those inputs, however, during the transition period, many platforms still had RF adapters for backward compatibility with older televisions.

rhythm video game

A genre of video game where they player is expected to perform an action in time with a song.

risk–return tradeoff

An economics term which describes how much someone is willing to risk for a particular reward. Commonly used in game design to determine how much a player is willing risk for a specific reward.

RJ45

Short for registered jack 45, also seen as RJ45S for registered jack 45 standard. Used most popularly for Ethernet as the connectors for Cat 5 cable.

RNG

See "random number generator."

rngesus

A portmanteau of "RNG" and "Jesus." See gods of RNG.

rocket jump

The use of an explosion to help catapult an entity further than they would otherwise be able to move. This will probably damage the entity, but the ability to move further than normal may be worth the damage. For example, a character is not able to jump far enough to span a chasm, so they fire a rocket so that it will explode very close to them, and jump just as it explodes. The added push from the explosion gives them more momentum and they span the chasm. This was made popular by first-person shooters, particularly Quake, though it was certainly not the first game to use it.

Rogue-like

A genre of video game which is similar to Rogue, thus, a text-based dungeon crawler.

Rogue-lite

A genre of video game which is similar to Rogue, but isn't as difficult. Typically permadeath is removed.

role-playing game

A video game genre which focuses on the development of characters in a fictional setting. Based on earlier pen-and-paper RPGs.

ROM

See read only memory.

ROM card

An interchangeable card consisting of a circuit board with a thin ROM chip loaded with software, usually encased in plastic, which can be connected to a video game platform which will run the software. From the 1980s to 1990s, this method of distributing video games to home consoles was a less-common than ROM cartridges.

ROM cartridge

An interchangeable cartridge consisting of a circuit board with a ROM chip loaded with software, usually encased in plastic, which can be connected to a video game platform which will run the software. From the 1970s to 2000s, this was the primary method of distributing video games to home consoles.

RPG

See "role-playing game."

RS-232

Short for "Recommended Standard 232," a serial communication data transmission protocol. Very popular in home computers prior to USB for devices like a mouse, modem, Ethernet, and many others. Usually used a DA-15 or DB-25 connector.

RTS

See "real-time strategy."

rubber band AI

A form of dynamic difficulty used in racing games where the trailing players are given additional bonuses to help them catch up, the leading players are prevented from doing better, or both. So named because it's as though the trailing player is attached to the leading player by a rubber band which keeps pulling them forward.

rule

A regulation that players are expected to follow. Breaking the rules often results in a played being accused of cheating and may result in them being banned.

run-and-gun

See "platform shooter."

runner

A genre of video game where the player controls a character that travels along an course. It's common to require the player to avoid obstacles and collect items.

S

S-Video

A type of mini-DIN connector used to transmit video typically at resolutions of 480i or 576i.

sandbox game

A game which allows for a lot of creativity, so named because you feel like a kid in a sandbox.

save

Saving the progress of a game so that the player may return to it later.

save point

A designated place in a game where the player is allowed to save.

save scumming

When the player frequently saves their progress to the point where it interferes with game play.

scan line

A horizontal line displayed using a CRT, also the visual effect emulating the visual spacing between lines seen on a CRT.

sci-fi

See "science fiction."

science fiction

A setting which uses tropes common to the science fiction genre (space ships, aliens, laser guns, etc.).

scripted encounter

An encounter which is expected to happen in a particular time or place and in a particular way. Boss battles are usually scripted encounters.

scrolling

Describes when something appears to visually move across the screen, typically the background of a scene.

scrolling shooter

A genre of video game which takes a shooter and puts it in a scrolling background.

SCSI

Short for Small Computer System Interface, a family of connectors and protocols for sending data.

SECAM

Short for Séquentiel de couleur à mémoire, one of three popular color encoding systems for analog television (along with PAL and NTSC). SECAM is used primarily by France, the nations France colonized, Russia, and several former members of the USSR.

Second generation

Includes consoles from the late 1970s to early 1980s like the Atari 2600. Interchangeable games from ROM cartridges became dominate at this time.

Sega

The Japanese video game company, or a reference to any their video game platforms, especially the Genesis.

self-imposed challenge

Making a game harder than normal by playing with requirements that are not normally part of the game. For example, not being allowed to collect power-ups, playing all optional levels, etc.

sequel

A game that continues the story of a previously-released game.

series

Several games that are related, often forming a coherent narrative.

server

In online games, this refers to the computer which runs the game that players connect to as clients.

service door

On an arcade cabinet, the front door, often the same as the coin door, which can be unlocked an opened to gain access to the service panel.

shoot 'em up

See "shooter."

shooter

Any genre of game where the player shoots at targets.

shooting lane

In a pinball machine, it's the long track above the plunger which the ball must traverse before entering the play area.

shoulder bumper

See "shoulder button."

shoulder button

A button on the top sides of a controller. Sometimes referred to as a bumper due to their shape.

shoulder trigger

A, usually analog, trigger on the top sides of a controller.

shovelware

Publishing a large compilation of bad games in the hope that the quantity will justify the cost.

side-quest

A smaller, often optional, quest within the main quest. Side-quests are a good way for a designer to adjust the pacing of a game and increase the amount of content within a game.

side-view

A perspective where the player views the game world as though they're looking at it sideways from a distance; a form of third-person perspective.

sim (genre)

See "simulation."

sim (prefix)

A common prefix used on simulation video games published by the company Maxis.

simulation

A genre of video game which simulates a real world process. Common simulators are management simulators, flight simulators, and various vehicular combat simulators. Often shortened to "sim" due to the popularity of the Sim games produced by Maxis.

single density

Refers to floppy disks which use the earliest technology and store the least amount of data. Later replaced by double density and high density.

skin

A set of replacement textures or graphics for an object. When an object is reskinned, it looks different, but functions the same. Skins add more repeatability and customization to a game.

sleeve

Also cover a "sheath," "protector," etc. A covering which protects video game media. Sleeves are typically made of paper, cardboard, or plastic.

slide

A common control mechanic where a player can slide their character forward in a crouched or laying position, often to maneuver under narrow ledges. Often used as a defensive maneuver. Similar to a "dash."

slingshot

In a pinball machine, its a device which, when hit by the ball, kicks the ball away from it at a rapid speed. They are usually triangularly shaped and surrounded by a rubber band and placed on either side of the bottom half of the table above the flippers.

sniper

An accurate long range weapon, usually with a scope to allow better shots at long range. Also, a class of character which utilizes such weapons.

soft lock

When further progress is prevented in a game due to a programming oversight or bug and the player must restart the game.

spam

Something which is unwanted or overused. Named after a Monty Python sketch in which a restaurant keeps trying to sell their customers Spam, then applied to unwanted emails, now used to refer to anything done in excess to an undesirable degree.

spawn point

A location in a map where entities enter the game. In versus mode, there are usually many spawn points. In team modes, there is usually a single spawn point per team. Also called a "respawn point," as characters also respawn at them as well.

speed run

An attempt to win a game as fast as possible. Speed runs are divided into various categories based on how much of the game is completed in the process (e.g., no warps, any percent, no damage boost). A speed run played by a computer is called tool-assisted speed run.

spin-off

A game which takes characters already established in an existing game and places them in a different setting.

spiritual sequel

A game which has no direct link to the previous work, and isn't even set in the same universe as the original, but reuses the game's genre, style, and motif. For example, Deltarune is a spiritual sequel to Undertale.

spread

In shooters, a weapon that shoots multiple projectiles in a spread out manner. Also called "spray" or "wide."

sprite

A bitmap on a video screen which moves around the screen, is animated, or both. A "hardware sprite" is one in which the hardware controls independent of the background layer, while a "software sprite" is part of the background layer, and must be redrawn as the background is redrawn.

sprite chain

A special type of sprite composite which uses several sprites chained together in order to form a long body capable of varied motion. Sprite chains were created to allow for snake-like movement without needing the large number of graphics that would be necessary for a regular sprite composite. Sprite chains are especially popular for snakes, dragons, worms, and the like.

sprite composite

Tying multiple sprites together to build a larger sprite. Most video game hardware had severe limitations to the size of their hardware sprites, often only 8x8 or 16x16 pixels. By placing several sprites right next to each other and ensuring they always stay touching, designers give the illusion of a much larger sprite, though it is really just a composite.

square pixels

Refers to video displays which use square pixels rather than rectangles or other shapes. The shape of the pixel affects the aspect ratio of graphics designed for such a screen.

staff roll

See "credits."

stage

A section of a game. See level.

standalone sequel

A game which is set in the same universe as the main franchise, and may feature some of the same characters, but it is not directly related to the previous works.

starting lives

The compliment of lives a player is given when they start a game.

stat death

When a character is killed because a stat reaches zero despite still having positive life points.

stat requirement

When a minimum stat is required from a character before they can do or use something. Often applied to equipment and special abilities to prevent twinking.

storage media

Any storage media used to house video games. Common forms include ROM cartridges, diskettes, and various optical discs.

story mode

A play mode which tells a story, also called "campaign mode." Often contrasted against other play modes like versus mode, puzzle mode, and the like.

strategy

A plan used to defeat an opponent or a genre of game which requires the player to develop strategies.

strength

A character or unit attribute which typically affects how much damage they can do and weight they can lift.

studio

A video game development office, usually one owned by a larger publisher. For example, the publisher Activision owns about a dozen development studios.

subscription

A business model where clients pay a recurring fee in order to play a, usually online, video game. A subscription typically buys access to a single game, but sometimes it pays for a library of games.

suicide

When a player purposely kills their character. Typically far a strategic reason.

suicidal overconfidence

A common trope where, no matter how powerful a character is, enemies will still attack them.

SVGA

Short for Super Video Graphics Array, an unrelated family of display technology developed by multiple companies to give even higher resolution color graphics to home computers.

switch box

A mechanism which can switch between two or more different forms of input. In video games, a switch box changes between the signal from a video game platform and a television antenna. Most switch boxes were also RF adapters. Early video games connected to a television by sending an RF signal to a television's antenna input, but this prevents the user from being able to watch television without first disconnecting the video game and reconnecting the antenna. To prevent this, video game manufacturers used a switch box which would have both the video game and antenna connected to it, and the user can switch between either input. The first versions of the switch box required the user to manually switch between them, but later models would use the antenna by default, but switch over to the video game when the console was turned on. After televisions began including standardized input like composite and component, the consoles stopped shipping with switch boxes.

symphonic cooperation

In cooperative games, symphonic cooperation refers to players who work well together to achieve a common goal. In order to achieve symphonic cooperation, players not only practice together, but they develop strategies where each player follows a role in a larger team effort. Professional gamers and contestants in esports practice symphonic cooperation. This is contrasted with "chaotic cooperation."

T

tank (character)

A type of character that can absorb and deal a lot of damage. In cooperative multiplayer, a tank is usually sent into close combat to aggro enemies in order to keep them from attacking weaker characters who a better suited for long range attacks or healing. Named after the military vehicle.

TAS

See tool-assisted speed run.

TCP

Transmission Control Protocol, a network protocol used in many multiplayer games.

teabagging

Mocking an opponent by repeatedly standing and squatting over a fallen opponent to make it look as though the character is hitting the opponent with his scrotum. Named after a teabag being dipped in and out of hot water.

team

The players who share a goal and potential victory with you. Also a form of multiplayer where players form teams to compete against each other.

team kill

When a teammate kills a member of their own team, typically on accident. See also friendly-fire and fragging of which it is sometimes used interchangeably.

tearing

An unwanted visual artifact where the graphics on the screen are being changed as they're being drawn. This usually occurs in the middle of a refresh making it look as though the screen has been torn. This is solved by the programmer using vertical synchronization.

technical requirements checklist

A set of technical requirements that owners of a platform require developers to meet if they want to publish a game on their platform. For example, Nintendo requires all games published on their platforms to clearly display "Licensed by Nintendo" during the game's starting screens. Often shortened to TRC, also known as Technical Certification Requirements (TCR).

telefrag

Killing an opponent by teleporting into the location they're currently at, assuming the game allows for it.

teleport

Immediately moving a character from one section of the map to another without having to traverse the distance.

television

A display device which decodes radio frequency signals. Home video game platforms are often connected to televisions a video game platform and the video game console generates an RF frequency in PAL, NTSC, or SECAM encoding. Televisions used to all be CRTs, but they later expanded to rear projection, LCD, and plasma. Today, most television use LCD or OLED technologies.

text adventure

A sub-genre of the adventure game which relies heavily on text to describe the environment.

text interface

A game which uses text for player interaction. Since the 1990s, most interfaces are now graphical.

texture

A graphic that is overlaid on a vector. For example, a wall texture.

third party

A game created for a publisher by an development studio they don't own. The name comes from legalese, where someone who is not part of a contract is referred to as a "third party."

third-person

A perspective where the player views the game world from the outside looking at the character as though they are a third party. This is opposed to viewing the game through they eyes of the eyes of a character in first-person.

throttle

A lever or pedal on a controller which is used to control a value in a game, typically the speed of a vehicle. Throttle are typically analog instead of digital.

tilt

A state a pinball machine can be put in as a punishment if the player nudges it too hard. When in tilt, most of the game shuts off, and the the flippers stop working guaranteeing the loss of a ball.

time limit

An imposed length of time within which the player must complete a task. Common in racing games and active puzzle games.

title card

A static image used to easily identify a particular work of media. Originally used in film where it's called an intertitle, video games adopted them to replace box art when physical boxes gave way to digital distribution.

title screen

A screen in most video games where, upon starting the game, the title is displayed.

tool-assisted speed run

Using a computer to control the input to a game in order to beat it faster than humanly possible.

top-down

A perspective where the player views the game world from above looking down; a form of third-person perspective.

topper

Something placed on top of an arcade cabinet, usually title art for a game. Typically used on cabinets whose marquee is not dedicated to a specific game because is uses interchangeable games, like the PlayChoice-10.

transparency

The part of a bitmap which is not intended to be drawn to create the effect of transparency. When an entire channel is used for transparency, it's typically referred to as alpha.

trigger

A mechanism on a controller meant to resemble the trigger of a gun or joystick. Typically digital, though sometimes analog.

trinket

A small item like a figurine, coin, stone, etc., included in a game box to increase its value. Some franchises, like the Ultima series, became popular because they always included trinkets in their game boxes.

triple buffering

Similar to double buffering, but a third buffer is used. While the second buffer is being blitted to the screen, it cannot be updated, so the graphics card must wait until it finishes before it can draw again. With triple buffering, a the graphics card begins drawing to a third buffer during this time so it can prepare the next screen.

trivia

Questions of insignificant importance and the genre of video game where the player is expected to answer them.

troll

A person who plays a game in bad faith with the purpose of ruining the enjoyment of others. Named after the fictional ugly monster.

trough

In a pinball machine, its a area where a ball falls when it isn't successfully rebounded by a flipper.

true ending

A game's ending which is meant to complete the story of the game. This is frequently also a good ending, although they may be separate, and usually includes credits.

turn-based strategy

A genre of video game where the player must devise a strategy and carry it out across a series of discrete turns, typically by managing units. Contrasted with a real-time strategy.

twinking

A low-level character being given high-level equipment, usually from a high-level character, that the low-level character wouldn't normally be able to acquire on their own. This places them at an advantage compared to other characters around their level whose equipment tends to match their level. The term is often used derogatorily and is based off the slag term "twink" which refers to a smaller effeminate gay man with a larger boyfriend. Twinking is often prevented by requiring minimum stat or level requirements on equipment.

U

UDP

User Datagram Protocol, a network protocol used in many multiplayer games.

Ultra HD Blu-ray

An optical disc capable of storing data which can be read from it with a laser. It was used as the primary video game media of home computers from the 2010s to 2020s as well as several video game consoles.

under powered

Something in a game that is too weak to be balanced. Under powered things tend to be upgraded in patches.

underworld

A large underground region of a game. Underworlds are common in mythology from which game designers no doubt draw inspiration. They're typically dark and feature dangerous inhabitants. Smaller underground areas may also be referred to as caverns or caves, while underground regions that are hewn are typically referred to as dungeons. Games which feature an underworld typically also have and over world.

universe

Everything related to a video game franchise including the games, books, films, etc.

unlicensed

Video games that are published on a platform without approval from the platform's creator.

unlock

To gain access to locked game content (like an optional character or map) or a locked object (like a door or treasure chest).

unlockable

Something in a game which can be unlocked. This may refer to an object (like a locked door or chest) or additional content (like unlockable characters or difficulty levels). When objects are unlockable they typically require a key or similar object, but, when content is unlockable, it typically requires the player to perform a specific task. For example, winning the game might unlock an additional character with which to play the game again.

unwinnable state

When it becomes impossible to win a game due to an action of inaction by the player, and they won't notice for awhile, or never.

upgrade (hardware)

The process of replacing weak hardware with more powerful hardware. It is common to upgrade the hardware in home computers, less so with consoles.

upgrade (mechanic)

Increasing something's power, typically an item, vehicle, or similar inanimate object. Upgrades are often the result of completing a quest, crafting, or increasing levels.

upgrade (software)

An improvement in the quality of a program. Usually by patching bugs and adding new features.

USB

Short for Universal Serial Bus, a family of connectors and protocols designed to handle most data transmission needs. Introduced in 1996, it quickly became the dominant connector for most computers, video games, and electronic devices.

USK

Short for Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle, a video game content rating system used by Germany and some areas of Austria.

V

vaporware

A pejorative for a game that was announced a long time ago, and the production company claims it's still in development, but still hasn't been released, and there are no plans for it to be released any time soon.

vblank

See "vertical blank."

vector

A shape or collection of shapes drawn from lines and vertices in either two or three dimensions. When in two dimensions, vectors often employ curved lines and complex shapes, but, when in three dimensions, vectors typically consist of an object composed entirely of triangles.

vector monitor

A CRT display device which, instead of using raster lines to draw the screen, uses arbitrary lines to draw shapes. Vector monitors were used in the Vetrex and a number of early arcade games.

vehicular combat

A genre of video game where the player controls a combat vehicle (e.g., tank, ship, jets) and uses it to fight with other vehicles.

versus

An aspect of a game where a player competes against another, usually human-controlled, opponent.

versus mode

A form of play that focuses primarily on competition with another, usually human-controlled, opponent. Popular subcategories of versus mode include "deathmatch," "teams," "capture the flag," "king of the hill," and "last man standing."

vertical blank

The brief time when the electron gun of a CRT is resetting to the top of the screen. When using vertical synchronization, this is when the video game must refresh the screen.

vertical slice

A demonstration of a game that's still in development in order to show the financial backers how the major features are coming along. Often demanded when the backers aren't confident about the game's progress or are unsure what the game is about. The term comes from the idea of showing a slice of food to the potential buyer so they'll know what the inside looks like.

vertical synchronization

Refers to only refreshing the screen when the display hardware is in its vertical synchronization (or vsync) mode. This is done to prevent tearing.

video game crash

The quick drop in sales of video games in 1983 which caused several companies to go out of business. This was mostly isolated to North America and had little effect the Japanese or European markets.

VGA

Short for Video Graphics Array, a display technology developed by IBM to give higher resolution color graphics to their line of computers.

VGA connector

A DE-15 connector originally designed to send VGA data from the video card to the monitor, but saw continued used long after the VGA standard was obsolete. Replaced by DVI and HDMI.

virtual machine

The creation of a system in software usually to emulate hardware or provide a platform independent environment for software.

virtual reality

The simulation of an environment in a manner that makes it feel real to the user, typically with a VR headset which uses two displays, one for each eye, that are slightly offset from each other to simulate binocular vision. This causes the wearer to feel a stronger sense of immersion in the game world than a traditional display. The immersion is extended when the headset is tracked in 3D space and controllers are used which give haptic feedback.

visual novel

A genre of video game where the player reads a novel. The novel is typically highly illustrated and usually has some level of interactivity.

voice actor

An actor who performs the voice for a character in a game.

VR

See "virtual reality."

vsync

See "vertical synchronization."

W

walking simulator

A pejorative for games with sparsely populated environments or little action. Instead of playing an exciting game, the player just walks around the game world.

walkthrough

Instructions for completing a game from start to finish. The author is effectively "walking the player through" the entire game. Walkthroughs are often consulted when hints are not enough to help a player get through a difficult section of a game.

wall jump

A movement mechanic where a player can bouncing off a wall in order to jump higher. This is sometimes the result of exploiting a game bug.

wallhack

The ability to see objects, or their outlines, through opaque walls. As the name suggests, this is typically the result of hacking the game, a form of cheating, although some games include it as a power up.

warp

Something that causes a character to be teleported to another section of the game.

warp zone

An area in a game world with a warp. The term was popularized by Super Mario Bros.

WASD

Referring to the keys on a QWERTY-layout keyboard. When a player is expected to hold the mouse or similar one-handed control device in their right hand, the W, A, S, and D keys are used by the left hand for directional movement instead of the arrow keys. This is an especially common control setup for first-person shooters.

waterfall development model

A game development model that is broken up into clear sequentially ordered stages such as planning, design, implementation, testing, and distribution. At the completion of each stage, the next one begins, with progress flowing in a single direction, like a waterfall. Publishers prefer this model because it makes it easy to track the progress of a game's development. Although this model typically works well with application software, where the goals are much more obvious from the start, video game development doesn't thrive under such a rigid structure. Much of a game's development requires designers to figure out how to make something fun, which often leads to reworking or scrapping segments when they're discovered, far along in development, to not be enjoyable. The waterfall development model is often contrasted with the agile development model.

wave

Describes an attack by a number of enemies at a time. Similar to a level, except the player's character usually remains stationary while the enemies come to her.

weighted random

Random values that are influenced by other factors, typically used to prevent long runs of similar values. For example, if a game uses a random number to determine whether a player hits a foe, they will eventually get a random sequence which causes them to miss many times in a row. Despite this being a product of randomness, the player will probably find this annoying and may think the game is cheating. To prevent this, developers often add various weights to their randomness to ensure that players don't see long runs of similar results, perhaps by continuing to increase the chance of a hit each time the player misses until a hit is guaranteed.

win

Occurs when a player successfully completes a game. Also referred to as beat, complete, finish, etc.

Windows

Relating to the series of operating systems developed by Microsoft.

wisdom

A character or unit attribute which typically affects their decision-making abilities. In fantasy settings, it is usually correlated with certain magical abilities.

women as reward

A trope related to the "damsel in distress," where the damsel, upon being rescued, rewards the player with something romantic or sexual, like a kiss, the removal of clothing, etc.

word game

A genre of video game which relies on various forms of word play.

world (map)

The entire area of a game, including all playable and non-playable areas.

world (section)

A large section of a game, usually divided in smaller sections. For example, a game may consist of "fire world," "water world," and "air world."

X

Xbox

Any of the several home video game consoles produced by Microsoft bearing the name Xbox: Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, etc.

XP

See "experience points."

Y

yellowing

The result of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic discoloring after several years of exposure to oxygen in the air. The cases of many home computers and video game consoles were made of ABS so they turn from gray to a dull yellow over time. It can be corrected through a process called retrobrite.

Z

zero-day

Refers to a bug in a game that has not yet been patched. The term describes the number of days since a patch has been made to fix the bug, and, since a patch has not yet been made, it has been "zero-days" since the fix.

zero-player game

Any game where human players can't take an active role. See also AI vs. AI.

zone

A discrete section of a game world, (e.g., fire zone, green hill zone, etc.) often used synonymously with stage, level, or area. In multi-player games, often serves as a section within which players can communicate in-game.

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