New to gaming and not sure what all this jargon people are throwing around means? Actively gaming and still not sure what non-insult thing that other guy in your lobby just said?
We have you covered – this is a glossary of common gaming terms you may come across. If you’re looking for more hardware-specific stuff, you may also want to check out our PC Hardware Glossary.
A game developed and published by a large studio with a massive multi-million dollar budget. A game being AAA in production value does not actually mean it’s a AAA experience, though – this term is used to refer more to money and marketing than the actual quality of a game. AAA titles usually have great graphics due to their high budgets, though.
Examples: Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry
“Action” is a very widely-encompassing genre, but broadly-speaking, action games are focused on controlling no more than a few characters in real-time action sequences. Many sub-genres of action games exist, but a few particularly notable genres include beat-em-up and stylish action.
Notably, shooters are considered a separate genre from action in a gaming context. Most action games focus on melee combat as a stable and aren’t played in first person.
Examples: Devil May Cry, Streets of Rage
Like Action, “Adventure” is a fairly wide-encompassing genre, but in the gaming space, it does have a bit more of a specific definition. When people are talking about “adventure games,” chances are high they’re referring to classic point-and-click adventure games like Myst. Point-and-click adventure games were prominent in the 90s and defined by simple mechanics (point and click!) paired with fairly obscure or confusing logic puzzles.
Modern adventure games aren’t usually point-and-click, but may instead have a “Choose Your Own Story” design through dialogue options.
Examples: Grim Fandango, Escape From Monkey Island, The Walking Dead (and other Telltale games)
An aimbot refers to a cheater, usually an automated bot and not a human player, who is using cheats to achieve perfect aim. Some aimbots will be extremely obvious, but others may be using more subtle cheats (like subtle aim correction) that are harder to catch.
Arena shooter is a sub-genre of first-person shooters focused on high player mobility, powerups, ammo pickups, and map control. If not completely absent, randomized elements are minimized, and newer game design quirks (like cooldowns on abilities) are usually not present.
Examples: Quake, Unreal Tournament
Augmented Reality, or AR, is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Using a camera or HMD (head-mounted display) and AR, you can see an altered view of the world around you. Outside of gaming, this has become very popular for social media applications. Within gaming, mobile gaming especially, AR has proven quite successful, especially with titles like Pokemon Go.
A genre of MMO (massively multiplayer online) game where you and between 50 and more than 100 other players are put into a single massive battlefield to scavenge for resources and duke it out. This has become an especially popular genre of game in recent years, and chances are high you or someone you know already plays one of these games.
Examples: DayZ, Fortnite, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Apex Legends
When you hear “bots”, you’ll most likely hear it in one of two different contexts.
In the negative context, “bots” is used as a shorthand for aimbots and other cheating bots.
In a positive or neutral context, “bots” just refers to actual bots programmed into a given game. Depending on the game, the built-in bots can be extremely sharp or mind-numbingly stupid. Outside of single-player, these bots can often be found padding out the numbers on an inactive multiplayer server.
A genre of game where more than two players work together to achieve common goals, usually against in-game enemies and opposition. This is usually considered separate from team-based games, especially team-based shooters. (You may be cooperating with other players, but no one is going to call CS:GO a co-op game.)
Examples: It Takes Two, Don’t Starve Together
When a game offers online multiplayer for more than just one platform.
For example, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on Nintendo Switch is NOT cross-platform, since it’s a Nintendo-owned property. You can get it running on PC with emulation, but this still doesn’t permit playing with actual Switch owners.
Fortnite IS a cross-platform game, though. You can play it on compatible smartphones, every current-gen gaming console, and PC, and with other people playing on other platforms. A cross-platform game is an ideal choice when you want to play games with friends who don’t have the same PC specs or console you do.
DLC (Downloadable Content)
Downloadable Content, or DLC, is mostly what it sounds like. However, most DLC is usually content that you have to pay extra for, and this can vary from a few dollars to the price of another full game.
Content included in DLCs can range from minor cosmetic alterations, to new playable characters, to full game expansions. Be sure to do your research before buying DLC – it isn’t all made equal!
DRM (Digital Rights Management)
DRM, or Digital Rights Management, refers to software meant to limit piracy and other forms of copyright infringement. Most game clients are a form of DRM. Steam is DRM, for instance.
However, some forms of DRM can be negative effects on in-game performance, and sometimes DRM can even make certain games unplayable after enough time. (i.e., a game with always-on DRM where the servers go down). For this reason, sites like GOG exist to sell DRM-free games.
A piece of software that imitates a piece of hardware. In a gaming context, this means software that allows your PC or console to run games made for another console. Emulators have a lot of benefits that original hardware doesn’t, including the ability to run at higher resolutions and framerates.
The scene of competitive gaming, as popularized by Dota 2, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, and other games. Broadly-speaking, eSports can be referred to just about any competitive game and its community, but thus far, successful eSports seem limited to MOBAs and FPS.
A game where the focus is on two players having intense 1v1 fights, usually on a 2D plane. Some games may add more players or more characters-per-player (i.e. each character having 3 characters to tag in and out). Fighting games are notorious for their mechanical depth and dedicated communities.
Examples: Street Fighter, Tekken, Marvel vs. Capcom, Guilty Gear, Super Smash Bros.
F2P (Free To Play)
A game that is free to play. The catch of this business model is that “free to play” doesn’t mean free to play forever or free to play without a disadvantage. Some successful F2P games have reasonable-enough business models (Fortnite and TF2 limit money to cosmetics, for instance), but others may essentially be P2W/PTW (Pay To Win). Avoid those.
FPS (Performance Metric)
FPS as a performance metric refers to Frames Per Second, where more is better. This is tied closely to refresh rate, but the two aren’t exactly the same. You can find out more about how FPS and refresh rate impact your experience here.
FPS (First Person Shooter)
Depending on the context, FPS can also refer to a shooting game played from a first-person perspective. Most modern shooters are FPS, but stuff like top-down shooters used to be a lot more common, especially in arcades.
A handheld controller made specifically for playing games. Click here if you need help picking one.
A team shooter, usually first-person, that takes influences from MOBAs. These influences can usually be seen in the form of distinct roles (Tank, Healer, DPS) and cooldowns instead of ammo as a limiter of damage output.
Used to refer to two separate phenomena.
The main (and more accurate usage) of the term “lag” is seen when playing online games. If the netcode or networking conditions are poor, players will experience delayed or dropped inputs, as well as visual stuttering and other issues. This is what most people mean when they say “lag.”
The other usage of the word “lag” is seen on the hardware level, especially when FPS drops below a steady average. If your game is running at a low or jittery framerate, the entire experience will feel less responsive or … laggy!
MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online)
MMO is short for Massively Multiplayer Online and describes multiplayer experiences where dozens of players can be active at the same time. Not all MMOs are MMORPGs, but a lot of the most popular – like World of Warcraft – are.
Examples: World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Every Battle Royale or MMORPG
MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena)
A team-based genre of competitive games, usually focused on destroying structures in enemy territory and played from a top-down perspective. With computer-controlled units a la real-time strategy and character customization a la RPGs, MOBAs offer a great deal of complexity while still being shockingly easy to understand for wider audiences.
Examples: Dota 2, League of Legends
A term used to refer to the code that handles online multiplayer gaming. Broadly-speaking, bad netcode will be more prone to disconnections, dropped inputs, and other issues, whereas good netcode will have minimal, if any, noticeable issues.
P2W / PTW (Pay to Win)
A game can be free-to-play, but it is made difficult to win until you spend money to buy weapons, power up, additional health points, gears, accessories, etc.
P2W can be controversial in multiplayer games, as you can gain superior advantage over another player by spending money.
A genre of game where the focus is on jumping through and exploring various locations and obstacle courses.
Examples: Super Mario, Celeste
When a game made for one system is made again for another, usually with minimal changes. If there’s a significant difference in power between the original system and the new system, this port may cut down on graphical features and content to run well. See Doom Eternal on Nintendo Switch as examples.
When a game made for one system is rebuilt from the ground up for another, with little if any reused assets. Not to be confused with””” a port or a remaster.
Example: Link’s Awakening (Switch)
When a game made for one system is made again for another, usually with improvements to existing assets and systems. Most remasters don’t offer a massive visual upgrade over the original game, but a few might.
Example: Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, Spyro Reignited Trilogy
Stands for “Read Only Memory” and refers to the ROM chips that stored the data in retro game cartridges. When someone talks about “ROMs,” they’re usually talking about digital copies of these games. You may also see “ISO” used in a similar context but for disc-based games.
RPG (Role-Playing Game)
A game where the focus is primarily on character customization, story, and turn-based combat. A popular sub-genre of RPG is the “ARPG,” or Action RPG, where combat is played in real
time while still taking into account all the customization and statistical possibilities permitted by the game. Over time, RPG elements have found their way into more and more genres, creating many unique games.
Examples: Final Fantasy, The Witcher, Fallout
RTS (Real-Time Strategy)
Games where you control units in real-time tactical battles, against either enemy players or in-game enemies. Usually controlled from a large-scale top-down perspective.
Examples: Starcraft, Age of Empires
Refers to aim or camera control sensitivity. Use a tool like Mouse-Sensitivity.com to keep this consistent between games.
In the gaming context, “Streaming” refers to streaming a game from one machine to one or more other machines. This can be for the purpose of Twitch streaming to viewers or, say, using Remote Play Together with a friend. If you pay for Google Stadia or GeForce Now, you’ll be playing games streamed from their servers rather than your own machine.
A (usually first-person) team shooter with a heavy focus on realistic gunplay between small teams of players.
Examples: Counter-Strike, Valorant
TPS (Third-Person Shooter)
A shooter that controls from a behind-the-back third-person perspective.
Examples: Gears of War, Fortnite
A screen with a 21:9 aspect ratio, providing an ultrawide viewing experience. Not ideal for or supported by all games but very popular nonetheless.
VR (Virtual Reality)
Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. In addition to the VR headset, Virtual Reality games are often played with motion controllers and scanners rather than traditional gamepads or a keyboard.
Image Credit: Filipe Leite on WikiMedia Commons