Glossary of Games Terminology

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A wider list of games-related terminology is available at Wikipedia. The below collects those terms generally related to business, policy and related matters.

0-9

A

  • AAA - Also triple-A. A high-budget game with a large development team, or game studios that make them. AAA games are usually multiplatform, have multimillion-dollar budgets, and expect to sell millions of copies.
  • abandonware - The idea of a game being forgotten about or abandoned by its developers for any number of reasons, including copyright issues.
  • alpha release - An initial, incomplete version of a game. Alpha versions are usually released early in the development process to test a game's most critical functionality and prototype design concepts.
  • API - Application Programming Interface. A software intermediary that allows two applications to transfer data between them.
  • ARPU - Average revenue per user, or sometimes per unit.
  • ARPDAU - Average revenue per daily active user.
  • ARPPU - Similar to ARPU, but instead represents the average revenue per *paying* user.
  • artificial intelligence (AI) - Algorithms used to generate responsive, adaptive or intelligent game behavior, primarily in non-player characters.
  • asset flipping - The practice of creating a game using 'free' art and audio assets, either from an online marketplace or the default stock of assets included with many game engines. Asset-flips are often of very poor quality designed to catch onto a currently popular theme to turn a quick profit. It mimics the practice of flipping in real estate markets.
  • augmented reality (AR) - Supplementing a real-world environment with computer-generated perceptual information, which may add to or mask the physical environment. Augmented reality alters the perception of a physical environment, whereas virtual reality replaces the physical environment with a simulated one.

B

  • battle royale game - A video game genre that blends elements of survival games with last-man-standing gameplay. Players search for equipment while eliminating competitors in a shrinking safe zone.
  • beta release / beta testing - An early release of a video game, following its alpha release, where the game developer seeks feedback from players and testers to remove bugs prior to the product's commercial release
  • bot - Short for robot. A non-playable character which is controlled by an artificial intelligence (AI). The player may compete against or work with a bot to complete objectives.

C

  • casual games - Casual games are played on an infrequent and spontaneous basis, without a long-term commitment. Casual video games are distinguished by a low learning curve and ease of access, often web-based for mobile phones or personal computers. Most casual games have simplified controls, with one or two buttons dominating play. Casual games can normally be played in small periods of time, and may not have a save feature.
  • chiptune - Music composed for the microchip-based audio hardware of early home computers and games consoles. Due to the technical limitations of earlier video game hardware, chiptune came to define a style of its own, known for its "soaring flutelike melodies, buzzing square wave bass, rapid arpeggios, and noisy gated percussion.
  • closed beta - A beta testing period where only specific people have access to the game.
  • cloud gaming - Cloud gaming operates with a cloud-gaming server running the game and performing all the processing, receiving controller input actions from networked users and streaming audio and video of the gameplay to these users. Essentially, cloud gaming is like a streaming video service, but interactive.
  • console - A computer specifically designed to playing games on, usually either connected to a TV or handheld with an inbuilt screen. Originating in the mid-80s, there have since been numerous generations of ever more powerful console hardware released as technology has improved.
  • content rating - Classifying video games according to suitability-related factors such as violent or sexual content contained within a game. Some countries use industry self-regulation models to accomplish this, while others have government rating boards.
  • cooperative gameplay (co-op) - Multiplayer gameplay where the players work together on the same team against computer-controlled opponents or challenges.
  • CPU - Central processing unit; the part of the computer or video game which executes the games' program. Historically, this also often referred to a non-player character controlled by the game software using artificial intelligence, usually serving as an opponent to the player or players.
  • crafting - A game mechanic that allows the player-character to construct game items, such as armor, weapons or medicine from combinations of other items. Most MMOGs feature a crafting system.

D

  • day one (also release date) - The day of release for a video game; often accompanied by a 'day-one patch' to repair issues that could not be addressed in time for the game's distribution.
  • DAU - Daily active user. A user which plays or otherwise engages with the content on a daily basis.
  • developer - The production company which makes a video game, or the person(s) working for these companies who are actively involved in the game's creation.
  • dialog tree - A means of providing a menu of dialog choices to the player when interacting with a non-player character so as to learn more from that character, influence the character's actions, and otherwise progress the game's story. The tree nature comes from typically having multiple branching levels of questions and replies that can be explored.
  • digital rights management (DRM) - Software tools for copyright protection
  • 'discord - A freeware communications platform designed for creating communities, enabling audio, text, video and image communication between users. Popular with video games communities, the platform allows users to create communal channel topics as well as enabling direct one-to-one messaging. Discord communities may be run by individual users, groups or games companies themselves. Discord may also be used to refer to the community itself, e.g. "Would you like you like to join our discord?".
  • downloadable content (DLC) - Additional content for a video game that is acquired through a digital delivery system.
  • drop rate - The probability of obtaining a particular item from randomised selection. Often refers to the chances of receiving a given item in a paid randomised transaction (e.g. a loot box or booster pack), particularly in games featuring microtransactions.
  • dynamic game difficulty balancing - The automatic change in parameters, scenarios, and behaviors in a video game in real-time, based on the player's ability, with the aim of avoiding player boredom or frustration.

E

  • emergent gameplay - Gameplay that develops as a result of player creativity, rather than the game's programmed structure.
  • emulator - A software program that is designed to replicate the software and hardware of a video game console on more-modern computers and other devices. Emulators typically include the ability to load software images of cartridges and other similar hardware-based game distribution methods from the earlier hardware generations, in addition to more-traditional software images.
  • esports - Organized competitions around competitive video games, ranging from amateur to professional levels.
  • experience point (XP) - In games that feature the ability for the player-character to gain levels, such as role-playing video games, experience points are used to denote progress towards the next character level.
  • extended reality - See XR.

F

  • fangame - A video game made by fans, based on one or more established video games. Retrogamers may clone early video games to take advantage of more advanced hardware and game engines.
  • farming - Repeating a battle, quest, or other part of a game in order to receive more or duplicates of specific reward items that can be gained through that battle or quest, such as experience points, game money, or specific reward items. Gold farming is a type of farming done for in-game currency.
  • first-party developer - A developer that is either owned directly by a console maker or has special arrangements with the console maker.
  • first-person shooter (FPS) - A genre of video game where the player experiences the game from the first person perspective, and where the primary mechanic is the use of guns and other ranged weapons to defeat enemies.
  • frame rate - A measure of the rendering speed of a video game's graphics, typically in frames per second.
  • freemium - Freemium is a pricing strategy by which a product or service (typically a digital offering or an application such as software, media, games or web services) is provided free of charge, but money (premium) is charged for additional features, services, or virtual (online) or physical (offline) goods.
  • free-to-play (F2P or FtP) - Games that do not require purchase from a retailer, either physical or digital, to play. Common in the mobile market but increasingly so in console and PC markets, free-to-play games may also provide additional gameplay-enhancing purchases via an in-app purchase. (Compare 'freemium', a free-to-play game that follows such a model.)

G

  • game design - The practice of design and aesthetics to create a game.
  • game engine - The code on which a game runs. There are different subsets of engines such as physics engines and graphics engines. Often the game engine is only middleware which game specific behaviours are built upon, though end-users do not tend to make this distinction. Many games are built on a common game engine, provided by a software vendor. such as Unity or Unreal.
  • game mechanics - An overarching term that describes how a particular game functions and what is possible within the game's environment; the rules of the game.
  • game-of-the-year edition - A later re-release of a game that includes all previously released DLC and any other additional components into one package.
  • game port - When a game is ported from one platform to another (e.g. PC to console).
  • gameplay - A player's interaction with a video game, defined through game rules, player-game interface, challenges, plot, and the player's connection with the game.
  • GG - Abbreviation meaning "good game". Used as parting words exchanged at the end of a competitive game or match as a gesture of good sportsmanship. "GGWP" (good game, well played) is also used.
  • gone / going gold - The point in the software-development cycle where the software is considered final and ready to be shipped for commercial release. The term traditionally related to the production of games on CD-ROM, where the final version of the game, the master copy, would be written to a gold film-based writable CD and sent to be replicated for retail.
  • griefing / griefer - The act of, or a player in a multiplayer video game who deliberately irritates and harasses other players within the game. Many online multiplayer games enforce rules that forbid griefing.
  • grinding - Performing a repetitive and time-consuming action in a video game before being able to advance.

H

I

  • immersive technology - Despite all game technology incorporating various degrees of immersion, immersive technology tends to refer to anything incorporating 'virtual reality, mixed reality or augmented reality. See also XR
  • in-app purchase (IAP) or "in-game purchase" - The ability to purchase digital goods and services within a game, using real world currency. Purchases include but are not limited to bonus levels, skins, items, music, virtual coins and in-game currency, subscriptions, season passes and upgrades(e.g. to disable ads).
  • in-app advertising - A monetisation strategy to generate revenue by serving adverts to players inside the game.
  • indie game - Loosely defined as a game made by a single person or a small studio without the involvement of a large publisher, although there are exceptions. Due to the loose nature of the term, it is difficult to divide the industry neatly into those games or companies that are 'indie' and those that are not.
  • influencer - A video game player or social media personality that is used as part of a game's promotion. Typically the influencer will be given a pre-release copy of a game to play and review to those people that follow them on social media or streaming sites, with the intent that those subscribers will be influenced to buy the game.

J

  • JRPG - Japanese role-playing video game, typically referring to a subgenre of RPGs that originated from Japan.

K

L

  • lag - A delay between an input or action and its corresponding result, most commonly in an online environment. This is often the result of delayed network traffic.
  • launch title - A game released alongside its respective console, or the only titles available for a console at the time of its launch. One or more of these may be a pack-in game. They often provide first impressions for a console's abilities and are influential on its reputation.
  • Let's Play - A type of video game walkthrough done by players, through screenshots or video, where the player provides commentary about the game as they work through it. Common on video streaming platforms like Youtube and Twitch.
  • level editor - A program, either provided within the game software or as separate software product, that allows players to place objects or create new levels for a video game.
  • lifetime value (LTV) - The revenue a single user generates or is expected to generate throughout their entire lifetime within the game or app.
  • localisation - During publishing, the process of editing a game for audiences in another region or country, primarily by translating the text and dialog of a video game. Localization can also involve changing content of the game to reflect different cultural values and censoring material that is against local law, or in some cases self-censoring in an effort to obtain a more commercially-favorable content rating.
  • loot box / lootbox - Loot boxes (and other name variants such as booster packs for online collectible card games) are awarded to players for completing a match, gaining an experience level, or other in-game achievement. The box contains random items, typically cosmetic-only but may include gameplay-impacting items, often awarded based on a rarity system. In many cases, additional loot boxes can be obtained through microtransactions.

M

  • massively multiplayer online game (MMO) - A game that involves a large community of players co-existing in an online world, in cooperation or competition with one another.
  • massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) - An MMO that incorporates traditional role-playing game mechanics. Games such as EverQuest and Dark Age of Camelot were progenitors of the genre. The most popular and most well-known game of this type is World of Warcraft.
  • matchmaking - A game system that automatically sorts players with similar playing styles, desires, objectives, or skill levels into a team or a group. In competitive games or modes, a matchmaking rating (MMR) is a number assigned to each player based on skill and is the basis for matching players. This rating goes up or down based on individual or team performance.
  • MAU - Monthly active user. A user which plays or otherwise engages with the content on at least a monthly basis.
  • microtransaction (MTX) - A business model used in games where players can purchase virtual goods via micropayments. Sometimes abbreviated as "MTX". See also in-app purchase.
  • minigame - A small 'game-within-a-game', often provided as a diversion from the game's plot or as a quick task to perform to solve a puzzle (such as to pick a lock, etc).
  • mixed reality (MR) - A term describing the middle-ground between 'virtual reality and augmented reality. Mixed reality tends to refer to experiences delivered via high-end headsets rather than e.g. mobile phone-based devices.
  • mod - A third-party addition or alteration to a game. Mods may take the form of new character skins, altered game mechanics or the creation of a new story or an entirely new game-world. Some games provide tools to create game mods, while other games that don't officially support game modifications can be altered or extended with the use of third-party tools.
  • monetisation - The means by which companies generate revenue from their content.
  • MUD - An historic term to describe a multi-user domain or multi-user dungeon. A multiplayer real-time virtual world, usually in text-based games.
  • multiplatform - A game which can be played on multiple platforms.
  • multiplayer - A game that allows multiple players to play at once.
  • multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) - A genre of real-time strategy games that pits teams of players to defend their home base from enemy attacks. Similar in some ways to a "capture the flag" game.

N

  • newbie - Someone new to the game, generally used as a pejorative, although usually light-heartedly. See noob.
  • non-player character (NPC) - A computer-controlled character or any character that is not under a player's direct control.
  • noob - A player who is making mistakes that an experienced player would be expected to avoid. See newbie.

O

  • online game - A game where part of the game engine is on a server and requires an internet connection. Many multiplayer games support online play.
  • open beta - The opposite of a closed beta; the test players are not bound by non-disclosure agreements and are free to show the game to others.
  • open world - A game world that the player may freely traverse, rather than being restricted to certain pre-defined areas. While 'open world' and 'sandbox' are sometimes used interchangeably, the terms refer to different concepts and are not synonymous.

P

  • patch - The process by which a developer of a video game creates an update to an already released game with the intention of possibly adding new content, fixing any bugs in the current game, balancing character issues (especially prevalent in online multiplayer games with competitive focuses), or updating the game to be compatible with DLC releases.
  • peer-to-peer (P2P) - A computer networking term, meaning two or more connected computers which can share files directly between systems (usually via the Internet) without the need of a central server.
  • persistent world (PSW) - An online game-world that exists independently of the players and is semi-permanently affected by their actions.
  • pervasive game - A game that blends its in-game world with the physical world. The term has been associated with ubiquitous games, mixed-reality games, and location-aware mobile games. Examples of pervasive games include Pokémon Go.
  • ping - In online games, the network latency between the client and server. See also lag.
  • physical release - A version of a video game released on an optical disc or other storage device, as opposed to a digital download.
  • platform - The computer hardware, console type and operating system on which the video game operates.
  • platformer - An action-oriented game genre, usually referring to jumping from platform to platform.
  • player versus environment (PvE) - Refers to fighting computer-controlled enemies (non-player characters), as opposed to player versus player (PvP).
  • player versus player (PvP) - Refers to competing against other players, as opposed to player versus environment (PvE).
  • power-up - An object that gives extra abilities or buffs to the game character, usually as a temporary effect.
  • procedural generation - When the game algorithmically combines randomly generated elements, particularly in game world creation.
  • publisher - The company that (in whole or in part) finances, distributes and markets the game. This is distinct from the developer, though the publisher may own the developer.

Q

  • quality assurance (QA) - The process or job role for testing the quality and playability of the game, e.g. identiftying bugs and suggesting improvements.

R

  • real-time strategy (RTS) - A genre of video game where the player controls one or more units in real-time combat with human or computer opponents.
  • retro games / retro gaming - The playing or collecting of older personal computer, console, and arcade video games in contemporary times.
  • review bomb - Actions taken by players to leave negative reviews of a game or other form of media on a digital storefront or user-contributed as a form of protest due to actions typically unrelated to the game or media quality itself.
  • rhythm game - A genre of video game requiring the player to perform actions in time to the game's music.
  • role-playing video game (RPG) - An RPG is a game in which the human player takes on the role of a specific character "class" and advances the skills and abilities of that character within the game environment. RPG characters generally have a wide variety of skills and abilities available to them. Historically, RPG games had a 'Dungeons & Dragons' style theme although in contemporary times RPGs incorporate many genres and styles.
  • rubber banding - A game mechanic resulting from dynamic game difficulty balancing that alters the rules of the game to keep the game competitive and fun. It is most notable in racing games where human players may easily outdistance computer opponents; when this happens, the computer opponents are often given the ability to go faster than normal or to avoid certain obstacles as to allow them to catch up and outpace the player. The effect is likened to stretching and releasing a rubber band between the player and the computer opponent.

S

  • sandbox game - A game where the player has the ability to create, modify, or destroy their environment. The term alludes to a child's sandbox where the child can create and destroy with no given objective. A pure sandbox game like Minecraft has no objective except to modify the environment, but can be combined with a storyline or a hook to drive players. This differs from an open world where the player is free to roam and approach objectives at any time.
  • SDK - Software development kit. Typically a set of software development tools that allows the creation of applications for a certain software package, computer system, video game console, or operating system.
  • season - The full set of downloadable content that is planned to be added to a video game, which can be entirely purchased with a season pass, or a finite period of time in a massively multiplayer online game in which new content, such as themes, rules, modes, et cetera, becomes available, sometimes replacing prior time-limited content.
  • season pass - A purchase made in addition to the cost of the base game that generally enables the purchaser access to all downloadable content that is planned for that title without further cost.
  • shoutcaster - The common name for the commentator in esports. As with other sports, shoutcasters need an in-depth knowledge of the games, teams, players and strategies, as well as an engaging style in bringing the matches to life.
  • single-player - A game that can only have one player playing at a time. Usually offline, but not always. Compare with multiplayer.
  • skin - A cosmetic customization option for a player's in-game avatar or equipment that changes its appearance but not its function. Skins are usually rewarded to players for completing certain objectives or placing high in competitive modes, or can be purchased via microtransactions. Skins can allow players to showcase their online identity or achievements.
  • skin gambling or skin betting - the use of virtual goods, most commonly cosmetic elements such as skins, as virtual currency to bet on the outcome of an event, whether a randomised digital game of chance or real-world events such as traditional sports or esports matches. In the vast majority of instances, skin gambling takes place outside of the video games themselves, often via unlicensed (hence illegal) third-party websites.
  • speedrun - An attempt to complete a game as fast as possible. Depending on the rules for the speedrun, players may exploit glitches or bugs in the game to speed their progress.
  • split-screen multiplayer - A game that presents two or more views seen by different players in a multiplayer game on the same display unit.
  • streaming - Video and audio that is continuously fed from a server to a client via the internet and presented to the end user. In games, this may be used to watch a live or recorded Let's Play demonstration of a game, or to play a game streamed via the cloud.

T

  • timed exclusive - When a game is temporarily released exclusively for one platform, but will release for other platforms after the exclusivity period.
  • triple A - See AAA.

U

  • user interface (UI) - The term used to describe how the player interacts with the game and how the player receives feedback on their interactions, e.g. via menus, character "health" bar, display of number of lives etc.
  • user experience (UX) - The term used to describe how the game is designed with the player's experience in consideration.

V

  • virtual reality (VR) - Virtual reality is an interactive computer-generated experience taking place within a simulated environment, that incorporates mainly auditory and visual, but also other types of sensory feedback like haptic. This immersive environment can simulate the real world or it can be fantastical, creating an experience that is not possible in reality. Current VR technology commonly uses headsets or multi-projected environments, sometimes in combination with physical environments or props, to generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulate a user's physical presence in a virtual or imaginary environment. A person using virtual reality equipment is able to "look around" the artificial world, move around in it, and interact with virtual features or items.
  • visual novel - A genre of video games with interactive stories. These games typically use static imagery with character dialogue presented in text boxes. Players may alter the path of the story by choosing from dialog trees or a small list of actions.

W

  • walking simulator - A term sometimes used to classify exploration games, which generally involve exploring an environment for story and narrative but with few, if any, puzzles or gameplay elements. Initially conceived as a derogatory term, the phrase has been embraced and co-opted by developers to reflect the relaxed nature of the games.
  • walkthrough - A description of the gameplay experience for a level or playthrough, intended to guide players who are unsure how to complete it.
  • WASD keys - A common control-mechanism using a typical QWERTY keyboard, with the W, A, S, and D keys bound to movement controls. This allows arrow key-like control with the left hand.
  • whale - In free-to-play games, a user that spends a significantly larger amount of real-world money for in-game items, rather than acquiring said items through playing the game. These players are typically seen as the major segment for revenue production for free-to-play titles. "White whales" may also be used to describe exceptionally high spenders.

X

  • XP - See experience point.
  • XR - Also extended reality. A catch-all term for anything incorporating virtual reality, mixed reality or augmented reality. Also sometimes referred to via the term immersive technology.

Y

Z

  • zero-day patch - A software patch that is set to be released on the day of the game's official release ("the 0th day").