#oneaday Day 849: Jud’s Handy Guide to Video Game Terminology

This is a great blog by a mate of mine. His blogs are really helpful, generally amusing, and cover a broad range of topics – in particular gaming blogs.

I think you will find that most terminology is explained clearly, in plain language, which is refreshing.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to respond.  And comment to both him and me if this helps you.  I’ve added his link to this Page for you.

Jud House   17/05/2012

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I’m Not Doctor Who

This post is aimed at anyone who doesn’t know what all that crazy terminology we game geeks fling about actually means. Like any hobby, there’s a ton of specialist words, abbreviations and acronyms in there, and some are a little ambiguous, just to confuse matters.

So, then, here are some definitions, some of which you may know, some of which you may not.

2D — Usually used to refer to games in which the screen has no “depth”. Players can move up, down, left and right on screen, but not “in” and “out”. Also used to refer to visuals that are constructed using pixels (q.v.) rather than polygons (q.v.)

3D – Usually used to refer to games in which the player may move in a full three dimensions — up, down, left, right, in and out. Typically used to refer to games whose visuals are constructed using polygons. Nowadays also used to refer to games that use 3D technology to give visuals genuine, proper depth using either 3D glasses or glasses-free technology such as that seen on the Nintendo 3DS handheld (q.v.).

Achievement — An arbitrary objective set outside of the main structure of the game (in most cases) that rewards players with a virtual “award” saying they accomplished said arbitrary objective. Seen in Xbox 360, PC, mobile and social games. See also: Trophy (capital T), Achievement whore.

Achievement whore — A person who plays games specifically to get Achievements (or Trophies) rather than focusing on the game’s own inherent reward mechanisms.

Adventure game – A story-focused style of game in which the main barrier to progress is usually some form of puzzle integrated into the game world. These vary from “use x on y” object manipulation puzzles to more elaborate chains of events. Examples include the King’s Quest series, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and Time Gentlemen, Please! Hidden Object games (q.v.) are a modern offshoot of the adventure genre.

Brawler – A game in which between one and four players cooperate to battle enemies. Often takes place in “urban” environments, and is usually presented from a 2 dimensional side-on perspective. Examples include Double Dragon, Streets of Rage and The Simpsons Arcade.

Bullet hell — (also: danmaku) A subgenre of shmup (q.v.) that involves avoiding intricate patterns of enemy fire as much as it does spraying the screen with hot laser death. In bullet hell games, the player’s hitbox (q.v.) is usually very tiny, meaning they can navigate through incredibly tight-looking bullet formations. Examples include DoDonPachi Resurrection, Jamestown and Deathsmiles.

Character action game — Any game in which the player controls a single, often visually distinctive character and battles their way through hordes of enemies and gigantic, physically improbable bosses. Has much in common with the brawler genre (q.v.). Examples include Devil May Cry, Bayonetta and God of War.

Computer — An electronic device onto which you can install software, connect peripherals, customise your experience and play games. The most common computers these days are Windows-based PCs and Apple’s Mac series, though you find the odd geek using Linux just to be different. Games that are specifically designed for computer alone tend to be referred to as “PC games” or “computer games”.

Console — An electronic entertainment device that is not a computer and is specifically designed for playing games (and, increasingly, consuming other digital media such as music and movies). Current-generation consoles include the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii. Games specifically designed for consoles tend to be referred to as “video games”.

Developer — Collective term for whoever actually creates the game. May be an individual person or a gigantic company.

Digital distribution — Term used to describe when you pay for something online and download it straight to your computer, console, mobile phone or other device without involving a physical product at any point in the process.

DLC — DownLoadable Content. Additional content which may be added to a game, usually for a fee. “Day-One DLC” is DLC which is available the same day the game is released. “On-Disc DLC” is DLC for which the actual content is stored on the game disc, with the only thing that gets downloaded being an “unlock code” to allow access to it. Neither are popular approaches, and often seen as a means of publishers trying to squeeze more money out of consumers. Good DLC does exist, however — good examples include the expansion packs for Borderlands and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, both of which added significant amounts of content to the game for reasonable prices. See also: Game of the Year Edition.

Driving game – A subdivision of the racing game (q.v.) genre that involves driving realistic vehicles. Examples include Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport and Project Gotham Racing.

DRM — Digital Rights Management. An anti-piracy technology intended to ensure that customers are using legitimate copies of their entertainment. Often very intrusive and usually easily circumvented by pirates, leading many to claim that games sporting DRM are punishing legitimate consumers more than pirates. Developers, publishers and digital distribution (q.v.) outlets who release titles that are “DRM-free” are often very popular.

Fighting game — A competitive game genre that usually involves one-on-one combat between two characters attacking each other with a variety of unlikely and/or physically improbable “special moves” until one or the other’s life bar is depleted. Known for its fiercely competitive community, rampant sexism and high barrier of entry. Not to be confused with the brawler genre (q.v.). Examples include the Street Fighter series, Marvel vs. Capcom and Soul Calibur. Sorry, Soulcalibur.

First-person perspective – Any game which unfolds from the perspective of the main character(s) viewpoints.

fps (lower case) — Frames Per Second. The number of times the screen updates every second. Higher numbers make movement look smoother. Film typically runs about 24fps. Anything higher than 60fps can’t really be distinguished, so 60fps is often seen as the “gold standard” — anything consistently running at 60fps moves incredibly smoothly. A higher fps is often the result of either more powerful hardware or more efficient programming. PC gamers get rather obsessive about this figure, particularly when buying a new system.

FPS (upper case) — First-person shooter. A game where the player’s perspective is from inside the head of the main character(s) and their main means of interacting with the world is by shooting seven shades of crap out of it with a variety of weaponry.

Free-to-play – A game which is free to download and play, but which requires the player to pay real money in order to access certain items. (This is known as “microtransactions”.) This may be additional game content, visual customisation options for the player’s character or timesaving “boost” items. Free-to-play games are often either MMOs (q.v.) or social games (q.v.). Contrast: freeware.

Freeware – A game that is completely free and features no microtransactions.

Friend-gating – A technique used in social games (q.v.) to encourage players to invite their friends to play. Progress is halted until the player convinces a certain number of friends to start playing the game, or pays money to bypass the restriction. A form of viral marketing (q.v.).

GameFAQs — The website gamefaqs.com, which includes an enormous repository of guides to almost every game you can possibly imagine. Used by people who can’t be bothered to figure things out for themselves, or those who simply want more information about a game. The “FAQs” part of the name comes from Internet slang acronym “FAQ”, meaning “Frequently Asked Questions”.

Games industry — Collective term used to refer to specialist press (online or print) about games, game developers and game publishers.

Game of the Year Edition — (also GotY Edition) A rerelease of a game that includes all (or most) of its DLC (q.v.). Usually has different packaging to the original release. No-one is quite sure where the “Game of the Year” bit comes from, but it’s usually something that only happens for popular games with a lot of DLC.

Handheld — A portable console (q.v.) that plays games. Current examples include the Nintendo 3DS and Sony PlayStation Vita. Some people get snobby if you throw smartphones (q.v.) into this category.

HD — High Definition. Used to describe televisions that run at a resolution (q.v.) of either 1024×720 pixels (aka 720p) or 1920×1080 (aka 1080i/1080p, but we won’t get into that now). HD displays provide clearer, crisper images than their SD (q.v.) cousins. Also used incorrectly by almost everyone in the world, particularly iPad developers.

HOG — Hidden Object Game. Used to refer to an offshoot of the adventure game genre (q.v.) that is usually story-focused, and in which the main barrier to progress is being confronted with an unnaturally untidy room and a laundry list of things to find as quickly as possible. A popular genre of social game (q.v.). Examples include Hidden Chronicles, Gardens of Time and anything on Facebook with the words “Hidden”, “Mysteries” or “Adventures” in its title.

MMO — Massively Multiplayer Online. Catch-all term to describe games that hundreds, thousands or even millions of players can play online at the same time. The most common variant is the MMORPG, an RPG (q.v.) in which it’s possible to meet other players wandering around the same world and team up with or compete against them. Examples include World of Warcraft, Star Trek Online and Rusty Hearts.

Multiplayer — A game or mode you play with other people. Subdivided into local and online multiplayer, with the former being a game you play in the same room as other people (usually using multiple controllers) and the latter being a game you play via the Internet. Further subdivided into cooperative and competitive variants, which are hopefully self-explanatory.

Origin — A digital distribution (q.v.) platform run by Electronic Arts, notorious for not being very good yet still being forced upon PC and mobile gamers by EA.

Patch — A downloadable update to a game that adds features, fixes problems or sometimes both.

Pay to win – Pejorative term used in reference to free-to-play (q.v.) titles that include the option for players to pay real money for a significant in-game advantage.

Pixel — A tiny, single-coloured square that makes up the image you see on a monitor or TV.

Polygon — A closed, flat shape consisting of straight lines. Hundreds, thousands, millions of these may be connected together to construct three-dimensional models.

Premium currency – A virtual currency used in a game (usually a free-to-play (q.v.) title) that may not usually be earned through normal play, and usually requires the expenditure of real money to acquire. Used as a means of masking the true cost of microtransactions.

Publisher — The company who gets the game onto store shelves or digital distribution (q.v.) sites. The people who handle the money. Not necessarily the same company as the developer (q.v.).

Racing game – A genre of games that involves participating in vehicle races. Often used interchangeably with “driving game” (q.v.) but tends to refer to non-realistic games such as Mario Kart, or futuristic titles such as WipeOut and F-Zero.

Resolution — The number of pixels (q.v.) that make up the complete image on a screen, expressed as the number of pixels across by the number of pixels down, with the origin in the top left corner.

RPG — Role-Playing Game. A genre in which players control one or more characters who grow in strength over the course of the game. Variants include “action RPG”, in which players spend most of their time killing things, “open world RPG”, in which players have a large world to explore however they please, and “JRPG”, which is an RPG produced by or in the style of Far East-Asian developers. Often story-heavy. Examples include Xenoblade Chronicles, the Final Fantasy series and Diablo III.

RTS — Real-Time Strategy game. A genre of game in which players take on the role of an omniscient commander who commands their troops to (usually) wage war. The “real time” part comes from the fact that the game does not stop while the player makes their decisions — they must effectively prioritise and respond to situations in order to be successful. Examples include the Command & Conquer series and StarCraft.

SD — Standard Definition. A display technology for televisions in which the image is displayed at a resolution (q.v.) of (usually) 640×480 for NTSC-based televisions (seen in America and Japan) and 720×576 for PAL-based televisions (seen in Europe and Australia).

Share — A social networking term used to refer to making a post on a social network. In the case of games, this is usually some form of “brag” post boasting of a new high score. In actuality, it is usually a form of viral marketing (q.v.).

Shmup — Short for “shoot ‘em up”, a term usually used to describe 2-dimensional games that involve shooting things. Most commonly used today to refer to the “bullet hell” genre (q.v.). FPS (q.v.) games are not shmups.

Single player — A game you play by yourself while you are not connected to the Internet.

Smartphone — A mobile phone (cellphone) which is more like a miniature computer. Usually has a touchscreen, the ability to connect to the Internet and the facility to install “apps” to extend its functionality, including games. Several types are available, including the iPhone series, Android phones, Windows Phones and BlackBerrys [sic]. The iPhone and Android ranges are the most popular and consequently have the most apps available.

Social game — A game designed to be played on a social network such as Facebook. Usually free-to-play (q.v.) and monetized through sales of premium currency (q.v.). Often accused of being “pay to win” (q.v.), using “friend gating” (q.v.) excessively or constantly bugging players to “share” (q.v.) everything.

Special move — A combination of button and directional presses that causes something awesome to happen, most commonly seen in fighting games (q.v.).

Steam — Arguably the most popular digital distribution (q.v.) store for PC and Mac games there is, run by Valve Corporation, developers of the popular Half-Life, Left 4 Dead and Portal series.

TBS — Turn-Based Strategy. A strategy game in which players can spend as long as they like thinking about the commands they would like to give their units under their control. Often compared to board games, and typically less combat-centric than RTS (q.v.) titles — though military conflict often plays a part. Examples include the Civilization series and Endless Space.

Third-person perspective — Any game where you can see the character that you are controlling. Most commonly used to specifically refer to games where the “camera” floats behind the character or is positioned just behind one of their shoulders.

Third-person shooter — A game that unfolds from a third-person perspective (q.v.) in which the player’s main means of interacting with the world is by shooting seven shades of crap out of it with a variety of weaponry. Examples include Gears of War and Binary Domain.

Trophy — The PlayStation 3′s equivalent of Achievements (q.v.). Trophies come in Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum variants to reflect their difficulty. Platinum Trophies are usually awarded simply for accomplishing all of the other Trophy requirements.

Viral marketing — A means of subtly promoting something by using people’s inherently social nature. In video games, this is usually achieved by allowing players to post things on their Facebook Timeline from within the game, thereby allowing the player to boast of their achievements and conveniently promote the game in the process.

At over 2,000 words, I think that’s enough for now. Feel free to post in the comments if I missed any “q.v.”s or if there are any things you still don’t know.

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