Video game glossary

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This is a glossary of video game terminology.



See 1-credit completion.

1-credit completion

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


Playing a game with one human player against one other human player.


An Engrish form of the term, extra life.


See 1-on-1.


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


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


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


Refers to a display resolution of 4096 × 2160 pixels.


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


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


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


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


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


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


Refers to a display resolution of 1280 × 720 pixels, also called "high definition or HD." Often described as 720p, for progressive display, or 720i, for interlaced display.


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



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


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


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


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

active puzzle

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


See expansion.


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


See artificial intelligence.

all levels

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


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

analog stick

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

any percent

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

artificial intelligence

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


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


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


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

auto scrolling

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

automatic (transmission)

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


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


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



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

bad ending

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

ball and paddle

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

beat 'em up

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


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

best testing

See quality assurance.


On an arcade cabinet, it's the area around the display.

bird's eye view

See top-down.


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

block pushing

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


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

bonus stage

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


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

boss rush

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

boss tease

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

box art

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

brawler (character)

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

brawler (genre)

See beat 'em up.

buffer overflow

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


A coding oversight the results in behavior undesired by the developers.

bullet hell

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


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


capture the flag

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

cathode-ray tube

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


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


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

cheating artificial intelligence

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

check point (navigation)

A location on a map that a player is expected to reach.

check point (racing)

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

coin door

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


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

collision detection

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


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


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


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


The primary unit of a home video game system and typically where the bulk of the hardware is housed.

console generation

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

console war

Refers to aggressive marketing campaigns between the more popular video game consoles.

content rating

A grouping system handled by a governing body designed to inform parents of possible objectionable content in a game. Despite their intentions, this invariably leads to censorship.


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

control panel

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


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

conversion kit

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

cool down

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


See cooperative.


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


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


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

credit (unit)

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


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

cross genre

See multi-genre.


See cathode-ray tube.

cut scene

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

Cute'em up

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


dating simulation

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


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


A form of multiplayer where players try to frag (or kill) the characters of their opponents as a many times as possible while being fragged as few times as possible. When you are fragged, you typically respawn.


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


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


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


Levels of complexity that can be adjusted by the player, usually at the beginning of a game.

DIP switch

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


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


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


See downloadable content.

downloadable content

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


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

dungeon crawler

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

dynamic difficulty

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



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


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


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


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


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


The process by which software simulates the workings of hardware.


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

endless runner

See runner.


When something is poorly translated into English (typically Japanese). The spelling of the term is a based on the fact that Japanese-to-English translations often suffer from conflating the letters L and R.


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

experience points

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


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

extra life

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



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


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

final boss

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


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

first-person shooter

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

fixed shooter

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


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

fog of war

Common in combat strategy games, the area outside where the player can see, where events are still occurring.

Foley artist

A game developer who creates sound effects for a game.


Killing a character in a deathmatch. Taken from military slang which referred to murdering a fellow officer, typically with a fragmentation grenade (thus the name) to look like an accident.

free play

A mode in which an arcade game doesn't charge money for a credit.

friendly fire

When a player inadvertently injures or kills one of their teammates. A troll will probably do so purposely. See also team kill.



Any activity with established rules played for enjoyment or competition.

game over

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


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


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

genre fatigue

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


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


See bug.

god game

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

gods of RNG

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

good ending

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

graphic (design)

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

graphic (video)

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

graphic adventure

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

guess the verb

A problem common in poorly written text adventures where the player knows what to do, but can't guess the precise wording the game designer expects.



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


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

hard mode

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


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

hidden object

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

hint book

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

hit point

See life (unit).

hit scan

An instant check for a hit toward a target rather than processing the actual physics of a fast moving object. Typically used by a bullet from a gun.


in house

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


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


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


When an entity cannot be damaged, but still experiences knock-back.


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


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


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



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


kill screen

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

kill stealing

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

king of the hill

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


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

Konami Code

A button sequence consisting of ↑, ↑, ↓, ↓, ←, →, ←, →, B, A created by the company Konami initially to award the player extra lives, which has since been used in a large number of games.



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


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


See liquid-crystal display.

LCD game

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


See light-emitting diode.

let's play

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

level (advancement)

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

level (map)

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

level cap

The maximum level or advancement that a character can obtain.

level requirement

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


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

life (attempt)

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

life (unit)

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

light-emitting diode

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

light gun

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

light gun video game

A game which employs a light gun as a controller.

life steal

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

liquid-crystal display

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


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


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



A short book, often sold with a video game, which give additional information not found in the game. This may include fleshing out the game's story, describing how the controls work, and so forth. Manuals were more popular when games had to be fit into very limited space, but not the information of a manual is included in the game itself making them unnecessary.

manual (transmission)

In games which feature driving, a transmission that doesn't automatically shift gears for the player, so the player is expected to shift gears as they accelerate and decelerate.

map (item)

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

map (technical)

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


On an arcade cabinet, it's the area at the top face which typically includes the game's title.

maze (genre)

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

maze traversal

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


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


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


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


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


A section of a game, similar to a level, but the term is more frequently applied to a game with a military or espionage theme. There are usually several missions to an episode.

moon logic puzzle

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


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


A game which uses two or more disparate genres.


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

multiple endings

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


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



To weaken something (by changing it into a soft foam version), usually through a software update in order to balance a game.

new game plus

Replaying a game with all or most of the abilities you gained from the first play-through.

no deaths

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

no hits

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

no warps

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

non-playable character

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


See non-playable character.


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



See organic light-emitting diode display.


See overpowered.

optional permadeath

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

organic light-emitting diode display

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


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

over world

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


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


paddle (controller)

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


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


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

passive puzzle

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


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


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


When a character dies, they are permanently dead, and the player must start with a fresh character.


The process of sharing illegal copies of a game.


A person or organization which makes illegal copies of games.


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

pixel hunting

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

planned game over

A condition in a game where the developer purposely ends the game even if the player hasn't died. Typically to prevent them from overflowing memory and encountering a kill screen.


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

plasma display

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

platform (hardware)

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

platform (map)

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

platform shooter

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


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

play test

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

playable character

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


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


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

point of no return

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


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


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


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

power supply

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

power creep

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

'power up

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

pro gamer move

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

procedural generation

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


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


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

professional gaming

The industry around professional gamers.

professional gamer

Someone who makes a sustainable income playing video games.


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


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

proof of concept

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


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


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

purposely taking damage

When the player purposely causes their character to take damage. Typically to get them in an invulnerable state to bypass a difficult section.


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

puzzle (genre)

A genre of video game based on solving puzzles.


To have dominance over someone else. Initially comes from an accidental misspelling of "own," but later purposely misspelled. Pronounced "pōne."



See quick-time event.

quality assurance

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


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

quick load

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

quick save

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

quick-time event

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



A genre of video game where the player races a vehicle against opponents or a time limit. Driving is similar, but doesn't use competitive elements.

rail shooter

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


When something happens in an unpredictable manner. Typically the result of a random number generator.

random generation

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

random number generator

An algorithm that generates pseudo-random numbers.

raster graphic

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

ratchet scrolling

When the map only scrolls in a single direction.

real-time strategy

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

real-time tactics

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

rear-projection television

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


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

respawn point

The location where a character will respawn if they die.

rhythm video game

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

[risk–return tradeoff]]

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


See random number generator.


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

rocket jump

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


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


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

role-playing game

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


See role-playing game.


See real-time strategy.


See platform shooter.


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


sandbox game

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


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

save point

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

save scumming

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


See science fiction.

science fiction

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


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

scrolling shooter

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


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

service door

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

shoot 'em up

See shooter.


Any genre of game where the player shoots at targets.

shooting lane

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


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


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


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

sim (genre)

See simulation.

sim (prefix)

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


A genre of video game which simulates a real world process. Common simulators are management simulators, flight simulators, and various vehicular combat simulators.


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


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

soft lock

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


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

speed run

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


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

staff roll

See credits.


A section of a game. See level.

starting lives

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

stat requirement

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


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


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


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


tank (character)

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


See tool-assisted speed run.


A form of multiplayer where players form teams to compete against each other.

team kill

When a teammate kills a member of their own team, typically on accident. See also friendly-fire and fragging.


Killing an opponent by teleporting into the location they're currently in.


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

text adventure

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


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

third party

A game created for a publisher by an development studio they don't own.


A perspective where the player views the game world from the outside, rather than first person, which is through the eyes of a character.


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

time limit

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

title card

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

tool-assisted speed run

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


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


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


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


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

true ending

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

turn-based strategy

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


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


under powered

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


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


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


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


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

unwinnable state

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

upgrade (hardware)

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

upgrade (mechanic)

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

upgrade (software)

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



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


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

vehicular combat

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


Applies to a game that is played against another, usually human-controlled, opponent.


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

virtual reality

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

visual novel

A genre of video game where the player reads a novel which is accompanied by many illustrations, and typically have some level on interactivity.


See virtual reality.


walking simulator

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


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

WASD keys

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


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

warp zone

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


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


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

word game

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

world (map)

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

world (section)

A large section of a game usually composed of multiple levels. For example, a game may consist of "fire world," "water world," and "air world," with each world split into four levels.



See experience points.



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