The Modern Gamer’s Glossary – Game Informer

Whether you’ve been playing for a long time or just getting into the hobby, we mix up a lot of terms in our discussions about games, and it can easily get confused. It’s impossible to make an exhaustive list of every term that falls in and out of common usage in the gaming landscape, but there are some words that we repeatedly misunderstand or question.

Here are some of the most commonly used and misunderstood terms, and a brief definition of what they mean and how they are most commonly discussed. In addition, we have combined several words that are often used in conjunction with each other or are often misused in context.


Accessibility

A description we reserve to discuss a game’s ability to support players of all kinds, especially those with a sensory, physical, or cognitive impairment or disability that may affect the enjoyment of the experience.

asymmetric

A competitive game in which the players are not on an equal footing, or in which the competing teams each control different characters or elements that are unique from their opponents. A common variant is one-on-many, where a single player goes up against all the others, but usually with significant advantages.

battle royale

An online multiplayer genre in which players compete to be the last person or team, often with clearing, survival, and area exploration elements. A shrinking playing zone often limits the time of the match.

Critical Path

Also known as the golden path, this refers to the most direct point from start to finish of the game for the completion of the core story or experience, but without experiencing side content, repetition, or other optional elements.

Coming up

Gameplay experiences created through player experimentation, creativity, or discovery, but not explicitly outlined or bound by the structure or story of the game.

indie

Defying the easy classification, games can be called indie because they are actually independent games, or alternately have an indie feel even if they follow a more traditional publishing model. In either case, a combination of innovative systems or narrative, experimental character, artistic goals, unique aesthetics or small team size yields this label.

isometric

An angled graphic reveals the characters from above and to the side, showing more of the environment than a top-down perspective would allow.

meta

Most Effective Tactics Available (meta) refers to the combination of character build, weapons, or other factors that lead to the highest probability of success in a game. Often discussed about a game at a particular time, or its current meta. Alternatively, in narrative and thematic terms, the technique of self-referential commentary on the game or genre being played.

Metroidvania

A colloquial term often used around exploration-focused games with acceleration or skill-dependent progression, a non-linear interconnected map, and progressive skill, weapon, or skill improvement. The term is sometimes considered an oversimplification, but it’s always part of the legacy of Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

MMO

Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games feature large populations of players in a shared play space, interacting in a large and open shared world. While some games are pure MMOs, the term also refers to games that borrow specific mechanics or ideas from the genre.

MOBA

Multiplayer online battle arena games feature two teams competing in an established environment or on a battlefield, often delineated by different travel routes. Players usually control a single character whose weapons or abilities are expanded throughout the match, often with strategic implications.

Procedural Generation

A method of generating levels, characters, or other features in which random elements are algorithmically mixed to create a unique result, often to provide the player with a new experience every time he is engaged in a game.

Season pass

A mode of monetization where players pay a fee to access specific in-game content as it is released. Sometimes it manifests as a tiered progress layer unavailable to those who have not paid for access, often limited in time. A Battle Pass can be part of a Season Pass or, in some cases, synonymous.

pathetic

A recent term referring to the rapid expansion of games modeled in part after the Dark Souls or Demon’s Souls games. They are usually characterized by pronounced difficulty, currency lost or progress on death, and a methodical, timing-based approach to combat.

Triple-A

A common term in the industry to refer to high budget games from the leading publishers or developers.

live service

An increasingly common designation for a game that is supported by multiple ongoing updates, patches and changes – possibly over the years – often representing a major or even fundamental restructuring of key mechanics or available experiences. Sometimes referred to as living games.

user interface

User interface (UI) refers to the components, menus, and graphics that help a player navigate a game, including but not limited to health, cards, currency, or skills. A user interface may include a Heads-Up Display (HUD) with information available during gameplay, such as an ammo counter.


This article originally appeared in issue 345 of Game Informer.

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