Understanding Video Games text-book

Date posted: May 14, 2006
Updated: May 19, 2006

Below we will present a range of definitions for ease of communication and discussion across the field. These definitions are not generally accepted but will hopefully work as a starting point for discussion.
We need some way to let users input words+definitions which then get displayed. If anyone has a suggestion please let us know!

1337 sp3@k Pronounced leet speak, A dialect
of online communication (typically between gamers) that is written
in a generally distinguishable manner and is usually impossible to
understand by anyone who is not incredibly active in online communities.
3D-shooter Action games in which the action is seen
through the eyes of the protagonist and where the graphics are three
dimensional (and often constructed of polygons).
[Synonym: First Person Shooter]
Action games
Games focusing on speed, physical drama
and which set high demands on the player’s reflexes and coordination
Adventure games
Games focusing on puzzle solving within
a narrative framework. Will typically demand strict, logical thought.

Public gaming facility offering computer
games (arcade games). Arcades were highly popular in the early eighties
where a game would typically begin when the player inserted the
equivalent of an American quarter. Action games were especially
well suited for arcades.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) Often used to describe the action patterns
of computer opponents.
Autofire Feature of certain joysticks sending
“fire” impulses to the game with short intervals.
Avatar Graphical representation of the user
in an online forum, especially role-playing games.
Boot (verb.) To boot or to kick a player
is to eliminate him or her from an online game.
Bot Computer controlled ally or opponent
(typically in action and strategy games).

In multi-player team games: A player
who only values his or her own survival without caring for the condition
of other team members. [Or: Player who hides in a safe place taking
down the enemy as he approaches without placing himself in any real


Forum for online textual conversations.
As opposed to e-mail chat is synchronous which enhances the feeling
of co-precence but which may effect the structure and possibility
for thoughtfulness. Chat rooms may have various degrees of visual
and geographical support to support a shared vision of the community.
A chat-room with a stabile geography and with focus on role-playing
is hard to distinguish from an actual MUD.

Clipping The act of removing graphics that move
outside the player’s logical line of vision.

A computer designed with
the sole purpose of playing games. Often sold without keyboard.


Dramatically important sequence,
often displayed without the interaction of the player. The scene
is typically shown to motivate a shift in the “plot” of
the game and displayed outside of the game engine.

DOT An acronym for “damage over time”.
This is referring to damage dealt to players or computer controlled
characters in combat games. Damage over time is a type of damage that
occurs at set intervels over a limited period of time such as poisonous
Combination of the terms ‘education’
and ‘entertainment’. Label for games with a pronounced educational
Emergence 1) The phenomenon wherein complex, interesting
high-level function is produced as a result of combining simple low-level
mechanisms in simple ways.
2) The phenomenon wherein a system is designed according to certain
principles, but interesting properties arise that are not included
in the goals of the designer.

The basic code which defines the
relation between game objects and determine the limits of graphics
and sound.


1) Frames per second or the amount
of images displayed on a screen every second to display the illusion
of motion. A higher FPS typically increases playability of a game;
also known as framerate.

2) First person shooter, a shoot-’em-up game which plays from a
first person perspective (or from the view of the character)

Flow The flow state is described as the feeling
of optimal experience. It is felt when we feel in control of our own
fate and have sense of exhilaration and enjoyment.
Frag A kill in an action game, typically a

Handheld console from Nindendo. The
GameBoy enjoyed great success in the early 1990’s in a black and
white version. Nintendo have later upgraded the display for colors.


Ambiguous term for the total effect
of all active game elements. Refers to the holistic game experience
and the ability of the game to command the attention of the player.

Heads-Up Display. Usually shows the player’s
remaining health, ammo count and armour level.
Interactive fiction

Contested label for types of fiction
based on high user participation. Normally the term refers to computer-based
types of fiction but role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons
and special forms of paper-based literature may also deserve the
label ‘interactive’. [Sometimes used to refer solely to textual
adventure games.]


The term is used in many fields but
typically as a measure of user influence. The higher the degree
of interactivity the more influence the user has on the form and
course of a media product.


The graphical or textual form of
interaction between user and software. Through the interface the
user may give commands to the software which are then translated
into instructions that the computer can interpret.

Internet cafe

Cafe with a local are network and
connection to the Internet. Typically the guests come to play but
some also chat, check their e-mail account or use word processing

KS Kill Steal, the act of killing an enemy
that was already the target of another human player thereby gaining
the credit for the kill. This is considered to be rude.
Lag Decreased game speed due to low bandwidth

In online multi-player games: The
time it takes to transmit data from the player’s machine to the
server and back.

Ludology The study of games, particularly computer
Ludology is most often defined as the study of game structure (or
gameplay) as opposed to the study of games as narratives or games
as a visual medium.
MMORPG (Massively multiplayer
on-line role-playing game)
See: Online role-playing game.
MUD (Multiple User Dungeon)

A forum for virtual role-playing.
Can be conceived of as a thematically charged chat-room with a focus
on role-playing. Certain types - so-called MOOs - operate with objects
that the players/users can interact with (and sometimes alter/create).

Multi-player feature

The possibility for more players
to play simultaneously.

Narratology The study of narratives.
Within computer game research narratology is often seen as opposed
to ludology.
NPC Non Player Characters, or characters
in games (mostly RPGs) that are controlled by the computer that are
either not controlled by human players or are controlled through a
very limited range.
Online role-playing games

Game type where several (typically
several thousand) players act simultaneously in the same server
based world. Users normally pay a monthly fee and connect by their
Internet account.
An online role-playing game is a graphically illustrated MUD.
This type of game is often termed an MMORPG (Massively multiplayer
on-line role-playing game).


The function that interprets
the (adventure) player’s textual input.


1)Player Character, in games (mostly
RPGs), in game characters that are controlled by human players.

2) Personal Computer, or a standard desktop computer.

Player-killing One player killing another (typically
in MMORPGs). Sometimes considered a serious problem.

Geometric figure; a closed plane
figure bounded by straight lines.
3D graphics usually consist of polygons and is therefore not dependent
upon a fixed perspective.

PVE Acronym for player versus enviornment
which refers to game combat where a human player is engaged in combat
with computer controlled opponents
PVP Short for player versus player
which refers to combat involving two human players as opposed to a
human player versus a computer controlled opponent
Real-time strategy game

Strategy game in which the action
is played out continuously without breaks (as opposed to turn-based
strategy games).


Action game with extreme focus on
shooting down enemies. Seldom used to describe 3D-shooters and often
refers to more abstract games using third person perspective.

Simulation games

Games focusing on realism. Typically
they set heavy demands on the player’s ability to understand and
remember complex principles and relations.

Source code

Basis instructions describing how
a game works. The source code reveals the secrets of a piece of
software and is therefore often guarded zealously.

Spawn The event of someone or something appearing
in a game.
Strategy games

Games focusing on the ability to
make deal with dynamic priorities, typically in a context of resource
Strategy games may be divided into: Real-time strategy games
and turn-based strategy games.

Turn-based strategy games

Strategy games divided into ‘turns’
as known from board games (and as opposed to real-time strategy
games). Typically, the player moves all units whereafter the next
player moves all his units etc.

Vector graphics

Graphics defined and generated on
the basis of mathematical statements, whereby the perspective becomes

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