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Gamespeak: A glossary of Gaming Terms PDF Print E-mail
Written by Amanda Greenslade   
Sunday, 25 June 2006

Most professions, hobbies and social groups have their own language or way-of-speaking.  Gaming is no exception and if you can't speak the speak, you can't call yourself a geek.


In some cases, these words have a more general meaning, but this glossary mainly deals with the meaning that is relevant to gamers.  The meanings of these terms are not necessarily universally agreed upon, but they serve as a general definition.


Words within definitions that are further defined elsewhere are hotlinked.  Press ‘back’ on your browser to return to the first block of text you were reading.


Adventure game:     Adventure games have persisted from the early days of text-based adventures and top-down RPGs.  They progressed through a period of semi-platform design (eg. the Kings Quest series, Monkey Island etc.) through to today’s mostly 3D real-time combat adventure games (eg. Drakan).  Most RPGs are also adventure games, in essence, because they are all about giving the player an adventure (the hero’s journey).


Aggro:                    Aggravation: The ‘aggravation radius’ of hostile NPCs determines how close a player can get without an NPC noticing and attacking them.  This radius is often affected by the difference between the player and the NPC’s levels, by stats and abilities and sometimes even by objects and shadows in the world. The word ‘aggro’ is used as a verb to describe the player’s act of ‘pulling’ an enemy to them (provoking them to attack) whether intentional or unintentional.


AI:                          Artificial Intelligence; generally referring to the programmed ‘behaviour’ of NPCs such as their schedules and the way they respond to the player, changes in the world and each other.


AP:                         Attack Power: a mathematical range that is used during battles to calculate the number of HP a player’s attacks deduct from an enemy.  A character’s AP is often combined with the AP of the weapons they are carrying and multiplied by a random (or set) number.  This gives an element of chance to the final damage done.


Arcade:                   A public gaming facility where arcade machines are lined up side by side and customers move from one to the other inserting coins or tokens to play.  Fast-paced, prize-based games are the most common (eg. shooting games, racing games and skill-testers).


Base:                      A starting point or main focus for resources.  Especially relevant in RTS games where the player builds up a base from which to launch attacks upon the enemy.


Beat-em-up:            A fighting game where two characters face off, from opposite sides of the screen, and use physical attacks to lower each other’s health within a set time limit.  Eg. Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Tekken etc.  Can sometimes be ‘scrolling’ (eg. Double Dragon).


BoE:                        Bind on Equip.  As soon the item is equipped, it becomes bound to that player (see BoP for more).  While the item is in the player's inventory (before equipping), it can be sold/traded to other players.


BoP:                        Bind on Pickup.  As soon as the item is looted, it becomes bound to that player.  It cannot be sold/traded to other players, but it can probably be sold to vendors.


Bound:                    A ‘bound’ item is one that can only be used by the character it is ‘bound’ to.  This prevents unfair ninjaing (stealing) of items that really should be given to a specific class because it cannot be sold to other players anyway and generally the vendors will not pay much for them.


Class:                     Most games give players a set of options to choose from when they first start the game.  In RPGs, character classes are usually medieval or fantasy stereotypes like warrior, mage, rogue, hunter, healer etc.  The class the player chooses affects their abilities and stats, and therefore their HP, AP, DEF, DPS etc.  Eg. a warrior has higher strength than a mage, but lower intelligence.  The term ‘classes’ can also be used in a more general sense (eg. for types of vehicles in racing games, flight sims).


DEF:                       Defence: usually only used in RPGs and FPSs, defence is a mathematical figure that is reached by combining a player’s natural defence with that of their armour and any status affects that are upon them.  This is often also affected by the condition the armour is in.  In some games armour also has HP, which is lowered when attacked (meaning that the armour must be periodically repaired for the utmost effectiveness).


DPS:                       Damage Per Second: the rate at which attacks deduct HP from an enemy. 


Drop:                      1) In some games (especially RPGs), when enemies are killed, certain items can be found on their corpses.  These are called ‘drops’ because it is like they dropped them when they died.  It is always amusing when an animal drops gold or a weapon; was it carrying it in its teeth during the battle?


                              2) (Online gaming only) When a player is disconnected from a server, this is often referred to as a ‘drop’ because the server has dropped them.


Elements:                In games, the term ‘elements’ doesn’t usually refer to weather, but rather to things like fire vs ice, thunder vs water, earth vs sky/ether, unholy/arcane vs holy etc.  Each element has its opposing force and the player must learn what elements to employ to quickly dispatch an elemental enemy (which is often resistant to physical attacks/melee).           

Equip:                     The act of selecting a weapon, armour or piece of jewellery or clothing and putting it onto a character.  The equipped item generally appears in a list of ‘equipped’ items (such as a character screen) and any effects it possesses will be applied to the character (eg. +50 health).  See stats.


Farm:                     Killing enemies repeatedly in a certain area in a game to obtain a particular kind of item.  This only applies to games that have respawning enemies.  Also see gold-farmer.


FPS:                        First Person Shooter.  The camera view is through the character’s eyes i.e. first person.  The basic aim of the game is to shoot and kill the other characters.  E.g. war, espionage, police etc.


Game master:         (Online gaming only) A person (often with an in-game identity/character) employed by the creators of the game to moderate behaviour of players and to fix in-game problems such as players becoming stuck in the environment etc.


Game over:             The game ends.  Sometimes there is an option to return to a moment in the game before death so the obstacle can be attempted again.  Usually it is up to the player to return to a ‘save game’ and try again from there.  In MMORPGs there is never any game over and in some adventure games like the Monkey Island series, the player cannot die and so there is no game over; only frustration as the player tries to solve puzzles or figure out what to do next.


Ganked:                  (Online gaming only) Dishononorable conduct toward another player.  Eg. sneaking up behind them and killing them.


Gold-farmer:           (MMORPGs only) A player who is being paid in real-world money to obtain items en masse (to farm) and in-game gold, which is subsequently sold for real-world money (usually illegally).  Gold-farmers are usually also ninjas, which not only results in poor team-play, but also causes major problems with the in-game economy.  In World of Warcraft, for example, some servers experience extremely low (below-cost) prices on the auction house (an in-game Ebay-like auction facility that allows players to trade with people they don’t know) for certain items because they are being farmed by gold-farmers.  This means that genuine players trying to sell those items cannot do so.  The creators of such MMORPGs generally kick gold-farmers from the system when/if they are discovered.


Grind:                     To battle in a certain area for a specific goal (eg. killing a number of a particular type of NPC for a quest, gaining XP, farming for items etc.)


Guild:                     A group or faction of players or NPCs.  Members of a guild look after one another, embark on quests for or with each other etc.  The term has very different applications in online gaming compared with single-player gaming.  In online games such as MMORPGs, a guild is usually organised and run completely by other players (eg. World of Warcraft) whereas in single-player games like RPGs a guild is simply a social group of NPCs within the game world that can be joined/worked for to gain special rewards (eg. Oblivion).


Health:                   A number that represents how close or how far a player or NPC is from death.  Can usually be restored by health potions and spells or regenerate over time automatically.  Also called HP.


HP:                         Hit Points: see ‘Health’.  Hit Points are deducted during battle or other violent encounters.


IC                           (Online gaming only) In-character role-playing: when a player takes on the role of their character and acts it out (like staying ‘in character’ in drama) without breaking character.  This would mainly involve dialogue (chat) that reflects the character’s situation and does not reveal the player behind the character.  Also see OOC.


Inventory:               Everything a character is carrying is represented in their ‘inventory’, which often consists of a bag(s) of limited size or weight capacity.  In some games this capacity increases as the player levels up.


Kick:                       The act of any kind of moderator (eg. a chat channel moderator or a game master) removing (kicking out) a person/player from the online environment due to abusive or otherwise unacceptable behaviour.


KO (KO’d):              Knocked Out (unconscious).  In some games, such as the Final Fantasy series, the player controls a party of three or more characters, and when one becomes KO’d, another can use potions and spells to bring them back to life.  If all three party members are KO’d at one time, though, it is game over.


LAN:                       Local Area Network.  A LAN can be a group of friends meeting in one place, networking their PCs and playing multiplayer games with each other.


Lag:                        (Online gaming only) A time delay, usually caused by a slow internet connection and causing the player to fall behind in the game world, often with fatal results.  Also described as ‘latency’.


Level Up:                (RPGs only) When enough XP is accumulated, the player moves up a level, gaining more HP, AP, abilities etc.


Life:                       That often short period of time between spawning and dying.  The term ‘life’ can also refer to a number of chances the player has at a game before their death actually results in game over.  Platform games and shooting games are especially likely to give ‘lives’ to players and extra ‘lives’ can often be picked up as rewards during the game.


Melee:                    Battles at close-range; hand-to-hand combat etc.


MMORPG:                Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game.  Thousands of people play on the same server in real-time engaging in battles and in-character and NPC interaction.


Multiplayer:             A game that can be played by more than one person at the same time.  There are three major types of multiplayer game: 1. Single-unit: a game where both players look at the same screen, but operate a different controller or set of keys on a keyboard to control their character on-screen.  2. Network games: players have their computers linked via a cross-over cable or via a router in a LAN.  3. Online games: where players join an internet server to play against or alongside each other.


Ninja:                     (MMORPGs only) A player who loots items they are not entitled to or repeatedly takes items ‘by accident’.  Commonly associated with hackers, Ninjas are generally self-centred, gain-focused individuals who do not look after their team-mates.  It may also be possible that they are selling off the resulting in-game money illegally (farmers).


NPC:                       Non-player Character: a computer generated character with preset dialogue, characteristics and behaviour.  Also called ‘characters’ or ‘AI’.


Online gaming:        A very popular form of gaming entertainment, playing online enables players from all over the world to interact in games ranging from RPGs and sims to shoot-em-ups and racing games.


OOC:                      (Online gaming only) Out-of-character: when a player behaves and chats out-of-character, i.e. not pretending to be their character, rather just chatting from their own real life point of view.  Also see IC.


Ping:                       Measurement of the time a packet (portion of data) takes to get from one computer to another.  See Lag.


Platform game:       One of the earliest game forms, the platform game is a 2D environment characterised by ledges (platforms) on which the characters move.  These can be arranged so that there are platforms higher and lower than the player’s starting position and they have to try to jump to those often enemy-ridden, hard-to-reach, moving or booby-trapped platforms.


PVP:                        Player Verses Player: an area or even a ‘server’ where human players can/must attack each other.  Most MMORPGs have a PVP component to keep things challenging and interesting for the more advanced players.


Quest:                    (RPGs only) The major motivation for the player’s actions is the achievement of small ‘quests’ (objectives) within an overarching storyline.  Game developers keep gamers hooked by giving small goals and small rewards that often lead up to the ultimate goal or climax of the game.  ‘Side-quests’ are those that have nothing to do with the overarching storyline, but can be done just for fun or to gain XP or other rewards.  ‘Chain-quests’ are those that must be done one after the other in a long chain, before the final quest in that chain can be done (and the best reward of all received).


Random:                 1) (Multiplayer games only) Verb: To ‘random’ for an item means to ‘roll’ (like rolling a dice) using an in-game lottery feature, which determines fairly who will win the item.


2) Adjective: A ‘random drop generally refers to an item that drops ‘now and then’ (anything less frequent than 1 in 1).


3) (Online games only) Noun: ‘Some random’ generally refers to a person the speaker doesn’t know (this phrase is also used in everyday teen-speak).  It seems more appropriate to use it in an MMORPG sense, though, because you do not even see the other players behind all the other characters.


Ranged:                  Battles at far-range/attacks from a distance; archery, magic etc.


Real-time:               1) When referring to in-game battles, real-time combat simply means that the player must press buttons (eg. punch/kick/block) and directions (eg. left/right) to make their character defend themselves or physically attack an enemy immediately (in ‘real-time’).  If they take no action, they will die.


2) In MMORPGs, real-time means there is no saving.  There is no going back.  Real time affects the time in the game.  When the player isn’t playing, the time of day continues on in the game.


Resources:              1) In simulation games (eg. RTS games), resources such as gold, wood, food and stone are collected and then used/spent to build structures or generate units (civilians, military units, vehicles etc.).


                              2) ‘System resources’ is a ‘real-world’ term used to describe the power/resources of the components of a PC, especially memory, hard drive and main processor.


RPG:                       Role-playing Game: the player takes on a character, including specified traits such as class, major skills, minor skills etc.  The character ‘levels up’ through experience (XP).  RPGs can feature turn-based (eg. the Final Fantasy series) or real-time (eg. the Zelda series) combat or a mixture of the two (eg. World of Warcraft, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic) or even no combat at all (eg. the Broken Sword series).  RPGs often involve puzzle-solving, detective work and/or lateral thinking to get past obstacles.


RTS:                       Real-time Strategy: a base-building, war game generally played from a top-down or bird’s eye view.  Strategy is the key to winning, including both battle-tactics and economics.


Scrolling:                 1) A game where the screen literally scrolls (moves) from left to right or from bottom to top regardless of what the player is doing.  If the player moves too slowly they either die or are shunted along at the edge of the screen and encounter whatever obstacles are next in the scene.  Eg. scrolling platform-games, scrolling shoot-em-ups etc.


2) When using the scroll wheel on the mouse or clicking on scroll-bars on the sides of menus etc., the player is ‘scrolling’.


Server:                   A computer or group of computers that ‘hosts’ a game, allowing many players to join easily and without even knowing each other.  In online games, players sometimes have to select one server and stay there.  Choosing a server that is located closer to their real-world country usually gives faster connection speeds (less lag).  Game creators give names to the servers for easy communication between and with players.


Shoot-em-up:          A game with a primary focus on shooting other characters or players, often with a hand-held gun-like control (eg. Time Crisis).  Can sometimes be ‘scrolling’.  Also see FPS and Shooting game.


Shooting game:       Any game where shooting is the primary method of gameplay.


Sims:                      Simulation games: Any game that ‘simulates’ a world from a fairly broad point of view.  Eg. an entire neighbourhood in The Sims, an entire city in Sim City, an entire empire in RTS game series like Age of Empires, Command and Conquer, Warcraft etc.


Spawn:                    The moment when a player or an NPC appears in the game-world.  For example, random monsters can be killed, but they respawn within a given amount of time.  So it pays not to stand around.


Stats:                     Statistics: a character’s abilities and the mathematical figures that define their current attributes (eg. strength, agility, willpower, intelligence, endurance, luck etc. and also elemental effects (whether they’re strong/weak against certain elements) etc.


Status Effects:        Something in-game has caused a change to a character’s stats.  Eg. a poison is classified as a ‘status effect’ because it affects the number of HP the character has (usually by reducing it periodically until the poison runs our or is removed).



Adventure:              When programmers first started applying their working knowledge of computers to ‘play-time’, the text-based adventure was born.  Basically a programmer would design a flow-chart-like story and code a set of rules that would affect what the ‘player’ sees.  A description appeared at the outset of each ‘scene’ and the player responded by typing basic instructions like ‘Walk East’ or ‘Open Door’.  If a successful command was entered, then the player would receive the next description.  If an unrecognised text string was entered, infuriating responses like ‘That does not compute’ or ‘Unknown command’ were generated.


Top-down:               A bird’s-eye-view is the main way the player views the world.  Pac-man is probably one of the earliest top-down games, but the term is usually associated with top-down RPGs like the early Final Fantasy and Zelda titles.  Top-down views are still used today, especially in hand-helds (eg. mobile/cell phones, Nintendo game-boys etc.) because of the limited screen size.


Turn-based:            The player does not have to react to battle situations immediately; rather they have a specified, limited or infinite amount of time for their ‘turn’ and can choose from a range of options (usually in menus or on-screen buttons) before activating their chosen action.  Recently, turn-based games have tended to use a limited amount of time so that there is more pressure on the player (which keeps the pace going).  In Final Fantasy VIII, for example, if a player walked away from a battle, it would be exactly where they left it when they came back.  But in Final Fantasy X, if the player walked away during combat (without pausing) they would probably be dead when they came back because the enemy’s turn kept coming around even though the player failed to react.  Turn-based RPGs are very different to turn-based RTS games, which operate more like board games.


Vendor:                   An NPC that buys and sells items.  The term vendor is sometimes also used as a verb to describe the selling process (only when selling to NPCs, not other players).


XP:                         No, it’s not something to do with Microsoft.  XP is short for Experience Points.  Generally used in RPGs, experience points are gained through the completion of quests, through battles and sometimes other actions as well.  As in real life, the more a player does of a particular thing, the better they get at it.  XP adds up to each ‘level up’.  Sometimes XP is allocated to certain skills, depending on what skills are used the most (eg. Morrowind).


Last updated: 25 June 2006

Last Updated ( Saturday, 04 November 2006 )
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