Gaming Terms and Video Game Slang, Explained

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Don’t you just hate when you are at a party, and everyone uses gaming terms you don’t know? You want to mingle with all the cool kids, but they discuss how developers nerfed their favorite PvE isometric early-access Roguelite, and you just stand there, nodding like an awkward penguin. No more!

Collider proudly presents to you the ultimate gaming glossary for cool kids, with handy explanations that can make you a gaming expert in no time. So the next time you want to impress someone, just pretend you are tweeting something #trendy and take a peek at our gaming terms guide. You’ll be the star of the (LAN) party!*

*Editor’s note: A LAN (local area network) party sees gamers playing multiplayer video games together over multiple, locally connected, and often hardwired PCs or consoles. (Okay, I just had to sneak that one in there for the oldies like me. Marco’s terms continue below!)

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Image via Firaxis Games, 2K

4X

4X is a subgenre of the strategy genre where the goal is to build an empire. Alan Emrich coined the term “XXXX” in 1993 to categorize a specific kind of gameplay based on four elements: Exploration of a map, Expansion of the player’s controlled territory, Exploitation of the resources present in your territory, and Extermination of the enemy empires. Some modern titles also include diplomacy mechanics as a way to achieve your goal. The term “XXXX” was quickly transformed into “4X”, as there were many inappropriate confusions with the XXX industry (don’t play coy, you know what I’m talking about). Game franchises such as Civilization, Galactic Civilizations, and Endless Space are part of the 4X family.

AAA

AAA, pronounced “triple-A”, is used in the gaming industry to categorize big-budget video games. Originally, AAA was used by the credit industry to define the safest opportunity to achieve financial goals. (That’s why AAA games are all about spectacle and “easy” money.) There is no lack of excellent AAA titles. Still, as time goes by, some companies overuse elements such as microtransactions and DLCs to increase profit in a way that might harm player’s experience. Big publishers, such as EA, Ubisoft, Microsoft, and Nintendo, usually only develop AAA titles.

Accessibility

To have a fabulous party, the more, the merrier. Accessibility refers to all the features introduced by developers so more diverse players can enjoy a game. Different difficulty settings are the most common accessibility tool, as it allows people with decreased motor capacities to enjoy a game. Other welcomed accessibility features are colorblind-friendly art, dyslexia-friendly fonts, special feedback for people with disabilities, and even adapted controllers. The more options a game has to control all the aspects of its gameplay, the more accessible it is. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and The Last of Us: Part II are recent titles highly praised for their accessibility features.

Adaptive Difficulty

In Soviet Russia, the difficulty chooses you! When a game has adaptive difficulty, a.k.a. dynamic balancing, that means the challenge level get automatically raised or lowered in response to the player’s perceived competence. While you are playing, the game analyses, on its own, how often you fail or succeed and then slightly changes the rules of the game to keep you engaged. As human beings, we tend to give up on games that are too hard or too easy; adaptive difficulty is put in place to increase the odds that players will always have the right amount of challenge. One of the best examples of adaptive difficulty is the Mario Kart franchise; players get better items when they are too far behind, thus preventing a total defeat before they even get in sight of the checkered flag.

Alpha

A game hits an alpha stage when it’s ready for testing but not yet prepared to be presented to players. While all gameplay should be functional on alpha, some art assets might not be entirely done yet. Also, game development is a challenging task involving many resources, so the first final version of a game is most certainly broken and filled with bugs. The alpha version of a game, then, is the “final” version of the game that, after being tested, still needs to undergo several changes and adjustments until it reaches the “final354” version that can finally be played by people who didn’t work in development or testing.

ARPG (Action-RPG)

Role-Playing Games, also know as RPGs, are games in which you take control of a fictional character and also take responsibility for their actions. While this could be extended to almost any kind of game, RPGs are differentiated by their focus on character development, with a level-up system of some sort and the presence of experience points. We can say that RPGs are games for people who love complex narrative choices and math. An action RPG, a.k.a. ARPG, takes some of the math out of the way by adding mechanics from action games, such as hack ‘n’ slash combat. It’s not enough, in an ARPG, to have good statuses and make the right choices; the skill of the player in real-time combat will also define their success. In exchange, you get the increased satisfaction of bashing your enemies directly. Some of the most successful ARPG franchises are Diablo, Dark Souls, and Path of Exile.

Augmented Reality (AR)/ Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality, or VR, takes the real you and puts you inside a virtual world. When you use a VR headset, you feel like you are actually in the game because your real actions are reflected inside the virtual landscape of the game. Augmented Reality, or AR, takes the opposite path by adding virtual objects on top of the real world. The most known example of AR in games is Pokémon GO, the phone app that allows you to take pictures of hundreds of Pokémon as if they were present in your living room. The camera still captures the image of the real world around you, but the game augments the reality by adding a Pokémon there. Unfortunately, AR is still an emerging technology that doesn’t allow us to pet Pokémon. Not yet.

Image via Epic Games

Battle Royale

Battle Royales are a trendy online multiplayer game genre that puts dozens or even hundreds of players into an arena to fight until only one player is left standing. Battle Royales (BRs) usually have secondary mechanics based on exploration and survival, allowing players to try different strategies while staying alive until the end of the match. Most Battle Royales also feature time constraints, put in place to avoid the awkward situation of everyone hiding simultaneously and just waiting for the enemies to kill each other. Some of the biggest titles in the Battle Royale industry are PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Fortnite Battle Royale, and Apex Legends.

Beta

A game hits a beta stage when all of its resources are implemented, and the game was already tested enough to be considered pretty much finished. In the beta stage, some bugs might still exist, and not every mechanic is adequately balanced. However, the game is already playable enough to allow players to try it out. The beta access to a game is even more important to online multiplayer games, as it allows developers to test the limits of servers and balance features according to players’ experience. Companies also grant the beta access to reduce costs with testing, as players are already eager to do this work for free.

Bullet Hell

Bullet Hell is a Shooter mechanic where enemies attack you so frequently that projectiles and laser beams often cover the screen. Imagine the screen is adult life, and your responsibilities are bullets. You need to act fast to survive, but you’ll probably get overwhelmed unless you got outstanding reflex skills. Other names for Bullet Hell games include Maniac Shooter and Curtain Fire, both appropriate descriptions that help us visualize what these games are all about. Enter the Gungeon is the perfect example of how a game using a Bullet Hell mechanic looks like.

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Image via Atari

Cheesing

To cheese is to use an unintentional flaw in a game to get some advantage. As games are complex systems in which hundreds of elements interact, it’s pretty common that players find unexpected behaviors that the developers did not anticipate. Maybe the boss stops pursuing the player if they climb a stair; maybe there’s a way to hit enemies through walls; perhaps it’s easy to get an enemy stuck into the same animation so you can attack them safely. So while cheating involves changing the rules of a game to benefit you, cheesing uses flaws already in the game. In both cases, you are not playing fair. [Editor’s note: Fighting games popularized the term, namely Street Fighter II, prompting games like Atari’s Primal Rage (seen above) to bake in “punishments” for cheesing.]

Cloud Gaming

Cloud gaming refers to a growing market that allows players to play any game on any platform without worrying about having a powerful console or computer to run their favorite titles with the highest sound and image quality possible. With cloud gaming, a player only needs to have a good internet connection to transmit their control inputs to an external server, which will take care of all the processing and send back the gameplay. Cloud gaming is a valuable tool for people unable to afford a new-generation console or a gaming computer. However, it’s still an eco-unfriendly option, as it consumes a high amount of energy. Cloud gaming is also known as gaming on-demand or gaming-as-a-service. Some of the cloud gaming services available right now are Xbox’s xCloud, Google’s Stadia, Amazon’s Luna, and Nvidia’s GeForce Now.

Deathmatch

A deathmatch, a.k.a. free-for-all, is a unique game mode in which players need to kill as many adversaries as they can until a particular condition is met. Usually, deathmatches are regulated by a max number of deaths each team can have or by a time limit that defines the end of the match. Deathmatches are not exclusive to any game genre, but they are usually featured in Shooters, especially those with an online multiplayer component, such as Halo and Counter-Strike. In addition, the whole Battle Royale genre is also built upon the idea of a deathmatch.

Developer

We use the term “developer” to define the people responsible for creating a game. With bigger games, a developer might be a studio with hundreds of employees; there are also the legendary “game(s) made by a single dev.” Therefore, every person who helps to create something used in the game can be considered a developer. As a game is a complex medium that uses many different resources, we can say that designers, musicians, artists, and programmers are developers working on a game. Developing a game is just a part of the process, though, as a publisher usually handles marketing and funding.

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DLC

Downloadable content, usually referred to simply as DLC, is every add-on a player can download to get new features for a game. As the internet became more popular, developers realized they could use an online connection to fix bugs and offer extra content. While DLC can be an excellent tool for expanding an original game, most AAA games nowadays are already designed to have paid DLC, which is not the most consumer-friendly strategy. Multiple DLC is usually bundled into a Season Pass.

DMCA

Short for Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA has come to be used as a pejorative word, verb, or warning in modern gaming/streaming circles. The 1998 copyright law aims to shore up intellectual property protections and curtail any violations of IP ownership. Said violations, like circumventing DRM (see below) or broadcasting someone else’s IP without ownership or permission, can result in fines or worse. This very complicated issue has led to game developers of all shapes and sizes including “DMCA-free” or “DMCA-safe” music tracks. Twitch takes DMCA claims, notifications, and consequences seriously, and streamers should, too. But you’ll most likely hear this in chats where a snippet of corporate-owned audio/video gets broadcast, inevitably resulting in chat spamming “DMCA” with a bunch of LUL emojis.

DPS

Damage Per Second, or DPS, defines the amount of damage your avatar in any given game can do in a single second. The term is frequently used by different gaming communities trying to find the best build possible for a character. That’s because DPS discussions are only possible for games that allow the player to build different characters, such as RPGs and online games with different weapons.

DRM

In gaming, Digital Rights Management, shortened to DRM, is software that controls the access a player has to digital games. When you buy a physical copy of a game, there’s a tactile object to tell you you own it. However, with digital content, there’s usually a DRM to control your access to the game with a login and password to stop the user from making illegal copies. Most DRM companies also have long user agreements that state the player doesn’t really buy a game but only a license of use that could be revoked for several reasons. There are DRM-free online gaming stores, such as GOG. However, almost every online gaming store uses DRM, including Steam, Epic Games, PlayStation Store, Nintendo Store, and Microsoft Store.

Dungeon Crawler

Dungeon Crawlers are games focused on exploring labyrinths filled with creatures and traps to find some treasure. While Dungeon Crawlers are usually based on medieval fantasy, there’s no actual thematic limitation for games that use this specific loop for creating their adventures. Dungeon crawling adventures are frequently featured in RPGs, such as Torchlight, but more recently, they are an essential part of Roguelites, like Moonlighter, Darkest Dungeon, and Slay the Spire.

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Image via Dolphin, Nintendo

Emulator

An emulator is a piece of software that tries to imitate the functioning of a console. While emulators are frequently used for piracy, they are not actually illegal. Should you own a copy of the original game, it’s perfectly legal to use an emulator to run the game on your computer. In addition, an emulator is an excellent tool for games preservation and experimenting with older games by modifying some of their features and improving their visual quality. Unfortunately, as great publishers close online services and delist older games, some titles can only be played with emulators.

Endgame

A player reaches the endgame when they are at the climax of story progression and everything present on the main game is already unlocked and available. This is the point of a game where the whole map is already open for exploration, all the collectibles can be grabbed, and the player reaches a power level that can be considered final [Editor’s note: or at least sufficient to complete the main campaign’s challenges.] All you have to do is face the final boss and go for the last collectibles, should you be a completionist. There’s also a phase of the game known as post-game in which new challenges are added after the main story, specially tailored for players who are already at the peak of their power. For instance, in Monster Hunter World, the post-game starts once the player gains access to the Guiding Lands.

Endless Mode

A game has an endless mode when it has no time restraints and a match can last forever. Usually, endless modes are available in the postgame of Arcade games, Tower Defense, and even Strategy titles. Without a clock to control the length of the match, the player must survive hordes of enemies or other challenges for as long as they can. An endless mode is usually ranked according to the player’s performance, adding an online dimension to the game. Both Frostpunk and Orcs Must Die! 2 have great endless modes available for players on the postgame.

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Image via Nintendo

Fast-travel

Walking is boring. Luckily, in video games, this can be solved using fast-travel, a mechanic that allows the player to teleport and traverse long distances almost instantly. Some games, such as the Dark Souls franchise, only allow the player to fast travel to specific points in the map. Others, like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, allow the player to fast-travel to any previously discovered location. While many modern games make fast travel available from the start, older titles, such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, only unlock the mechanic after the player reaches a given milestone. In any case, fast travel is a huge time saver, allowing the player to focus on their energy in the fun parts of the game.

First-Person/Third-Person

We say a game has a first-person perspective when the camera available for the player overlaps with the field of vision of the avatar. That means first-person games allow the player to see what the character inside the game can see in that given situation. A third-person perspective, on the contrary, shows the avatar entirely on the screen, giving the player a wider field of vision. Resident Evil Village uses a first-person perspective, while the Resident Evil 2 remake uses the over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective.

Fog of War

The fog of war is usually part of Strategy games and represents a part of a given map that the player cannot see. While Strategy games typically allow the player to change their field of vision by moving the camera across the map, some parts of the map will be covered in shadows or fog. These map areas will only be fully revealed once the player sends his own units to the region. Thus, the fog of war represents the field of vision of the units a player controls in a Strategy game. Both StarCraft and Total War are franchises that use fog of war in their games.

FOV (Field of Vision)

Since “field of vision” is too long to write, gamers and developers usually use FOV to refer to what a given character can see or what’s available to the player on the screen. The player usually doesn’t have access to the entire virtual world inside a game simultaneously, and each game has its mechanics to limit the FOV of a player, depending on the game’s mechanics. For example, platformers such as Super Mario Odyssey need a big FOV to give players enough space to time their jumps. On the other hand, horror games like Outlast usually have a small FOV to make players afraid of what might be hiding around every corner. [Editor’s Note: You’ll often hear streamers and PC gamers adjusting their “FOV Slider” to a preferred setting; this value is fixed on console titles more often than not.]

FPS

A First-person Shooter (FPS) is one of the most popular action subgenres. These games limit the FOV of the player to a first-person perspective and make the primary goal of the game to shoot targets, which are usually mobile, dynamic enemies equipped with their own weapons. An FPS game like Prey can be developed for a single-player experience or, like Counter-Strike, aimed at a multiplayer experience. Also, you don’t need actual guns to have an FPS, as games like Splatoon trade bullets for ink while keeping the same mechanics.

Frame rate (FPS)

The frame rate measures the rendering speed of graphics in video games, usually in frames per second (FPS). While 10 to 12 images per second are already enough to create the illusion of animation, the higher the frame rate, the more the game looks fluid, as the time gap between each new frame is shorter. While most Nintendo Switch games run at 30 or 60 FPS, modern high-resolution screens can reach 240 FPS. The new console generation, including the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, can reach 120 FPS.

Free-to-play

A game is free-to-play if you don’t have to buy it with currency, only with your time (and sometimes with your soul.) Free-to-play games make billions of dollars every year by offering paid content presented as entirely optional for the player. Most free-to-play games demand a lot of grinding, a time-consuming gathering of materials or experience, which induces players to buy small packages in order to speed up their progression. Why pay $60 for a complete game when you can mortgage your house to buy as many $2 gem packs as you’d like? Many free-to-play games also make a profit by offering (or occasionally “forcing”) the player to watch ads. Remember, kids, if you got it for free, the product is you! Some popular free-to-play games include Candy Crush saga and Pokémon GO.

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Image via Hempuli Oy

Game Jam

While game developing is a marathon, a Game Jam is a short race. During a Game Jam, a person or a group of people try to build an entire game as fast as they can, usually for bragging rights. There are hundreds of different Game Jams, each with its own schedule and themes, and they are actually a great way to prototype a game idea before dedicating months to build a commercial game. Some of the greatest games launched in the last couple of years, such as Celeste and Baba Is You, were first prototyped during a Game Jam. One of the most famous Game Jams is the Ludum Dare, in which teams of developers must build a game in only 48 hours.

Grinding

If life were a videogame, grinding would be work. A player is grinding when performing a tedious task repeatedly, usually trying to get some reward — such as a rare treasure, experience points, or some extra vacation days. Players generally see grinding as a lazy resource developers use to extend the length of a game. Some genres, however, like RPGs, usually have some level of grinding to balance leveling-up and player progression. Free-to-play games also tend to include a lot of grinding to incentivize the player to buy extra resources.

Isometric

A game has an isometric perspective when its viewpoint is positioned at an angle that allows players to see details that would be hidden both by a lateral camera and by a top-down camera. By focusing on a diagonal perspective, isometric games create the illusion of a 3D environment, even when all game graphics are fully 2D. An isometric view is most commonly used in RTS games such as Warcraft, RPGs such as Divinity, and for hack ‘n’ slash combat like the one featured in Hades.

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JRPG

While JRPG literally means Japanese Role-Playing Game, the term is not used to define games created in Japan. Contrary to ARPGs, JRPGs usually don’t have real-time combat, using the classic turn-based combat created by the first big gaming RPG franchises, such as Final Fantasy. JRPGs also are more focused on a linear story, while ARPGs usually feature some level of free-roaming and exploration. Lastly, most JRPGs also have a party system that allows players to personalize their team of characters to suit their playstyle better. As time goes by, JRPGs also include many ARPGs elements, with Final Fantasy XV even developing an interactive combat system.

Localization

While movies can be dubbed or have translated subtitles, games need extra work to reach people in different parts of the world. We call localization the process of adapting a game to other languages. This means, of course, translating all the available text. However, as menus and puzzles are also highly dependent on language, the process of localization might need to tweak some gameplay aspects for a game to be entirely understandable in different languages. Games published by Devolver Digital usually have amazing localizations, capable of adapting jokes and Easter eggs to diverse cultural landscapes.

Loot boxes

Many free-to-play games use loot boxes to reward the player with random items while also selling additional loot boxes for real-world currency. Each loot box has a set number of items, but the player doesn’t know what they will get before opening it. Loot boxes have been recently compared to gambling, as the player is pushed to keep buying loot boxes until they can get rare items. For that reason, Belgium already altogether banned loot boxes in the country, while several other countries pushed laws to minimize their negative impact. One of the worst loot boxes implementations in gaming history happened at the launch of Star Wars: Battlefront II, which forced the player to either pay extra or play hundreds of hours to unlock a single character.

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Image via Blizzard

The more a game presents the player with different choices, the more it will have metagame discussions. The metagame refers to the best strategies found by a game community to achieve victory. Every online game with an active community has a metagame, as players try to find out which are the best possible combinations of weapons, classes, items, and anything else a game has to offer. Developers of online games are constantly rebalancing the game to disrupt the metagame, as matches can become dull if everyone chooses the same options all the time. All the discussions surrounding the best cards in Magic: The Gathering are part of its metagame.

Metroidvania

While there is a lot of disagreement as to the definition of a Metroidvania, the presence of an interconnected overworld that is not open but gated by specific abilities the player collects as they progress through the game more or less fits the consensus. As a subgenre of the Action-Adventure genre, Metroidvanias are also games focused on combat and exploration. Finally, the exploration is non-linear, with many secrets hidden in the overworld. Many gamers and critics also use “Metroidvania” to define only 2D games with lateral perspective and platforming mechanics. The term is inspired by both Metroid and Castlevania, the two franchises that consolidated the subgenre. Other known Metroidvania games are Hollow Knight, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Axiom Verge.

Microtransaction

Microtransactions refer to any kind of in-game purchases. They are primarily present in free-to-play games. However, many recent AAA games such as Marvel’s Avengers and Grand Theft Auto Online also include microtransactions. Players don’t mind microtransactions too much when they are put in place to offer only cosmetic items like skins. However, big companies are always trying to push more microtransactions into $60 games to generate extra revenue, something that’s badly perceived by the gaming community. The worst kind of microtransactions are connected to loot boxes, with the player spending money without even knowing what they will get in return.

MMO

A Massive Multiplayer Online is a kind of game that allows thousands of players to interact with the same online world, both in cooperation and competition. While every genre can have its own MMO game, almost all successful MMO titles are also RPGs. That’s the main reason why MMO is frequently (and wrongly) used as a synonym for MMORPG. A great example of an MMO that’s not an RPG is Forza Horizon 4, based on racing and driving simulations. Some of the most popular MMORPGs available in the market are World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2.

MOBA

The Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, or MOBA, is a game genre based on online matches between two teams of players. MOBAs are played in arenas. It’s up to each team to define the best strategy to reach the goal of killing the enemy team, destroying a specific structure, or conquering a given territory. During a MOBA match, each player controls a single character, which demands coordination between the teammates. Since they are highly competitive games, MOBAs usually develop local and international championships. Most MOBAs are also free-to-play, which means they feature a lot of microtransactions. MOBAs became famous thanks to both DOTA 2 and League of Legends.

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Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Nerf/Buff

While balancing weapons, classes, and items, developers can either increase their power or decrease it. When an element in the game has its power decreased, we say it has been nerfed. When its power is increased, it has been buffed. Nerfing can sometimes be poorly received by players used to a metagame. However, sometimes nerfing comes after a request from players that claim something is too powerful (or OP, as in overpowered) and hurts a game’s delicate balancing.

NPC

An NPC, or a non-player character, refers to every character in a game that the player cannot control. While the term could be correctly applied to every enemy a player must defeat, the term is currently used to classify allies or neutral characters. The old man who gives you a sword in the first The Legend of Zelda is an NPC. (Also, take note for the future: NPC can be used as an insult to define someone unable to think for themselves.)

Open-World

An open-world is a vast map that the player can explore at their own pace. While the term became mainstream and is often used to promise players freedom, an open-world only exists if there are no locked regions the player cannot explore until progressing in the main story. The best open-worlds offer a lot of extra content for the player, with secrets hidden everywhere to reward exploration. Bad open-worlds are empty, forcing the player to walk a lot more than they should. Both Minecraft and Witcher 3 are great examples of a well-implemented open-world.

Party game

Party Games are developed to be played by a group of people. Since the goal of Party Games is to please a diverse ensemble of players, they usually offer simple gameplay and luck mechanics. The simple gameplay allows people with different gaming backgrounds to learn how to play with ease, while luck mechanics ensure everyone can win, regardless of their skills. Party Games also have quick matches so that they can be played in small bursts. These games are usually chaotic and fun as they are aimed at creating a collectively good time. While the Mario Party franchise remains the best example of this genre, many great Party games are available, such as Overcooked and Ultimate Chicken Horse.

Platformer

Platform games, or Platformers, are games in which the goal is to defy gravity and reach a specific point on the map by navigating a series of, you guessed it, platforms. While Action games are focused on combat, Puzzles on riddles, and Adventure games on exploration, Platformers are all about movement. The best Platformers have responsive control and fluid movement, giving the player pleasure by only moving a character around. Platformers can have many collectible or short levels, but they all involve traversing a level that’s usually filled with danger. While it is easy to think of Super Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog as examples, this is one of the most prolific genres in the gaming industry, with hundreds of noteworthy titles.

Point-and-click

The point-and-click mechanic defines the literal action of using a mouse/cursor to select objects on a screen. Since touch-screen and mobile gaming became popular, the term is also used to refer to applications that only need simple touches from the users. A lot of Isometric RPGs, such as Pillars of Eternity, have a point-and-click control pattern. However, the term is often used to define classic adventure games like Grim Fandango and the Monkey Island franchise, in which the player only needs to click on dialogues and items to progress through the full game.

Port

While creating games, developers usually choose one or more platforms (not to be confused with Platformers) on which to release their projects, be it consoles, PCs, mobile devices, or a combination of the above. This is an essential step in game development, as each platform has its own software architecture and hardware limitations. A game built for the PlayStation 5, for instance, might not run on the Nintendo Switch without a lot of changes both in code and in the assets. A port is an adaptation of a game to a platform it was not initially developed for. Bad ports, such as the PC version of Death Stranding, don’t consider the different hardware and end up with lots of game-breaking bugs. Great ports, however, can achieve miraculous feats, such as making Doom Eternal run smoothly on the Nintendo Switch.

Publisher

While developers make games, they do still need to eat. That’s why many developers try to get the help of a publisher. A publisher is usually charged with funding the game by investing directly or finding external funders. It is also the publisher’s job to take care of everything that’s not directly connected to the game’s development, such as marketing and legal concerns. The best publishers trust their developers and leave a lot of breathing space for the creative team; bad publishers try to interfere with the game’s creation by demanding the inclusion of specific features or acting as censors. In the end, the goal of a publisher is to make money, and only a tiny part of the revenue from a game’s sales gets to the hands of developers. Square Enix, EA, and Ubisoft are all AAA game publishers.

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PvE

A PvE game pits the Player against the Environment, which means the challenges are developed for and controlled by the game’s code. Every single-player game with combat is technically a PvE game. However, the term is mainly used for online games to discuss challenges that demand cooperation in opposition to competition against other players. Online games that have only a PvE component are more usually referred to as cooperative games. However, PvE is also a term that shows up to define games that also have PvP phases, such as online RPGs.

PvP

Contrary to PvE challenges, PvP refers to any game that pits Players against other Players. While competitive games such as MOBAs are also PvP games, the term is mainly used by online communities of games that also feature cooperative play. Both PvP and PvE are frequently used to define different challenges in online games with multiple phases, such as MMOs.

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Image via Naughty Dog

QTE (Quick Time Event)

A Quick Time Event happens when a game demands the player react quickly to an input shown on the screen by pressing the right button on a controller or keyboard almost instantly. QTEs are frequently used during cutscenes, but they are sometimes received as poor substitutes for actual action-based gameplay. As a result, modern video games have been dropping QTEs, also improving accessibility, as these events are sometimes impossible to perform by people with reduced mobility. However, franchises such as Shenmue are still known for the widespread use of QTEs.

Replay value

A game with a high replay value is a game that players might enjoy replaying multiple times. To increase replay value, many games include unique modes that are unlocked only after beating the game once. This is the strategy of games like Devil May Cry 5, in which specific modes are only available for players who already proved themselves in lower difficulties. Recently, with the resurgence of Roguelites, many developers try to include randomization features to create a game that can be replayed indefinitely, as each run is unique. For instance, Spelunky can offer hundreds of hours of fun because every new trial is unique.

Roguelike

Roguelike is used in the videogame industry to define games like Rogue, a game with randomly generated levels and permadeath. The term was widely used to describe games with these two characteristics until the 2008’s Roguelike Development Conference — yep, this is a thing — defined a list of essential traits any Roguelike should have. This list, known as the Berlin Interpretation, also makes it mandatory for the game to happen all in a single screen, have tile-based movement, turn-based combat, and not allow any kind of progression. Officially, then, Roguelikes practically don’t exist, and the genre can never evolve and integrate new things. That’s why the industry usually offers Roguelite as the term to define the same kind of game, but not that many restrictions. A more unofficial interpretation separates Roguelikes and Roguelites by the presence of permanent progression.

Roguelite

In order to avoid stepping on anybody’s toes, the term Roguelite was created to talk about Roguelike games that are not Roguelike enough for some people. (Assigning names can indeed be a touchy activity.) A Roguelite is a game with dungeon crawling in which the dungeons are randomly generated, making every visit to a dungeon unique. Roguelites also feature a permadeath system, meaning that when the player dies, they go back to the start of the dungeon. Each new incursion is called a run. Although they feature a game loop based on repetition, Roguelites feature a permanent upgrade system. Less forgiving systems, such as in The Binding of Isaac, only unlock new entries in a journal. Games like Hades, on the contrary, highly increase the player’s defense and offense over time. Most modern Roguelites have a defined goal and allow the player to reach an ending.

RTS (Real-Time Strategy)

Real-Time Strategy games invite players to manage buildings and units in real-time, which means there are no turns in the game, and the players need to think and act fast to achieve victory. As part of the Strategy genre, RTSs offer multiple solutions to the same problem, usually offering both PvE and PvP matches. RTS games typically involve gathering resources, building units, and upgrading technology. To achieve success in an RTS match, the player needs to micromanage units while macromanaging their resources. Both The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth and Command and Conquer are successful RTS franchises.

Run-and-Gun

Run-and-Gun are special Shoot-‘em-Up games in which the playable characters are on foot. While Shoot-‘em-Up games can exist in all shapes and sizes, Run-and-Gun are usually 2D side-scrollers with platforming mechanics. The subgenre was made popular by franchises such as Contra and Metal Slug. More recently, the subgenre received new life with the release of Cuphead.

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Image via Hello Games

Sandbox

Sandbox games don’t have any specific goal, allowing players to explore and build whatever they like in a highly interactable virtual world. Some game experts claim that sandboxes are not actually games, as they lack a goal. However, one could argue that sandboxes allow players to create their own purpose instead of setting an objective. Some games with clear objectives still have sandbox mechanics, as they offer a vast universe to explore without the need to complete any mission. Some famous sandbox games include Garry’s Mod and No Man’s Sky.

Season Pass

A season pass unites several DLCs into a single package. A season pass is usually offered with some kind of discount, making it cheaper than the summed price of every individual DLC it includes. Most AAA games already offer a season pass at launch, months before any DLC is available. Online games can also offer multiple season passes along the years as new content becomes available each season, usually lasting six months.

SHMUP (Shoot-‘em-Up)

A Shoot-‘em-Up is a subgenre of Shooter games focused on non-stop action and destroying as many enemies as possible. Although the industry never coined a precise definition of SHMUP, the term defines a Shooter that presents bullet hell mechanics. While Shooters, in general, can include different mechanics to make their core loop more diversified, SHMUPs are entirely focused on the destruction of the enemy. The term SHMUP is also most commonly used for 2D games. Vertical scrollers such as Ikaruga and twin-stick shooters like Nex Machina are frequently defined as SHMUPs.

Skin

Skin is an in-game item that changes the appearance of a character. At first, skins were offered for free in games as a reward for beating tough challenges. However, as free-to-play games emerged, many developers started to sell skins to monetize their games. Nowadays, many AAA games offer alternative costumes in microtransactions. A skin doesn’t change gameplay, and it’s only a cosmetic option to make your character look different. Online games like Overwatch and Rocket League are constantly releasing new skins for players to collect.

Softlock/Hardlock

A softlock happens when a game remains playable, but players cannot progress due to a bug or a design flaw. A hardlock, however, occurs when the game becomes completely unplayable. As developers nowadays can dispatch fixes through the internet, softlocks, and hardlocks are quickly solved. Nevertheless, gaming history is filled with permanent softlocks, such as the one in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles computer port, in which it was literally impossible to make a jump and finish a level.

Speedrun

Some people like to enjoy their time with a game, absorbing every little detail the developers took so long to craft. Other people just want to rush to the end as fast as possible. To speedrun is to try to finish a game as quickly as possible. Gamers worldwide compete to hold the title of the fastest speedrun, both by allowing the exploitation of glitches and by trying to beat the game without cheesing it. Speedruns can also be done by just trying to finish the game as fast as possible or by having to 100% it. Games Done Quick is an organization that features many speedrun events, and it’s awe-inspiring to watch people getting creative while trying to shave a few seconds off their playtime.

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Image via 2K Games

Turn-based

A turn-based mechanic pauses the game until the player chooses an action. That means games that use turn-based mechanics value strategy and critical thinking instead of real-time reactions. Most JRPGs use turn-based combat, and Turn-Based Strategy (TBS) is a subgenre of its own. Persona 5 is an RPG that uses turn-based combat; XCOM is one of the most prominent examples of Turn-based strategy franchises. To avoid players taking too long before deciding what to do in a turn, some games also introduce a countdown to each turn. One of the most creative solutions for speeding up turn-based combat is in Chrono Trigger: The enemies have a cooldown before they can act again; the player can take as long as they want to finish a turn, but that means the enemies will have a lot of extra turns in the meantime.

Visual Novel

Visual Novels feature text-based interaction with a linear storyline followed by the player as a book. Visual Novels usually feature static illustrations or simple animations, as the goal of this genre is to tell a good story. It is not unusual that Visual Novels have multiple possible endings, defined by the player’s dialogue choices. Since Visual Novels are fast to develop and easy to play, hundreds of new titles are released every year. Among the most famous Visual Novels is the Danganronpa franchise.

Walking Simulator

In Walking Simulators, the player is invited to move through a virtual world, interact with its objects, and observe all the elements around them. Walking Simulators don’t feature combat, don’t usually have hidden items to discover, and typically don’t feature puzzles. As they are less interactive than other gaming genres, Walking Simulators are often underestimated by players, who can even use the genre name in a derogatory way. [Editor’s Note: See also Death Stranding.] However, there is no lack of remarkable stories told by Walking Simulators. Some of the greatest indie classics of the last decade are Walking Simulators, including The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter, Firewatch, and What Remains of Edith Finch.

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