215. A Brief Glossary of Handy Video Game Words

The world of video games is a vast and complicated place, littered with coins and spikes and bottomless pits, and discussed using a unique vocabulary: a lexicon packed with abbreviations, technical terms and snippets of Japanese. Video game words can be daunting or confusing to the uninitiated.

We’re here to help.

Here is a brief glossary of handy video game words. May it never be said TMTF has not done its part to promote the spread of knowledge and the betterment of humankind!

Action RPG: An RPG featuring real-time action instead of turns, e.g. Kingdom Hearts; see Turn-based RPG

Boss: A powerful enemy, usually fought at the end of a stage or dungeon

Co-op: A form of multiplayer in which players cooperate to complete an objective

Combo: In fighting games, an unbroken combination of moves or attacks

Console: A device for playing video games; generally connected to a television

Cutscene: A scripted visual sequence used to advance a game’s story

Developer: The person, group or company that makes a game

DLC: Downloadable Content, extra features in a game for which players pay an additional fee

Dungeon: A kind of stage fraught with enemies, puzzles, treasures and challenges; often concluded with a boss

Dungeon-crawler: A game with a strong focus on traversing dungeons

Easter egg: A hidden feature, often of a humorous or frivolous nature; sometimes a reference to another work; tragically, not actually made of chocolate

Escort quest: An objective requiring the player to protect an object or character; for most players, an excruciating nuisance

EXP: Experience, also abbreviated XP, generally awarded to the player in the form of points, which make characters stronger by causing them to level up; common in RPGs

Extra lives: Additional chances for a player to play without incurring a game over

Fetch quest: An objective requiring a player to retrieve an item or character; generally very tedious

Final boss: A powerful boss fought at the end of a game

FPS: First-Person Shooter, a genre of game in which the player wields a weapon from a first-person perspective, e.g. Halo

G: Gold, a standard form of currency in games

Game over: The point at which a player runs out of chances to play, and must begin the game from the beginning or a save point

Gameplay: The player’s interactions with a game; the interactive aspects of a game

Gameplay mechanic: A specific gameplay aspect

Gamer: A person who plays video games

Graphics: A game’s visuals

Hadouken: A colloquial term for projectile attacks in fighting games; named for a move in the Street Fighter series

Handheld: A portable video game device

HP: Health Points or Hit Points, a numerical representation of how much damage can be sustained by an object or character; see Life bar

Inn: In most RPGs, a location in towns where players can restore the HP and MP of their characters

Item: An object usable by the player; often depleted upon use

JRPG: Japanese Role-Playing Game, a style of RPG traditionally associated with Japanese developers, e.g. Final Fantasy; characterized by a linear narrative and stylized visuals; see WRPG

Level up: An increase in a character’s strength or ability, generally earned by accruing a predetermined amount of EXP

Life bar: A visual representation, typically in the form of a horizontal gauge, of how much damage can be sustained by an object or character; see HP

Metroidvania: A kind of platformer with RPG elements and a strong emphasis on exploration; named for Metroid and Castlevania, game series which exemplify the genre

Miniboss: A less powerful boss fought partway through a stage or dungeon

Minigame: A small, simple game within a larger, more complex one

MMORPG: Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, an RPG that connects multiple gaming systems and hosts numerous players in a single virtual world, e.g. World of WarCraft

MP: Magic points or Mana points, a renewable asset that can be spent to perform special moves

Multiplayer: A game feature that allows for multiple players to play the same game simultaneously

NPC: Non-Player Character, a character not controlled by any player

Open-world: A kind of game stage in which the player is given freedom to roam a large virtual world and flexibility in approaching game objectives

Overworld: The space connecting dungeons, towns or stages

Pixel: One of many tiny squares or dots that make up a larger image

Platformer: A genre of games in which gameplay usually consists of traversing platforms, pitfalls and other obstacles, e.g. Super Mario Bros.

Power-up: An object which temporarily grants a character greater strength or a new ability

Production values: All aspects of a game apart from gameplay; e.g. music, writing and graphics

Quick time event: An interactive cutscene in which a player must press a button or sequence of buttons displayed on screen; generally a terrible game mechanic

Random encounter: In RPGs, a gameplay mechanic that puts players at risk in certain areas of being ambushed by enemies and having to fight

Respawn: When a defeated character disappears from the game and reappears at a predetermined point

RPG: Role-Playing Game, a genre of game in which player controls a character or group of characters who become stronger as the game progresses; generally emphasizes storytelling and strategic gameplay

RTS: The Real-Time Strategy genre, which puts the player in command of a group of units and emphasizes micromanagement of resources, e.g. StarCraft

Save point: A checkpoint at which the player’s progress is recorded

Shovelware: Badly-designed games fit only for taking up space in landfills

Side quest: An optional objective or set of objectives available for the player to complete

Sprite: A two-dimensional image or animation integrated into a larger scene

Stage: A self-contained area in a game featuring a specific objective; also called a level, course, act or zone

Superboss: An optional boss, often more powerful than the final boss; a challenge for expert players

Town: A space in a game, generally neutral and free of enemies, offering services to the player such as shops, inns and save points

Turn-based RPG: An RPG featuring sequential moves or turns instead of real-time action, e.g. Final Fantasy; see Action RPG

Tutorial: A section of a game that instructs the player how to play

Vaporware: A game supposedly in development that shows no signs of imminent release

WRPG: Western Role-Playing Game, a style of RPG traditionally associated with Western developers, e.g. The Elder Scrolls; characterized by a nonlinear narrative and realistic visuals; see JRPG

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