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The quick and dirty guide to video game terminology – abbreviations and odd phrases used by video gamers. If you’re looking for the meaning of something specific, just ask us via the “contact us” link in the sidebar. We’ll get back to you ASAP and add it to the list.
AI: Artifical Intelligence (Okay, there was a Spielberg film with a fluffy bear so everyone probably knows this one by now).
AFK: Away From Keyboard.
Alpha: (General software term) First phase of testing software. The structure and most of the content has been developed but not all the intended features may be present. Alpha tests are typically run in-house or by specialist testing agencies.
Avatar: The game character’s model or picture used to represent each player.
Beta: (General software term) Second phase of testing software (not exclusively games) and last development phase prior to release. Most features have been implemented but some of these may be removed during the beta phase if they turn out to be too problematic to fix.
- Open beta:
- Closed beta:
The beta version of the software is available for anyone to test and report bugs to the company.
The software is only available to selected people who may be testing for very specific things.
Bug: Faults in the programming which cause unintended effects both good and bad – crashes, unintentionally high character advancement, etc.
Camp: To remain in one strategic place and repeatedly kill people or mobs.
Crash: When your console/computer stops responding until you hit the power button, or reboots itself without asking. Game servers also crash. Very distressing, especially if they lose your last few hours worth of items and xp.
DS: Short for Nintendo Dual Screen or Nintendo DS. A handheld gaming console with two screens that was released in Europe in October 2005.
DDR: Dance Dance Revolution. A series of games produced by Konami. They are played by hitting buttons on a dancemat instead of using traditional controller.
E3: Electronic Entertainment Expo. A former expo for games and technology developers and publishers to show their upcoming developments. Now replaced by E for All and other games conventions.
Exp: See XP.
Expansion Pack: Lots of additional content for a game that is created by the developer and often costs almost as much as the original game did in the first place.
FFI (FFII, FFIII … FFX, FFX-2, Final Fantasy): Successive games in the Final Fantasy series of console games, later ported to PC by Square Co. Historically, the plots of each successive game were unrelated to the previous games, with the exception of the eleventh game in the series. This followed on from the tenth game Final Fantasy X (i.e. Ten), which led to it being called Final Fantasy X- 2 (pronounced Ecks-Two) rather than XI. To confuse matters even more, Final Fantasy XI is an MMO with the style and features of the console games and Final Fantasy XII will be a return to the stand-alone console platform. Lastly, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is an English language full-length animated feature film created by a collaboration between the creators of the Final Fantasy games and Chris Lee Productions, a US film producer, and Final Fantasy: Advent Children is a Japanese language Square Enix film released on UMD which is a sequel to Final Fantasy VII. The relationship between Square, Square Inc. and Square Enix is here.
Firmware: The in-built programs on hardware (DVD drives, PSPs) that operating systems use to talk to the hardware.
Frag: Kill. Can be used as a verb or noun, e.g. “I just fragged him” or “First team to 20 frags”.
FPS: (1) First person shooter (game genre).
FPS: (2) Frames-per-second, a measure of system performance.
Gank: To be ganked is to have your character killed by unfairly overwhelming odds – e.g. six vs one with all players at the same level or one-on-one but one player is twenty levels above the other.
GBA: GameBoy Advance – a series of hand-held consoles made by Nintendo.
Gib: To reduce someone/thing to meaty chunks. Taken from the word ‘giblet’. Also can refer to the resulting chunks.
Gold, Gone gold: (General software term) The final version of software has been sent to the manufacturers for printing and publishing, which usually means it will be released soon. All future updates will be made though patches.
GTA, GTA:VC and GTA:SA : Grand Theft Auto, GTA:Vice City and GTA:San Andreas (link). A series of 18-rated (Adults only) games wherein the protagonist steals cars, does gangster missions, picks up prostitutes, shoots policeman and private citizens and is an all-round unredeemable bad egg.
Grind: Performing mindlessly repetitive tasks in order to level up or proceed in the game – most often seen in MMORPGs where you frequently have to kill massive numbers of unchallenging creatures around your level to gain the necessary experience to level up, or to get a specific prestigious item.
GRAW: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. A tactical shooter.
HL/HL2: Half-Life/Half-Life 2. Valve Software’s ridiculously popular series of first person shooters.
Homebrew: Applications written by unpaid, unlicenced coders to run on games machines like the PSP – could be an emulator, a homemade games, a web-browser, etc.
HP: Hit points. The number of points of damage that your character can take before dying. Commonly used in RPGs.
HUD: Heads-up display. Easy-reference display that shows the most essential information (health, current weapon, radar, etc) on the screen without blocking your view.
IGN: Uh… IGN.com. Big gaming website.
Lag: Time delay between sending a command to the game and your character actually performing the action. Frequently cursed when the time delay is longer than expected.
Lagger: Someone with a slow connection, or who is late to react.
Leet, 1337: Elite. See Wikipedia’s Leet page for more info.
LFG/LFP: Looking for group/party/person
LFM: Looking for members (i.e. already in a group, need more players)
Mana, MP: Mana or Magic Points. Spells often have an MP cost with higher spells costing more points. Commonly used in RPGs.
MMO, MMORPG: Massively Multiplayer Online, – Role Playing Game. Games where many players log in to a persistent game world and play the game together. Unintended side effects which may affect a few rare souls are socialising, developing unhealthy obsessions with “just one more level” and potentially falling in love with an online partner. Caution advised if you have an addictive personality but most people are perfectly safe.
Mob: NPC monsters or opponents.
Mod: (1) Files created for a game to add functionality of change the behaviour of a game, written by people who don’t work for the game developer. Official developer-released modifications are called patches. E.g. In the released version of Doom 3 the player could either hold a torch or a weapon, but not both at once. The “Duct Tape” mod for Doom 3 overrode the release version of the game to allow the player to see by their torchlight while holding the shotgun or machine gun.
Mod: (2) Moderator. Someone who oversees forums or game channels. Duties include deleting undesirable posts and reprimanding troublesome users.
Noob: Newbie, new person, inexperienced person (often derogatory).
NPC: Non-player characters. AI-controlled people wandering around in the background or story characters that you can talk to.
Owned: Beaten by quite a large margin. Owned has a snappier ring to it, doesn’t it?
Patch: (General software term) Files distributed by the developer after a product is released that will change the software when they are installed. These are usually used to fix bugs and security issues but can be used to add functionality.
PC: Player Character, as opposed to NPC. Also Personal Computer. Depends on the context.
PK, PKing: Player-killing. Usually used in the context of MMOs, where killing other players is not necessarily the object of the game.
Platform: Console type required to play the game. e.g. PS3, Xbox, 360, PC, DS, Wii.
Platform game: A design of game where the main character walks up and down a fixed platform, commonly contacting things as they pass – there no directional options beyond backwards and forwards. e.g. Most Mario games.
PSP: PlayStation Portable. A handheld gaming console from Sony.
Pwned: Owned. One of those strange internet variations that start at typos and become words unto themselves. Follow the link under Leet for more info.
RL: Real life. The scary stuff outside gaming. IRL is also commonly used – In Real Life.
RPG: Role-playing game (genre), e.g. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
RTS: Real-time strategy (genre), e.g. LOTR: Battle for Middle Earth.
Shard: (Relates to MMORPGs) Server-clusters running isolated copies of the game. The game world is the same on each shard but player accounts on one shard can only meet up with player accounts on the same shard. Find out what shard your mates are using before you create your account, if you’re planning on playing with/against them.
Sim: Short for simulation. Also refers to any character in The Sims franchise.
SP: (1) Gameboy SP. Another handheld console made by Nintendo.
SP: (2) Single player.
Spawn: The act of a character popping into existence in the game world.
Spawn point: A position at which several characters will pop into existence.
Spawn camp: To sit within range of a spawn point and kill characters as they appear, often before the newly-spawned players have a chance to get their bearings. Very heavily frowned-upon in most circles.
Strafe: Move sideways. This is often used as an evasive manoeuvre while shooting.
Tank: Character who can take a lot of damage. Often the tank will be a melÃ©e warrior and charge out in front of the team, distracting the opponents from weaker characters.
TBS: Turn-Based Strategy (genre), e.g. Sid Meier’s Civilisation series.
Teabagging: A nasty practice where a player will crouch over a just-killed player’s body, appearing to dangle his private regions in the face of the dead player. A rather tasteless form of victory celebration.
TPS: Third-person shooter (genre) e.g. Gears of War.
Wi-Fi: A catchy name for the 802.11 set of wireless connection standards. Technically, it’s not short for Wireless Fidelity, as fidelity has nothing to do with it. Full story is here.
WoW: World of Warcraft. A hugely popular MMORPG.
WTS/WTB: Want to sell/Want to buy. Commonly heard in the general areas of MMOs
XP: Experience Points. Most commonly used in RPGs where characters must gather a certain level of XP to progress to the next level.
Zerg: Using large numbers of smaller/weaker resources to achieve a task typically achieved by fewer larger resources. To over-power someone with sheer numbers, rather than strength.
Last updated: 9th Dec 2006
Thanks to LittleChef, Marcus Nardizzi, Marcus Laitala, Jeffool and TheKeck for their contributions.