Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Our Favourite Terminology From Video Games

Today marks a huge date in the video gaming industry: it is the original release date of Donkey Kong, which featured the first ever appearance of Mario. The game's protagonist was initially called Jumpman, but was later renamed Mario before becoming Super Mario in 1985. While today isn't Mario's official birthday, we're still celebrating this important day in video gaming history with some of our favourite video gaming terminology.

Backwards Compatibility

This term is fairly self-explanatory. In order for a piece of software (the game) to work with the hardware (either a games console or computer), the two have to be compatible.

When it comes to video game consoles, it is often expected (and fervently demanded) that when a manufacturer creates a new console, the games for the previous console work with the newer console.


While beta is the second letter in the Greek alphabet that makes up the "bet" in "alphabet", in video gaming, beta refers to the second part of the testing phase when a game or piece of software is not ready for general release but all the features have been completed.

The term originated at IBM, who would conduct three test phases on their software, initially called A, B, and C. IBM actually dropped the terminology once it gained widespread usage. Though some readers may be familiar with the term beta test, IBM never used the term and instead called it a field test.


While the term "boss" comes from the Dutch term baas and first made its way into English in the 17th century, the use of the term in video gaming has a completely different meaning. Although bosses are usually in charge of their workers, bosses in video games are in fact difficult enemies that are usually stronger than the standard enemies faced.

Boss battles or boss fights often mark the end or completion of a particular section of a game and come in all shapes and sizes.

Two Commodore 64 cartridges

A casing, often made of plastic, that games were distributed on. Though now only used in portable gaming consoles, they were the staple of games during the 90s and would be inserted into a slot on a games console in order to be played.


Cutscenes in games are not scenes that were removed from the final version, but rather a scene in which the characters are animated, often to advance the plot, but cannot be controlled by the character.


Demo, which is derived from the term demonstration, is a sample version of a game. They are often made with the goal of encouraging players to purchase the full version of the game.


While language lovers will think of conjugating when they hear this term, first-person refers to the viewpoint of a game in which the player sees through the eyes of the character they are playing. First-person makes up the FP in FPS, with the S standing for "shooter".

Full Motion Video

Full motion videos, or FMVs, are pre-rendered videos that are played as a video file within the game. Much like cutscenes, full motion videos are often used to further the plot and the player cannot control them.


A device used for controlling games that is almost identical to the device used to pilot aircraft. If you love games as much as I do, then you will understand how apt the name is. They may have fallen out of favour for most game consoles but they still have a special place in my heart.


A pixel is the smallest complete element that makes up a digital display. The term comes from picture and element.


Sandbox refers to a style of play in video games. Rather than have the player complete linear objectives, they can often explore the game's environment without having to complete any objectives if they do not desire to do so.


Much like first-person, third-person refers to the viewpoint. In third-person games, the player can see the character that they are controlling.

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