2h (2-handed) Weapons that take both hands to wield, such as broad swords and giant hammers


8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit, and 64-bit Early video game systems had 8-bit and then 16-bit processors, which were much less powerful than today’s processors and meant the music and graphics were less sophisticated than they are today.


A-button Any button on a game controller labeled with the letter A. For most Nintendo games, the A-button controls the game’s most basic functions (selecting an item from a menu, opening a door, etc.).

achievement A special accomplishment by a gamer. Achievements are sometimes awarded within a game when a particular game goal is reached, and sometimes achievements are meta-goals achieved outside the game (sometimes called badges or medals or trophies).

action (genre) A game genre defined by shooting or fighting. It can be combined with the “adventure” label to make action-adventure games.

action-adventure (genre) A game genre that combines adventure games—which focus on exploration and puzzle-solving—with action games—which involve shooting or fighting. If that sounds like any game to you, well, you’re probably right.

admin A person, usually in online games or communities, who has more power than regular players. Admins can often impose sanctions or ban players.

adventure game A game genre defined by exploring and solving puzzles. Can be combined with the “action” label to make action-adventure games.

AFK Stands for “Away From Keyboard.”

aggro (also: threat)  The act of gaining the attention of a non-player character (NPC), usually in a massively multiplayer online game, causing the NPC to change behavior—usually to attack. Players are sometimes criticized when they trigger aggro by mistake, by getting too close to a monster, for example. Aggro is also used as a slang term for “aggravation,” as in “spouse aggro” (when a spouse gets angry because you’re playing too many video games).

AI  Stands for “artificial intelligence.” AI in games is used to produce the illusion of intelligence in non-player characters. A famous AI is the GLaDOS character in Portal and Portal 2. She’s scary, and very funny too.

aimbot Using a program that aims for you in a first-person shooter multiplayer match; cheating.

alpha Usually the first test release of a video game.

alt (alternate character)  A character or avatar gamers create that is different from their main or primary character (“mains”). Alts are used most often in massively multiplayer online role-playing games like World of Warcraft. Some players create many alts, and sometimes players use alts to gather resources for their mains.

AOE Stands for “area of effect.” An AOE attack usually affects more than just the character it is targeted on; it will also create a hostile environment around them and damage other characters as well.

arcade A place where coin-operated video games are available to be played. Recently “arcade games” also came to refer to electronic games that mimic the arcade-game style of play through emulators.

arena A type of video gameplay in which teams of players compete in a specific area or sub-game, or the place in a game  where arena play takes place.

attribute The basic components of a character’s abilities, such as stamina, strength, and agility.

avatar An artificial representation of a player within a game, chat room, or other virtual platform.


B-button Any button on a game controller labeled with the letter B. For most Nintendo games, the B-button controls the most basic attack function.

backwards compatible Refers to a system that can read games from an older system. The Nintendo Wii is backwards compatible because you can play Nintendo GameCube games on it.

belt Item of armor for an avatar in World of Warcraft. Belts can be upgraded and sometimes strengthened with gems.

bestiary A collection of data on the enemies of any given video game.

beta Usually the second test release of a game.

Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) The blank screen that appears after an operating-system crash.

bonus level A special level in a game that is offered as a reward.  Bonus levels often let players collect optional points or items.

boss A particularly difficult antagonist, one whose defeat will lead to the end of a chapter of gameplay. Often, they are given full title screens or cut scenes when introduced.

boss battle Like it sounds, battle with a boss (above). It cannot be avoided; most boss battles are essential for finishing a game. The final boss battle is the last boss battle of a game, and is typically the most challenging.

boss key In The Legend of Zelda franchise, the boss key is the special key required to gain entry to the final boss battle. It is usually kept in an unusually-colored treasure chest.

bot An automated character in a video game masquerading as an avatar controlled by a real human. In online games, bots are generally against the rules of the game but are often used to farm or collect resources around the clock.

Bowser The antagonist of most games in the Mario franchise. Bowser is the King of the Koopas, a turtle-like race. He has orange skin and a spiked, dark green turtle shell.

buff A mechanism for increasing the power and/or abilities of a piece of armor or other equipment, character, or weapon.

bug A mistake in game programming that causes the game to operate incorrectly.

button masher Refers to an amateur player’s tendency to smash all of the buttons at random instead of perform nuanced button combo moves. It’s sometimes used in a derogatory fashion.


campaign Many games have a campaign setting separate from the multiplayer setting; campaigns involve a continuing storyline and characters.

camping In multiplayer first-person shooters, campers are players that hold a single position and remain there, picking off enemies from impenetrable cover. This is looked down on because it effectively eliminates competition, giving the camper an unfair advantage. In other games, like MMOs, campers might kill a player and wait for them to return to claim their items back, then kill them again while they’re weak.

casual gamer A gamer who plays only casual games (such as mobile games and puzzle games), or a gamer who doesn’t play often.

cel shading An animation technique in which three-dimensional objects are made look two-dimensional (like a cartoon or comic book). The beautiful game Okami is an example of a cel-shaded game.

channel (chat) An avenue for speaking with different groups of people; for instance, private channels vs. public channels.

character class Especially in RPGs, class designates what special capabilities or attributes a character has.

character creation Some games feature customizable protagonists. Customization varies; physical characteristics, fantasy race, and class attributes are common features.

chat Players communicate via text or through speakers. In multiplayer games different chat groups are referred to as channels.

cheat codes Some games have special cheats that players can adopt if they know the right code. Game programmers often include these codes purposefully, but other cheats may be accidental in nature.

check point See savepoint.

choob An experienced player who acts inexperienced to frustrate or amuse others. Specific to first-person shooter multiplayer.

clan In first-person shooter multiplayer games, players often form clans and play as a team. Clans usually have names and membership positions.

coins In many games, coins can be collected through the course of a level either to gain bonus points, to restore health, or to advance to the following level.

combo move Any gaming maneuver which requires a specific sequence of buttons to be pushed in the correct order. Often used in fighting games.

console A unit built specifically for gaming. Popular consoles include Nintendo, Xbox, and PlayStation.

controller The hand-held interface for interacting with a game.

co-op gameplay Players work together as a team to combat enemies or solve puzzles.

CQC Close-quarter combat; combat without ranged weapons.

craft Typically used as a verb indicating the act of making an item (potions, weapons, armor, etc.)

crit (critical hit) A large amount of damage (often twice the usual) dealt in one hit. In many games, players can opt to increase their chance of “critting” an enemy.

crowd control Picking off members of a group of enemies without gaining the attention of others.

CTF Capture the Flag, a multiplayer mode where players infiltrate the opposing team’s base, steal a flag, and attempt to cross back to their own side.

cut scene A video clip which interrupts ordinary gameplay in order to reveal exposition.



D-pad Short for “directional pad.” A flat, thumb-operated space on a controller with four directional buttons.

D12 A 12-sided dice used in tabletop gaming. A typical dice has only 6 sides, and is referred to as a D6, but there are many non-cubic die. The most common are D20, D12, D10, D8, D6, and D4. This Wikipedia article has more on the subject.

DPS Short for “damage per second.” Technically refers to the actual damage a character or weapon can deal per one second, but is also used to refer to a character with a high DPS, such as a rogue or assassin.

damage Usually refers to the numerical value of hitpoints lost when a character or enemy is attacked. For example, if a character hits an enemy with a sword, and the enemy loses 5 hitpoints as a result, the sword will have done 5 damage.

dating sim A subgenre of simulation games focusing on romantic interaction. Dating sims are almost exclusively made by Japanese companies.

de-buff The opposite of a buff; a physical or magical effect that hampers the target in some way, or an effect that removes an existing buff.

DM 1. See “dungeon master.” 2. Death match, playing till the last player or last team standing. Common in FPS games.

downtime (server) In online gaming, server downtime indicates that players will not be able to log onto the game. This can occur for several reasons, including technical difficulties, server maintenance, or server overload (too many players at once).

drop (loot) Enemies often carry items that the player might like. These items are referred to collectively as “loot,” but when an enemy dies, the loot is sometimes referred to as “a drop.” E.g. “What’d they drop?”

dual wield To carry two of something, e.g. dual-wielding swords.

dungeon In multiplayer games, typically a special area that regenerates a new copy for each group or player that enters. Also referred to as an “instance.” It can also refer to a more traditional dungeon setting, however.

dungeon crawl The term originated in tabletop gaming, but has more recently been used to refer to players entering a dungeon or area and cleaning the place of enemies and loot. Players wishing to gain easy treasure or experience without engaging in a storyline will often go on dungeon crawls.

dungeon master The person who narrates a tabletop game. Commonly referred to only by initials, the DM is in charge of the storytelling component of a tabletop game, and is typically considered both omniscient and all-powerful.


Easter egg A secret bonus level, inside joke, or hidden message coded into a game (or other media) by its developers.

educational game A game that is developed primarily to educate rather than as entertainment, or a game that has educational value.

emote In MMOs, players can perform emotive actions such as bowing, cheering, waving, or crying as a way of communicating wordlessly. Most emotes are performed using the /emote function.

emulator A program that allows a computer or other device to emulate the behavior of a game different video game platform.  For instance, emulators are available for phones that emulate games that used to be available only on stand-alone arcade games or console games.

eroge (erotic game) The Japanese term for games where the object of play is a pornographic experience.

ESRB The Entertainment Software Rating Board. This is the organization responsible for rating video games, much as the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) rates movies. expansion (pack) Additional material for a particular game that is offered after the main game is released. Expansion packs often include additional areas, characters, or story lines.

expansion (pack) Additional material for a particular game that is offered after the main game is released. Expansion packs often include additional areas, characters, or story lines.

experience (EXP, XP) Generally experience is earned in points. Characters may gain a certain amount of experience points from defeating enemies, crafting objects, and completing quests or missions. Typically a certain amount of experience will result in a character gaining a level, at which point new skills, rewards, or abilities are unlocked.



faction In gaming the term is used basically like it is elsewhere; characters may join political or ideological factions.

farming Some players “farm” for in-game money (gold pieces, typically) by ignoring quests and storylines and simply playing to find more treasure. Although individuals can farm on occasion, the term farming is generally used to refer to people who do this exclusively, often for real world payment. Farmers can sell in-game money to players for real value.

FF (Final Fantasy) Common abbreviation for the Final Fantasy franchise; for example, gamers will often refer the 7th installment as simply “FFVII.”

FFA Stands for free-for-all. In these matches there are no teams, and everyone plays for themselves.

fighter (genre) Usually fighters pit two characters against each other, often in hand-to-hand combat. The player takes the role of one of the characters against a computer-controlled character or against another player.

first blood The first kill of a multiplayer match.

flaming Viciously insulting another player; can result in a flame-war where both sides hurl vitriol. Flamers are usually trolls.

FPS 1. First-person shooter. “First person” refers to the point of view. In a first person game, the camera positions you so that you are looking through the character’s eyes. Shooting, of course, refers to the action. 2. See frames per second.

frag The temporary killing of a player; originates from the military use of the term. Can also be used to refer to a fragmentation grenade.

frames per second (FPS) Indicates the quality of video; a high rate of FPS means better quality of video. Is also used in the film industry.

free-to-play Many casual games and apps like Candy Crush or Angry Birds are free-to-play. These games cost no money to download, but rather make revenue from in-game microtransactions.


Game Master (GM) See“Dungeon Master.”

Game Over These fateful words appear when a player has used up his or her last life. At this point, their options are quitting, inserting more money, starting over from the last save point, or starting over from the beginning. That’s rough, buddy.

gamertag The name a player adopts when playing online; this is not to be confused with the character name. Many gamers have online networks and are known only by their gamertags.

gank Abbreviation of “gang kill.” Refers to a large group of enemies or other players ganging up on a character, typically without provocation.

Ganon/Ganondorf The main antagonist for The Legend of Zelda franchise. Ganondorf is the King of the Gerudo, a tribe of thieves who live in the desert. Ganondorf has extremely powerful dark magics and usually wields the Triforce of Power. He is immune to most attacks, but is weak against silver arrows, light arrows, and the Master Sword. After the first phase of the final battle in Ocarina of Time, Ganondorf transforms into the animal-like Ganon.

God Mode A mode, usually accessible only by cheating, that enables players to play invincibly.

griefer A player who repeatedly provokes other players or makes the gaming experience negative in other ways. For example, they might kill inexperienced and undefended players over and over again, steal loot from them, or block them from passing through an area.

grinding Playing monotonous sections of a game to level up or get money. Also called level-grinding.

GUI Abbreviation of “graphical user interface.” A visual display of files, programs, and directories that allow easier access to a computer’s mechanisms.

GWK Game-winning kill; the last kill of a multiplayer match.



hack and slash Gameplay where the player uses melee weapons and repetitive clicking or button-mashing to defeat enemies.

 hand-held A common term for a hand-held console such as the Gameboy or PS Vita.

heal pot A potion or item that, when consumed, increases a character’s “health” or hitpoints.

healer (also: priest, monk) Character archetype commonly found in fantasy games. Healers typically act as support characters and have low defensibility and low attack ratings. They are, however, indispensable in most RPG games.

heart 1. (n) A unit of health, 2. (v) To love, as in, I heart that game!

hitpoint (HP) A single point of life. If a player uses all their hitpoints, they may die. Hitpoints typically average in the hundreds.

Hot Coffee A famous, normally inaccessible minigame from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas which allows the player to control the game’s main character while he is having sex with his girlfriend. The secret level was discovered by hackers, and caused quite a scandal in 2005.

HUD Abbreviation of “heads-up display.” In gaming this refers to the data that appears on the edges of the screen. This data includes information such as health, experience, items, maps, units under the player’s control, and other metadata.


instance (dungeon) In multiplayer games, typically a special area that regenerates a new copy for each group or player that enters.

interactive novel A game, typically text-based, where a player interacts with the environment in order to receive the story. This often results in choose-your-own-adventure type of gameplay, with multiple endings to the narrative. The interactive elements of most interactive novels are minimal; players click and choose dialogue or action options from a list, then watch as the story unfolds.


joystick A maneuverable, pivoting stick used for controlling avatars within a game. Usually they’re only one aspect of a more complex game controller, but some joysicks are their own controllers.

jump scare A sudden loud noise or flash of movement (often a monster); also used in horror movies. A jump scare is meant to make players literally jump in fear.


key bind The technique of mapping a certain action or command to a specific keyboard key, thus creating a shortcut. PC gamers often create their own key binds in order to make it easier and faster to perform certain moves.

KDR Stands for kill-death ratio. This is the difference between how many kills a player has made versus how many times they die in the match. The more kills to deaths, the better.

Killsteal When one players kills someone that another player was trying to kill. Looked down upon because it means that one player did all the work, and another got the credit.


lag When an online game doesn’t respond to a player’s actions in a timely manner, often due to a slow Internet connection or a server overload.

 LAN short for “local area network.” LAN parties are a meeting of several gamers in one place (the local area network–say, a school, or a home) to play an online game together.

leader board A scoreboard showing the names and scores of different players. Often used in arcade games and multiplayer games, as well as in many competitive sports.

Let’s Play Some gamers record themselves as they play and post the videos online for others to watch. These are collectively referred to as “Let’s Plays,” and some Let’s Players have the most followed channels on YouTube.

Link The name of every protagonist of The Legend of Zelda franchise. There are many Links in the Zelda universe, and each is blonde, wears green, has pointed ears, and exhibits a strong level of courage. In most incarnations, Link’s voice is only heard in his dramatic battle cries. The exception is the Link of The Legend of Zelda television series, who needs to shut up.

loot Treasure, items, weapons or armor; can also be used as a verb.

Luigi The younger, taller brother of Mario. Together they are the Super Mario Bros., and have starred in a number of games together. He is distinguishable by his green hat and green shirt, and by the fact that he’s almost always being played by the younger sibling. Luigi recently starred in his own gaming franchise, Luigi’s Mansion.

Lvl(level) Common shorthand for “level.” Lvl up, for example, means a character or item has gained a level and increased its positive attributes.


machinima Movies made from editing together video game graphics and the machinima maker’s sound files (e.g., music, sound effects, and voice-overs). The term is a combination of “machine” and “cinema.”

main In games where players can create multple characters (especially RPGs), the main is typically the character they play most often and/or is most developed. Secondary characters are called alts.

Mario The star of dozens of Nintendo games including Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 64, Mario Party, Mario Kart, and Paper Mario. He is an Italian plumber usually found fighting the evil Bowser or rescuing his romantic interest, Princess Peach. He tends to appear with the same cast of characters, including his brother Luigi and the friendly dinosaur Yoshi.

mana A common term for magic potential; mana is a usable resource, often depicted as a liquid and replenished by drinking potions.

meat shield Using one’s body to protect or defend. Tanks are sometimes referred to as “meat shields” because their primary purpose in combat is to take damage.

melee Hand-to-hand or close combat.

microtransaction or micropayment An online financial transaction that involves a small amount of money (less than $12). Many games, especially mobile  or casual games, involve microtransactions. Sometimes microtransactions can add up and cause financial problems.

mini-game A short, simplistic game found within longer, more complex games.

miniboss An enemy of smaller stature than the final boss, but still unique and quite powerful. A miniboss might be found at the end of a scenario.

mini-map A small, local version of a map, typically appearing in the heads-up display. Mini-maps often show enemy locations, terrain changes, and nearby items. Often games with mini-maps also include larger, more expansive maps, but these are accessible from a different window.

mission See quest.

MMO Massively Multiplayer Online game. A game with a huge playerbase (World of Warcraft has over seven million) that is played through an Internet connection.

MMORPG A Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game. These games contain roleplaying elements. The player builds their own custom character, focusing on the skills and even personality traits that they want to exhibit.

mob A large crowd of enemies.

MUD Stands for “multi-user dungeon/domain/dimension.” MUDs are text-based multiplayer online games, often modeled after Dungeons & Dragons tabletop gameplay.

magic points (MP) Similar to hitpoints. Amount of MP determines whether a character can use magic spells or not. Usually MP can be replenished by using mana potions.

multiplayer A mode in which gamers can play online with other gamers.


Nerf An update or effect in a game that changes how powerful a game element is. This could mean the developers releasing a patch that changes how much damage a character does, or it could mean a player casting a spell that makes their enemies less powerful. In both cases the action is called “nerfing.” The term comes from Nerf guns—weapons that don’t actually hurt.

next-gen console Short for next generation console. These include the most updated versions of traditional consoles; PlayStation 4, Xbox One.

NPC Non-player character. These are the computer-controlled characters in the game.

noob Sometimes spelled n00b (with two zeros instead of o’s). Shorthand for the term “newbie;” indicates an inexperienced player, and can be used in a playful or derogatory way.



OMW Short for “on my way.” Often used in multiplayer gaming.

OOC Stands for “out of character,” and refers to 1. any situation in which a character behaves unusually, 2. if a player is temporarily separating her/himself from her/his avatar for any reason (such as a conversation or snack break).

OP Overpowered, referring to equipment or weapons that give players a huge advantage over others.



party (also: team) A team of players working together. Typically a player must manually “join party” or be invited to join, and a party usually has its own chat channel.

PAX Penny Arcade Expo, Seattle’s biggest gaming convention. Takes place over Labor Day weekend and draws thousands of gamers and professionals for panels, tournaments, concerts, and more.

PC 1. In gaming, as elsewhere, PC is an abbreviation of “personal computer.” PC gaming differs from console gaming in several regards, though many of the games themselves are built for all platforms. 2. See “player character.”

patch A software update meant to fix problems, add new elements, or improve performance. Patches are common in online gaming. Often players cannot log on to the game if there is a patch waiting.

Pikachu A variety of Pokémon. They are yellow, have stripes and pointed ears, and can electrocute their enemies. Pikachu are evolved from Pichu and evolve into Raichu. The main character of the Pokémon franchise, Ash, is usually accompanied by his loyal Pikachu, and they are often used as mascots for the Pokémon franchise.

platformer In platforming games, the player guides a character over a series of obstacles. These games are often sidescrollers as well, meaning the player sees the action from the side, moving the character from left to right.

player 2 In multiplayer console gaming, there is often an option for “player 2” to join the game.

player character (PC) A character that is manipulated by the player. The alternative would be “non-player character (NPC).”

potion A consumable item in many fantasy games. Common potions include health, mana, stamina, and various antidotes or potions for temporary buffs.

POV Abbreviation of “point of view.” POVs in gaming include first-person, second-person, third-person, and bird’s eye view. First-person places the player directly the character. Second-person places the player slightly behind and/or above the character. Third-person places the player far above the character. Bird’s eye view is also common, though typically reserved for RTS games.

powergaming Some players prefer to finish a game as quickly as possible. Powergamers can run through an entire session in one to three days, depending on how long the game was to start with. Powergaming is most common in MMORPGs.

PK Player kill. This refers to when you kill another player in an online match.

Princess Zelda The titular character of The Legend of Zelda franchise. Zelda is not the protagonist of any Zelda games, but typically takes the role of the damsel in distress. Occasionally Zelda serves as a helper or guide for the protagonist Link. She is generally portrayed as a wise, kind, and spiritual person. Her family’s insignia is the Triforce, which also represents the three goddesses Farore, Nayru, and Din.

PST Short for “please send tell,” a phrase players use to indicate they would like to converse privately with another player.

pull Used to describe a player gaining the attention of one or more enemies, especially if the enemies are part of a group. Pulling one enemy at a time, for instance, ensures that a player can pick them off without having to go up against more than they can handle.

puzzle game You’ll find puzzles in many game genres. An adventure game, for example, might have the player open a door by pulling the levers in the correct order. Figuring out how to open the door is the puzzle. Pure puzzle games involve only puzzle-solving—the most famous example is probably Tetris. As players progress in the game, the puzzles usually become more challenging.

PvP (player vs. player) An online game mode in which two players play against each other, as opposed to playing against the game itself, which is known as player vs. environment or PvE.

pwn Originally a misspelling of the word ‘own’ used to signify a player defeating, beating, or winning a battle. E.g. “I totally owned you!” becomes “I totally pwned you!” due to the proximity of the P key to the O key. It was a common enough misspelling that many gamers adopted the slang purposefully. Variations include “pwnage” and “pwning.” Pronounced “pone.”


QTE Quick time events are actions that a player must take (or choose not to take) at the prompting of an on-screen signal—for instance, choosing to push another character out of the way before being shot. QTEs typically take place at critical junctures.

quest (also: mission) A challenge given to the player. Accomplishing a quest typically results in some reward, as well as the continuation of a storyline.

quest giver Typically an NPC (non-player character) who gives the player a quest or mission to accomplish. Sometimes the quest-giver doesn’t explicitly tell the player what to do, but the encounter triggers a mission or quest anyway.


raid When a large group of players join up to defeat a powerful enemy (not to be confused with the military usage of the term “raid,” which can be used in war or strategy games).

Ragequit When a player gets frustrated and quits out of anger.

R- and L-buttons The two bumper-style buttons accessible to the right and left fingers on a Nintendo game controller. They are not usually necessary for basic gameplay, but useful for advanced techniques.

random encounter Typically an enemy the player encounters by chance in a hostile environment.

respawn see spawn.

rogue (also: assassin) Character archetype commonly found in fantasy games. Rogues typically deal high damage and use stealth liberally, but have low defensibility.

rouge Common misspelling of “rogue” leading to amusing encounters in many MMOs; for instance, “looking for rouge” and “need rouge to enter dungeon.”

RPG Role-playing game. RPGs are story-focused games with heavily customizable characters.

RTS Real-time strategy game. RTS are usually wargames in which players position units and structures in order to control areas of the map or fight opponents. RTS games can get complicated.

rumble pack The removable part of a Nintendo 64 game controller that allows it to vibrate along with a game’s action. More modern game controllers usually have vibration motors built in.


sandbox Refers to a large, open-ended, in-game world where players can typically do what they wish in the order they wish. Sandbox worlds contrast to games in which the player is guided through a story.

save Most games have a save feature wherein players can capture their progress up to that point, leave, and return at their leisure.

savepoint The point in the game where a player can save their progress. Savepoints vary depending on the game—sometimes they’re almost everywhere, other times they are very difficult to access.

screenshot A still capture of a computer or console screen at a given point. Some gamers like taking screenshots of their characters or amusing moments in a game.

scrim Short for scrimmage, a friendly match between clans.

scrub An inexperienced player.

shooter A game in which the player wields a gun, typically from a first-person perspective.

side quest A quest or mission which doesn’t affect the main storyline. May be completed for rewards such as treasure or experience points.

sidescroller A two-dimensional game that requires the player to continue walking in one direction in order to proceed. Examples include Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Sim See simulation. Can also refer to a human Sim character in The Sims.

simulation A simulation is a game that emulates real-life conditions. There are simulations for nearly everything. Common examples include city-building simulations, flight or driving simulations, sports simulations, and war simulations. Simulations are also used in teaching—for example, some business simulations are used in universities.

skill or skill tree Especially in roleplaying games, players can choose different skills to improve upon. A skill tree acts as a ladder where certain skills are only unlockable after achieving aptitude in others.

Smurfing When high-level players team up with low-level friends to help them improve faster. Creates unfair conditions for anyone they might be fighting against.

social games Although many games can be played socially, the term “social game” typically refers to casual games like Farmville that must be played with friends and acquaintances.

spawn When avatars or units regenerate or generate, particularly in an MMO, it is referred to as spawning or respawning. In many online multiplayer games, enemies must be killed multiple times by different players, and typically players will have to wait for the enemy to respawn before encountering it again.

spellcaster (also: wizard, magician, warlock) A character archetype often found in fantasy games. The spellcaster typically has high vulnerability, but is capable of dealing a large and diverse amount of damage from a distance.

splash (damage) Many distance damage weapons (such as bows, guns, or spells) are capable of damaging more than one enemy unit at a time.

sprite A 2-dimensional graphic or animation integrated into a larger scene. For instance, a character who can move across a screen without altering the background data.

stamina Usually used to indicate  how long a character can run (vs. walk). Stamina is often depleted over time in games where players can choose to run.

stats Short for statistics. Stats often include character attributes like “strength,” “dexterity,” or “vitality;” may also refer to item damage and durability and/or spell damage.

stealth In stealth games the player must avoid detection, either to pass by enemies or to assassinate them silently.

strafe Walking sideways; often used in games where turning from side to side is time-consuming and/or unwieldy.

strategy (genre) Strategy games often feature a top-down perspective and put the player in charge of managing resources and units. Strategy games usually allow players to follow a storyline, create their own maps, or to play against real people.

StreetPass A feature of the Nintendo 3DS system that lets users exchange game data and items.  

stun Renders a character or enemy stunned for a short duration, during which it is often susceptible to higher damage.

survival horror Survival games, like stealth games, often revolve around avoiding detection. When combined with the horror genre, these games usually feature a heavily disempowered protagonist who can’t fight back, and who must flee or hide from their enemies.



tank A character whose job it is to take a large amount of damage while other party members attack an enemy. Tanks typically have a large amount of hitpoints, high defense, and very little magical ability.

TDM Team death match, playing until the other team is eliminated.

teamspeak A chat channel in which only team members can be heard/seen.

TK Abbreviation of “team killer.” A team killer is someone who unintentionally (or sometimes intentionally) kills their own teammates.

tower defense A game genre that requires the player to defend their home base (or “tower”) from an onslaught of enemy fighters. Examples: Plants vs. Zombies, Ninjatown, League of Legends.

Triforce A sacred relic with wish-granting abilities. It looks like three golden triangles, and each triangle represents a different human trait: Wisdom, Courage, or Power. This symbol is repeated across all of the Zelda games and often signifies the Royal Family of Hyrule. It’s a very popular symbol in Zelda gamer culture for t-shirts, tattoos, hats, etc.

troll Colloquial nickname for a person who harasses others in a multiplayer game or just online. Trolls want attention and to get a rise out of people; they will say and do anything to get a reaction.

turn-based A style of gameplay where the player takes turns moving against another player or a computer. Turn-based games lend themselves to strategy, though there are also action-RPGS like the Final Fantasy games which use turn-based combat.

turtling Playing defensively instead of aggressively.

twink Slang for low-level MMO characters who receive equipment from higher-level characters so that they will be better equipped than others in their level bracket. Often it’s the same player transferring items from their high-level character to their low-level character. Twinking has strong connotations of cheating, because it gives the player such a big advantage. The term is derived from the LGBT term “twink,” but they are no longer related.

twitch gameplay Used to refer to games in which players must rely on quick reflexes and heavy engagement, such as first-person shooters.


user-generated content Content created by players; can include maps, units, downloads, levels, and more. User-generated content is typically not rated by the ESRB.


vendor Usually an NPC (non-player character) who acts as a venue for trading, buying, and selling items.

Vent Short for Ventrilo, software that allows players of online multiplayer games to communicate with each other in real time via headphones and speaker.

versus A two-sided game.

visual novel Like an interactive novel, but with specifically anime or manga-like art stylings.


warrior (also: knight) A common archetype found in many fantasy games. The warrior typically has high damage and armor, but low magic ability, and uses basic weapons such as sword and shield.

WTB and WTS Want to Buy and Want to Sell, respectively. Often used in MMOs by players who want to engage in trade with other players.


Xbone Slang for Xbox One, Microsoft’s third console.

XP Stands for “experience points.” These points are usually used to keep track of a character’s power. Experience points could contribute to levels, or sometimes to specific skills.


Z-button A button on many Nintendo game controllers, usually located within reach of the left pointer finger.

Z-targeting A basic game function in The Legend of Zelda. It allows the player to target onto enemies, allies or objects.

Zelda See Princess Zelda or The Legend of Zelda (franchise).

Zerg The alien enemies in the Starcraft series of RTS games; the term “Zerg” now indicates the act of defeating an enemy using pure numbers rather than strategy or skill, due to the typical Zerg tactic of sending hundreds of units out to destroy enemies quickly and early.