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A Guide to Video Game Terminology

I’ve made this list to show my readers the real meaning behind terms and abbreviations commonly used in Video Game Speak of which I’ve come across from lurking in the gaming forums. Some of these overlap with internet slang, funny memes, and the language of nerds.

So the next time you join a multiplayer game, you’ll know what your teammates or other players are saying. It saves you the trouble of looking up unfamiliar jargon whenever you watch a Let’s Play, consult a player’s guide, or read an article by gaming journalists.


AAA – This refers to mainstream titles or franchises with high production values from major video game publishers, expected to sell millions of copies.

Avatar – The customizable player character in most action/adventure games.

AFK – Away from keyboard

For an online multiplayer game–If a player types this into the chat, it means that they aren’t in front of a computer anymore.

AoE – Area of effect

A term to describe field attacks that affect multiple targets at once in MMOs like World of Warcraft or League of Legends.

AP – Action point

In DnD, action points limit the number of actions a player can perform in a single turn; it may indicate how many points the player needs to execute a special attack.

AWOL – Absent Without Official Leave

A statement was made in the military to call out any soldiers who have left their post without permission from the general.


Bonus stage – A minigame between levels where the player has a chance to earn additional power-ups, coins, extra lives, and more.

Boss – A formidable enemy with a huge health bar who might be guarding treasure chests; Their attacks are predictable and they always repeat if the player dodges them long enough.

Bots – Those CPU-controlled opponents are used to replace actual players when you don’t get any friends to play with.

Buff – A power or stat boost granted to a playable character to make them temporarily stronger.

Bullet hell – Japanese games like Touhou flood the entire screen in colorful but deadly bullet patterns, making it impossible to see where you’re going.

Button mashing – The act of continuously pressing the same buttons in order to perform a certain move or push back against a tough opponent in action/fighting games.


Camping – Seen by other players as a lazy attempt to steal loot from them without putting in any real effort

Cheesing – This term describes a player who uses strategies that require little effort or equips overpowered weapons to score an easy victory.

CC – Crowd control

The ability to stun one or more hostile creatures, effectively taking them out of the battle for a few rounds.

Cooldown – A brief period of time the player has to wait before performing another attack to prevent them from spamming powerful moves.

Crit – Critical hit

Stands for a critical hit–a strike that deals extra damage as a result of sheer luck or the planets aligning.

Cutscene – A segment of the game dedicated to cinematic storytelling, providing a detailed exposition to advance the plot.


Deathmatch – A staple of shooters and strategic games where gameplay is often focused on PVP or survival mode until the timer goes off.

Dialog tree – A series of branching dialog choices players are asked to make when talking to NPCs so the story will actually progress.

DLC – Downloadable Content

The add-ons you have to install if you want the true experience of 100% beating the game featuring expansion packs or custom skins.

D-Pad – A directional pad found on handheld controllers, giving players control over character movements in eight different directions.

DPS – Damage per second

Measures the amount of damage the player inflicts on enemies within range (aka their offensive capabilities); also refers to glass cannon builds.

Drop rate – Determines your odds of obtaining a rare piece of armor or a legendary weapon from rolling a loot box.


Early access – One of the Pros of owning a Steam account, providing access to your favorite games in beta before they are even released.

Emulator – A program or application designed to copy the main functions of a video game console system, enabling players to launch older games on modern computers.

End game – The extra content left over when you finish the story mode campaign or the main game; usually applies to MMOs.

E-sports – The poster child for competitive gaming widely advertised to capture a streaming audience. E-sports is played for prize money and worldwide fame by top-ranking players.

Exploit – A cheat discovered by gamers when they identify a bad case of developers’ oversight which can get them banned online.


Fangame – A video game created by fans with too much free time on their hands that could be superior to the original one.

Fall damage – When the game punishes the player for falling at terminal velocity because they failed to time their jumps.

Farming – The act of standing around an enemy spawn point to kill the same monsters or collecting duplicates of reward items to earn a ton of coins.

FPS – First-person shooter

Not to be confused with frames per second. This is a genre of video games offering a first-person perspective of gameplay, where the objective is to shoot at everything.

Free to play – A pay-to-win model that lures gamers into swiping their credit cards for in-game purchases or to make them pay for a premium membership to get overpowered upgrades.

FTW – “For Teh Win”

Normally shouted at your opponent to taunt them for being on the losing team. Enjoy your bragging rights, you’ve earned them.


Game mechanics – An explanation of how the game works and what the rules are–Essentially the main components of gameplay as being turn-based or having a limited number of lives.

Gameplay – Defined by a player’s interactions with video game elements including the FOV interface and the difficulty level.

GG – Good game

The shorter version shows goodwill towards players on the opposing team after a competitive match.

God mode – The moment a player enters cheats to make themselves invincible to any foe with infinite health, items, and money.

Griefer – Not just a bad player, but somebody who actively harasses or trolls nearby players. Most griefers and their alts eventually get banned by mods.

Grinding – A tedious strategy employed by RPG players to level up a character by performing very repetitive and time-consuming actions.


Hax/Hacks – The art of cheating in a game and getting away with it. Hard to resist when the game has too many exploits to ignore.

Headshot – A precise attack to the head, dealing fatal damage to the target in FPS games.

Hitbox – A vulnerable area (on a part of the body) that receives damage input from hostile entities.

Hitpoints – The maximum health as indicated by a set number. If it drops to zero the player dies.


Indie game – A game produced by one person or a small team of independent developers without any assistance or distribution support from large publishers.

Infinite health – Don’t bother enabling this cheat code on your first playthrough. Save it for the 100% achievement hunt when you don’t want to grind.

Inventory – The magic menu box where items are being carried so it looks more portable on the outside.

Invisible wall – A barrier blocking the player from having access to what’s on the other side/to stop players from falling off the screen.


Jump good – Bet you weren’t expecting this. A very helpful feat for a certain samurai wielding a magic sword, stepping up to oppose the embodiment of all evil.

Joystick – An input device that detects the angle and direction of the controller which comes equipped with a push-button.

JRPG – A Japanese role-playing game starring a spiky-haired anime protagonist, the power of friendship, and badass fight scenes.


Kill screen – The infamous blue screen of death–quite similar to the red ring of death on an Xbox console except it only corrupts your game file.

Kill stealing – Jumping in at the last second to finish off an enemy someone else was fighting to take credit for all the experience and loot.

Kiting – A distracting maneuver meant to lead strong enemies away from the dying players on one’s team.

Knockback – A game mechanic in which players are pushed back if they stand too close to a boss. It can pose a problem if players are standing near a cliff or a bottomless pit.


Lagging – What happens when the frame rate drops to the point that the game freezes, rendering your character unplayable.

Leeroy Jenkins – “That guy” who charges into any situation guns blazing, with no regard for strategy or tactics, and is responsible for 80% of all party wipes in an MMO. (Long story short, not a team player.)

Let’s play – I’d be surprised to find anyone in the gaming community who doesn’t know what this is. Why do you think Twitch is so popular?

Level editor – A separate program developed using the main game’s assets, allowing players to create new levels without breaking the game.

Localization – The process of marketing video games to audiences in foreign countries, such as by modifying the content to fit in with the cultural narrative or by censoring controversial themes.

Loot box – A chest full of randomized items awarded to players after an online multiplayer match. Some will enhance gameplay while others are worn purely for cosmetic reasons.


Maxed out – Finally raising a character’s statistics to the highest value possible as dictated by the game’s leveling capacity.

Metagaming – For a player to determine their character’s next action using knowledge obtained from outside the game; Dungeon masters aren’t too fond of this one.

Microtransactions – A horrible business model that pressures people into making in-game purchases every time they level up, supposedly to give less-experienced players an advantage over veterans of the game.

Minigame – A smaller game inside of a game. Imagine going fishing or playing poker to earn some extra rewards barred from the main questline.

Min-maxing – When leveling up: The practice of pooling one’s skill points into only the most desirable traits while ignoring all else in favor of specialization–the opposite of being well-rounded.

Mod – A fan made add-on or modification of a game, in the form of new character skins, alternative endings, changing the game mechanics, or creating a new world to explore.


Nerfing – To make gameplay more balanced, characters deemed too overpowered will be weakened through either losing their abilities and items or lowering their damage output.

New Game Plus – The option to start a new game by carrying over all your maxed stats and end-game weapons from a previous playthrough.

Noclip mode – What happens in VR chat with cheat codes active. Or if you’re trying to beat Skyrim with only a bow and arrow.

Noob – A word often used to insult experienced players who are still bad at a game, not to be confused with Newb.

No scope – When a pro-player uses a sniper rifle to score a kill without looking into its scope.

NPC – Non-playable character

A character controlled by the game’s AI whose favorite hobby is giving players pointless fetch-quests or owning a village shop full of overpriced items waiting for a hero to buy them.


Old-school – A name reserved for consoles from the retro era of gaming. See Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, and the original Mario.

Open beta – A game in beta covered under fair-use policies; it can be repurposed for any occasion. It has the same meaning as the word “open-source”.

Open-world – A game in which players are not constrained by a pre-destined path laid out for them. Players have the freedom to explore anywhere they want in the overworld.

Overpowered – Anything that is too powerful to exist, disrupting the flow of a game. (See Mary Sues/Gary Stus for its storytelling usage.)


Patch – A major update by the developer in reference to fixing persistent bugs or introducing new content.

Permadeath – An extreme version of hard mode characterized by having just one life and one chance to avoid getting a Game Over.

Power-up – A collectible object that temporarily grants the player special abilities to give them an edge over the game’s obstacles.

PvP – Player vs. player

A staple of most fighting games where you test your might against a friend or adversary in multiplayer mode.

Pwned – A synonym for “getting owned” in an old-school fashion. When you never had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning.


Quest – No different from missions, except generally used in a fantasy setting. You will be asked to hunt down monsters, gather items, or talk to key NPCs.

QTE – Quick time event

A game attributing its success to fast-reacting players who can keep up with button prompts during an intense event or scene. Failure to press the right buttons in time will generally result in harm done to the player character.

Quick travel – A convenient method of teleportation that sadly doesn’t exist in the real world. This phrase should have gone under fast travel but the author didn’t feel like including it.

Quicksave – A mechanism that records the player’s progress via a button or keystroke rather than opening the main menu to load a save file.


Ragequit – When you have the urge to throw the controller across your living room. The moment you finally give up playing a game after losing one too many times.

Replay value – The amount of enjoyment one could get from selecting “Yes” to the “Play again?” question.

Respawn – An annoying mechanic found in side scrollers where monsters reappear in areas you’ve already cleared out.

RNG – Random Number Generation

An algorithm buried in the game’s source code to calculate the likelihood of item drops and encounter rates.

Roguelike – A subgenre of dungeon crawlers focused on resource management, turn-based actions, intricate exploration maps, and no second chances.


S Rank – The moment you graduate with flying colors–oh wait. A satisfying grade only awarded to players who clear the stage with all the bonuses intact.

Sandbox – A game that lets players sculpt their environment at will without having to worry about reaching goals; also known as free play mode.

Save Scumming – The process of repeatedly loading a save state to gain a tactical advantage over an unpredictable event or difficult boss battle to achieve a specific outcome.

Skill tree – A mechanic found in fantasy RPG games: Skill trees offer new character perks and additional stat boosts, granting the player more powerful abilities as they branch out.

Speedrun – The process of exploiting the game’s bugs and glitches to bypass long-winded cutscenes and most side quests–aiming to beat the game as fast as possible by only doing the bare minimum to advance the main story.

Status effect – A term applied to buffs and debuffs that affect a player’s character. Some like poison does damage over time, whereas others like armor reduction will lower one’s defense.


Tank – The meat shield of the group: That one burly guy who absorbs all the hits, receiving the brunt of enemy attacks so their teammates can coordinate a strategic maneuver.

Teabagging – The sexual act of crouching over a knocked down or dead opponent so their face is planted underneath one’s crotch. It is heavily frowned upon in multiplayer FPS games.

Test room – A secret area only accessible to beta testers who provide feedback on the actions and movements of player characters to the game’s developers.

Theorycrafting – Evaluating a video game in mathematical terms to determine the most optical approach to beating the game such as by power gaming, taking part in activities to achieve the fastest in-game progression.

Time trial – A game mode that challenges players to complete a level within the allotted time limit so they can potentially end up on the high scores list.

Touchscreen – Describes mobile games and apps since the user input relies on physical touch instead of a mouse or a controller.


UI – User Interface

The UI is the master screen where all user inputs are received by the computer or console system; made up of visual components the player can interact with to become immersed in the game’s narrative.

Underleveled – What happens when a player doesn’t grind enough before moving onto the next stage of a game, leaving them at a disadvantage when facing enemies with higher numbers.

Unlockables – Entire levels, playable characters, and special campaigns not available until you finish story mode using the default option.


Vaporware – Video games that have short bursts of active development followed by unnecessary long delays. They may not have an official release date nor are they officially canceled.

Visual novel – An interactive novel consisting of anime characters and static backgrounds, with dialogue presented in a text box.

VR – Virtual Reality

A real-time, computer-generated virtual experience delivered through electronic headsets. VR offers players a simulated environment where they can interact with physical objects projected onto the visual field.


Walkthrough – To be used sparingly or as a last resort after all reasonable attempts to finish a level has been made.

Wall jump – That fun thing people do in platformers to reach a higher ledge. The player will appear to be jumping off a vertical surface in the opposite direction.

WASD – A mechanism for using the arrow keys to control movement with one’s left hand; it serves as a substitute for the left analog stick. (Long live QWERTY! Our savior in these dark times.)

Waves – A nearly endless army of trash mobs ready to attack the player in survival mode with little time to prepare in between.

Well played – A phrase begrudgingly uttered when a player has been thoroughly bested by their opponent so one doesn’t sound like a sore loser.


XP – Another way of quantifying experience points. XP measures the number of points required to level up and are awarded to players for defeating monsters. (e.g. Looks like free XP.)

Nothing else to see here, tbh.


Yolo – You only live once

A one-liner to deter naysayers who question your choice of wearing shoes on your hands and gloves on your feet. It would have infinite meme potential in the right context.

YouTube – The most popular streaming platform for video games until Twitch stole the competition.


Zombies – Undead, rotting, hive-minded minions out hunting for your brains.

Zone – An area in a virtual environment offering a list of challenges for the players to overcome.

Z-targeting – That thing Link does in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to circle around an enemy before striking it with his sword.

Long Story Short

Video games have spawned their own subculture and with it, a separate language residing in the fringes of mainstream media. As gamers, we are unashamed of our l33t speak and tendency to brag about scoring confirmed kills in Fortnite.

With your newfound knowledge of video game terminology, you will now sound a lot smarter among your nerdy friends. If you think I left out some important terms, you can comment below and I’ll try to add them to the list.