Translating the gamer: A video game glossary for beginners

Date:4 November 2019 Author: Sam Spiller Tags:, , , , , , , , , , , ,

There are times when your child, sibling, parent, friend, or someone who’s really into video games starts talking and you cannot comprehend what they are speaking about. ‘They just nerfed Junkrat in Overwatch! What is the best Warcraft 3 mod? I never get anything good in my loot boxes.” Within video game culture lies a terminology that has been constructed and refined over the past 30 years. While there may be phrases and words that anyone can understand, the language can be niche’ and it’s important to know what exact discourse is happening in a community that is growing to unparalleled heights.

So to help you grasp the terms, genres and elements of video game, we’ve come up with a small glossary that explains a few select words that are often heard coming over the headphones and in some cases, the family dinner table.


There are many ways to cheat in a video game, but one of the oldest and most common remains the aimbot. Players install a program that when active, places an enemy in your crosshairs without you having to target them. The aimbot is especially prominent (and frustrating) in FPS multiplayer games dating back to the mid-1990s starting with titles like Quake.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Kind of the halfway point to Virtual Reality, AR is when digital information is layered on the real world through some kind of optical or haptic filter. AR has taken off in a big way in mobile gaming thanks to developments in smartphone and camera technology. Examples include Pokemon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, where players use their phone cameras to view the environment around them.

Battle royale

Battle Royale (BR) is currently the most popular video game genre on the planet. Players are placed in an arena wherein they must combat to the death until either an individual or team is left standing. The genre is named after a 2000 Japanese film that has a similar premise. Look no further for an example of a BR game than Fortnite which, as of the start of this year, had 250 million registered player accounts.


These two terms refers to the modification of any in-game item, place, or character in regards to their various characteristics (e.g. strength, difficulty to defeat, etc.) Decreasing or removing from the object is nerfing it, while increasing or adding to them is buffing it.

First-Person Shooter (FPS)

A game in which the player perceives the gameplay from a first-person perspective. Commonly, the term refers to games where the primary method of gameplay is some kind of handheld weapon.

Loot box

A loot box is a reward received by players during gameplay, usually when leveling up or achieving some kind of assignment. Contents of a loot box can range from cosmetic items to in-game currency. Loot boxes can also be bought, and are therefore associated with microtransactions.

Massively Multiplayer Online game (MMO)

MMO refers to a game in which a large number of players coexist in the same arena or world. This can range from racing games (The Crew), to RPGs (The Elder Scrolls Online), to battle royales (PUBG).


Purchases that happen in-game. Indicative of a video game business model, players use either digital or real currency to buy additional content. The practice is very common especially in mobile gaming, and has garnered a negative reputation owing to its presence in larger, more expensive titles.


A mod is an alteration made to a game and the way that is played. Sometimes a game will come equipped with the tools required to makes mods (such as Skyrim and Fallout 4), but most of the time a third-party is need to install the changes.


A popular insult among video gamers. The term is derived from the word ‘newbie’ which refers to a new/inexperienced player and is thrown around when mistakes are made or when a person or team is trolling another.


Platformer refers to a genre of games that places emphasis on movement and the overcoming of obstacles via acrobatics, jumping and timing. A definitive example of a Platformer is Super Mario Bros., released in 1985 and a franchise that continues to this day.

Role-Playing Game (RPG)

RPG is a broad term. Typically, it refers to a game in which players must assume the role of a character or class, adopting certain traits or skills and playing according to them for the duration of play (see The Outer Worlds). The term can also be applied as a sub-genre when combined with others. For example, Warcraft is an MMORPG.

Cover image: Pixabay

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