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A GLOSSARY OF GAME BIZ TERMS
Originally written June, 2003. Latest update: March, 2019 (sometimes I forget to note latest date here).
This is a honkin' big page! If you don't feel like scrolling all the way down to whatever term you want to look up, use this "go to" feature instead. Note: numbers are alphabetized according to how the number is spelled when written. So, for example, "3" comes between "S" and "U" rather than before "A."
This FAQ is a Living Document, and will be added to as time goes on. It is NOT intended that this be a "Compleat Encyclopedia" - no names of individuals, companies, or games are defined. And highly technical terms also go beyond the scope of this glossary. The definitions given herein are those which are specific to the game industry (this is not intended to be a "compleat dictionary" of any kind). Sometimes a term herein needs defining, so those definitions are also included (in an effort at flying in the face of the previous sentence).
March forth, 2019. I have come to realize that this page is best used for long-established terms. New terms are born all the time, and the best way to decipher them is to use Google, which often leads to Wikipedia. I might still, occasionally, add new terms to this document. - Tom
- AAA Game - Different people define the term different ways. Some might say it's a game that earns a place among the top ten selling games in the marketplace. Essentially it's a game that costs tens of millions of dollars to produce, tens of millions to market, and has very high production values. Also: "Triple-A."
- A.A.M.A. - American Amusement Machine Association. Represents the manufacturers, distributors and suppliers of the coin-operated amusement industry (arcade games, jukeboxes, pinball, etc.). Supports the AMOA trade show.
- "A" Bug - A bug of the highest priority (a bug that must be fixed, else the game cannot be released).
- Acceptance - See APPROVAL (definiton 1).
- Accounts Payable - The department of a large company whose function is to make payments to vendors and contractors. There's more to it than that, but who cares?
- Accounts Receivable - The department of a large company whose function is to send bills to companies that owe money. There's more to it than that, but who cares?
- Achiever - One of the four Bartle Player Types. A type of player whose primary goal in playing games is to achieve. He wants to have the highest score, or be the first to finish a game, or the first to experience an unlocked achievement, etc.
- Acquisition - The purchase of a company or IP. Derivative of "acquire."
- Action Game - Any game that requires fast reflexes on the part of the player.
- Advance - Money paid upon signing of a royalty-based contract, before services are rendered. Advances are recoupable from profits, which means that royalties aren't paid to the contractor or licensor until the profits exceed the advance amount.
- Adventure Game - A game that involves exploration, character interaction, story, and puzzle solving. Different from an RPG in that the adventure game usually does not include "hit points" or fighting.
- Advergame - A game that exists solely to promote a product.
- Aftermarket - Phase that occurs after post-production. The game is now in the marketplace, and opportunities now exist for add-ons, expansion packs, sequels, and other ancillary marketing opportunities.
- Agent - A person or company who represents (acts on behalf of) talent or intellectual property owners. An agent negotiates contract terms for license deals or publishing/distribution/development deals, based on business experience and an intimate understanding of the game industry. Great care must be taken in the selection of an agent to represent your interests - make sure he has sufficient business experience and understanding of the game industry before you sign.
- Agile - a production methodology in which the team members themselves determine project tasks and priorities in an ongoing manner.
- Agreement - Another term for "contract."
- A.I. - Artificial Intelligence. The routine or algorithm that controls the actions and movements of the NPCs in a game. May be very simple ("fight to the death to prevent the player character from entering the door") or very complex ("roam freely around the world, finding shortest paths from point to point and using good judgment in choosing actions to perform depending on what the player is doing").
- A.I.A.S. - Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. "Professional membership organization serving the interactive entertainment development community, the Academy works to advance interactive entertainment through events that focus on the artistic aspects of game creation."
- Alpha - Term used for a phase of development in the process of making an electronic game. Exact definition varies, but essentially it means "most or all of the assets are implemented, and most or all of the functionality is implemented." Anyone picking up an alpha game should certainly be able to get a very clear idea of the game's central idea and gameplay, but quite a bit of work remains to be done before the game is complete.
- A.M.O.A. - Amusement and Music Operators Association. Organization for the amusement, music, entertainment & vending industry (arcade games, jukeboxes, pinball, etc.). Holds an annual trade show.
- Android - Google's operating system for mobile devices.
- Angel - A venture capitalist.
- Antagonist - Film/literary term for "boss monster" or "enemy."
- A.O.S. - Aeon of Strife, a popular map from Starcraft that became/inspired a game style or genre. Also: Ace of Spades, a sandbox FPS.
- APK - Android application package. A game or app for devices running the Android operating system.
- Approval - There are three kinds of approval processes in the game industry: (1) A publisher must approve (accept) a delivery from a developer before cutting a milestone check; (2) A licensor must approve a concept before allowing it to be made into a game, and a game before allowing it to be released into the market; (3) A console manufacturer must likewise approve both a concept and a finished game.
- Arcade Game - A stand-alone game, in either a standing cabinet or a tabletop (sometimes countertop) cabinet, or sometimes in a sit-in-it or ride-on-it configuration, for use in public locations (game arcades, movie theater lobbies, family restaurants, etc.).
- ARPG - Action role-playing game. A couple of examples: Kingdom Hearts, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.
- ARPPU - Average Revenue Per Paying User. One of the metrics a social game publisher watches very carefully.
- Art - "Art is about changing the world; entertainment is about leisure." - Ian Bogost, Georgia Tech, on NPR's "All Things Considered," April 14, 2008.
- Assembly Line - The place where the game disc, the game package, manual, and any other parts, are all assembled (put together into a package) and shrink-wrapped, then put into cartons for shipping.
- Assets - (1) Graphic files, movie files, sound files, music files that are used to make a game. (2) Skills and talents of an individual that make him a desirable employee or employee candidate. (3) Equipment, real estate, staff, and IP of a game company being evaluated by a potential buyer.
- Assistant Producer - Job title for someone involved in the management of a game project (either at a developer or a publisher). Exact job description varies from company to company (and sometimes from individual to individual) but usually lower than Associate Producer.
- Associate degree - According to www.universities.com, this is a degree "that requires completion of an organized program of study of at least 2 but less than 4 years." Most game industry employers want to see higher degrees than this on your resume, as a general rule.
- Associate Producer - Job title for someone involved in the management of a game project (either at a developer or a publisher). Exact job description varies from company to company (and sometimes from individual to individual) but usually lower than Producer and higher than Assistant Producer.
- Attract Mode - Automatic display sequence designed to entice passersby to put coins into an arcade game. Term sometimes used in reference to the display sequence that occurs after powering up a console game or (less often) after launching a computer game.
- Audio Engineer - See "Sound Guy."
- Audit - The practice of examining the financial records of a company
- Audition - A selection process for actors and voice actors. Sometimes called "tryouts."
- Authority - An aspect of a job title that varies with experience and responsibility. Often "authority" correlates to how much the individual's financial decisions will be second-guessed or overridden.
- Avatar - An animated or non-animated representation of the player (the user), within the game world. See also "Player Character" and "Mii."
- "B" Bug - A bug of second-highest priority. Whereas an "A" bug absolutely must be fixed, it is conceivable to release a product without fixing a "B" bug (but such a bug will likely be noticed and commented on by reviewers and players, causing some amount of damage to the game's reputation).
- B.A. - Bachelor of Arts. Usually a four-year university degree. See Bachelor's Degree.
- Baccalaureate - A hoity-toity spelling for "Bachelor's degree."
- Bachelor's Degree - According to www.universities.com, a degree "that requires completion of an organized program of study of at least 4 but not more than 5 years of full-time academic study." Above an Associate Degree and below a Masters Degree.
- Baduk - Korean name for the game of go.
- Bartle, Richard - Creator of the Bartle Player Types: Achiever, Explorer, Killer, Socializer. He observed these player types in MUDs and wrote a paper in 1996.
- Benefits - The goodies besides paychecks that an employee receives from an employer. Vacation days, sick days, stock options,
401(k) plans, etc.
- Berne Convention - An international agreement about copyright. Copyrights that were registered in one country are respected and protected in signatory nations.
- Beta - A term used for a phase of development in the process of making an electronic game. Exact definition varies, but essentially it means "all of the assets are implemented, and all of the functionality is implemented. The game just needs a few adjustments here and there." Anyone playing this game is getting very nearly the same experience someone will get when they play the final released game.
- Beta Test - Not to be confused with Q.A. Beta testing is usually done to get user feedback to aid in the final tweaking process, to take a nearly-complete ("Beta") game and tune it and make it into the best possible playing experience. Contrary to testing in a Q.A. lab, beta testing is unpaid work that can be done at home. Beta testing usually being unpaid, it does not count as work experience on a résumé. Beta testing opportunities can be hard to find (the company in need of beta testers usually seeks volunteers from among known game players, often in the online game community - you can also try looking on fileplanet). See also "closed beta (test)" and "open beta (test)."
- Bible - A term that is sometimes used to refer to an authoritative document that sets forth the firm guidelines for how an intellectual property is to be used when creating goods based on that property (such as, for instance, a game).
- Bios - 1. Basic Input/Output System (BIOS). 2. Biographies (bios).
- Blackberry - handheld mobile devices and operating system by Research In Motion.
- Bliss - a term used by Joseph Campbell in his writings. Here on this site, I have also used the terms "interests" or "passions" to mean the same thing. See listing for "passions" (below) to understand what the heck I'm talking about.
- Board Game - Term sometimes used broadly (and erroneously) to refer to a game that is played on a table. Correctly, a "board game" would only be a game that is played on a "board" (such as chess, monopoly, backgammon, etc.).
- Bonus - A benefit provided by some companies to their employees. In good years, the company gives a lump sum of money (above and beyond salaries or wages) to employees, in a manner that varies from company to company (and year to year).
- Booth - Floor space devoted to one company at a trade show or expo.
- Booth babe - Attractive costumed female employed to work at a company's booth or to otherwise showcase the company's product at a trade show or expo.
- Boss Monster - Larger-than-life enemy character met at ends of stages, and especially the end of the last stage, of an action game.
- Box & Docs - The package and instruction manual for a game that's to be sold in stores. Involves quite a bit of effort on the part of the Marketing department to create, with an extensive approval cycle for the producer and Q.A.
- Brand - Like a trademark. Coca-Cola isn't just a trademark, it's a brand. Lara Croft and Tomb Raider are brand names (trademarks) of Eidos. There's probably a lot more about "brands" than that, but now you get the idea, kinda sorta.
- Brand Manager - Someone who's responsible for managing a brand. For instance, there's a guy who makes sure that all Crash Bandicoot toys look "on model" (adhering to the Crash Bandicoot "bible"). There's a guy who makes sure that video games based on Spider-Man all are of high quality and are true to the Spider-Man character and story. There's probably a lot more to brand management than that, but now you get the idea, sorta kinda.
- Bucks - (1) Target creatures in the game "Big Game Hunter." (2) What has to be shelled out in order to purchase a Triple-A game. You didn't know that? Geez, you really are sheltered, huh. Must be nice.
- Budget - A financial plan for spending the bucks that are earmarked for creation of a game or for running a game business.
- Bug - A problem, usually one that can be fixed by changing some code.
- Build - (1) A compilation of a game's source code and assets, either to test the game or deliver the game. The final build, for example, is called the "gold master." (2) A set of attribute values for a customizable character (in an RPG, combat game, or racing sim, for instance), possibly including not only attribute values but also equipment, items, and weapons. Term also may be used for a customized deck of cards in a CCG.
- Bullet Points - Line items in a list. This definition, for example. See the dot at the left? It's called a "bullet."
- Bundling - The practice of including software together with new hardware for sale in a store or catalog.
- Burner - A piece of equipment used solely for making CDs or DVDs (or, in the old days, EPROMs). No actual smoke or flames are involved (but you didn't really think that anyway).
- Business Loan - A sum of money which is granted by a financial institution to a businessman for the purposes of starting or running a business. Must be repaid over time with interest.
- Business Model - The manner in which a particular type of business earns its money. A game developer's business model might be (for instance) "make games that make the publisher happy so they'll give us money." A game publisher's business model might be (for instance) "make games that will earn shelf space."
- Business Plan - A document that outlines all aspects of how a business is to be run, from money to be spent to money to be earned to employees to be hired to equipment and services to be paid for. The business plan is a tool for acquiring a business loan or venture capital and also as a guide for running the business once launched.
- Button Masher - A type of player who doesn't use strategic timing during game action sequences. He frantically and repeatedly presses the attack button, trying to brute force his way past the enemy. May also be used to refer to a game that can be played in such a manner.
- Buyer - The person who places orders for a game to be sold in a store chain.
- Camping - The act of hanging out at a spawn spot, either where monsters spawn or where new players spawn, for the purpose of getting an easy kill.
- Capital - Stuff that's necessary in order to start a game business. See "Bucks," second definition.
- Capitalization - Placement of upper-case letters (ABC) at the beginning of words. Game designers know all about capitalization.
- Casual Game - A relaxed, low-activity game such as a card game, board game, parlor game. Typically can be played in bite-size chunks of time (15-20 minutes) yet is so addictive that the player plays it over and over for hours at a time. This type of game is enjoyed by a broader population than hardcore games are, including older female players.
- Casual Gamer - Someone who may or may not be into hardcore video games but who may well be interested in playing games that are intuitive, easy to learn, don't require a huge investment of time -- or traditional board games, card games, etc. Often includes female players, who may comprise a majority.
- CBT - Closed Beta test. Also called private Beta test. Testers are invited (as opposed to Open or Public Beta testing).
- "C" Bug - The second-lowest priority of bug. Whereas "A" bugs absolutely must be fixed and "B" bugs are damaging to the game's reputation if unfixed, most players or reviewers will not notice if a game is released with a "C" bug unfixed.
- CCG - Collectible card game (like Magic The Gathering or Pokémon, for instance. Also called a TCG (trading card game).
- C.E.O. - Chief Executive Officer.
- Cerny Method - A production methodology in which development of the game happens in iterations or stages, so as to maximize the fun of the final product and to work out technical problems. Named for Mark Cerny, who promulgated the iterative method in making triple-A games.
- C.F.O. - Chief Financial Officer.
- C.G. - Computer graphics. Graphics created and displayed on a computer, as opposed to graphics created by hand on paper.
- C.G.D.C. - Computer Game Developers Conference. Former name for GDC.
- Chinese Chess - see "xiang qi."
- Clone - When I use the word "clone" on this website I usually use it in context - to refer to a game that is an exact copy of some other game. Like the hundreds of mah-jongg tile-matching games out there on the Internet (they're all "clones" of Shanghai).
- Cloner - Somebody who makes a clone of an existing popular game. I usually use this term in a derogatory way, but it's actually recommended that beginner programmers start by cloning an easy game like tic-tac-toe or solitaire or Tetris or mah-jongg tile-matching. Recommended reading: FAQ 61, "So You Wanna Copy Somebody's IP".
- Closed Beta (test) - A type of "beta test" (see) that is not open to the general public; conducted with invited testers only. Not paid testing (quality assurance) work. Just an opportunity to help the game company get its game tested beyond a quality assurance environment.
- Code - Short for "source code," that which a programmer creates.
- Code Release - The point in the development of a game at which the game is deemed finished, ready for manufacture.
- Coding - The act of writing source code.
- COGs - Cost of goods.
- Collaboration Agreement - A contract between individuals who are joining forces on a project. See article 58.
- Company - A business entity. That is to say, an organization founded for the purpose of making commerce. A lot of kids go on forums and say "I've got my own company" when what they really have is a mod team or an indie team. You know it's a company when it's a registered business entity with the local government and pays taxes. Otherwise you're just trying to pull the wool over our eyes calling your endeavor a "company."
- Compatible - (1) The ability for a game to be used on more than one hardware configuration. (2) The ability for a person to get along with another person on a game development team.
- Concept - The basic idea behind a game. The central point of difference between this and other games. Sometimes used as an abbreviation for "Concept Document" or "Concept Paper," which is the setting forth, on paper, of the central idea of a game. The purpose of writing a concept is to get game executives interested in hearing more about the game (leading to the next step: writing a "treatment"). A paper version of an "elevator pitch."
- Concept art - Drawings or paintings that represent what a thing will look like in the future when the thing exists (needed because it doesn't exist yet, and funding is easier to get when you can show what it will look like).
- Conference - (1) A gathering for the exchange of information, ideas, and practices for the mutual benefit of people involved in a particular calling or activity. Not the same thing as a trade show. (2) Pretty much the same thing as a meeting, only may involve more people or higher-level individuals than an everyday meeting -- or may be held for the purpose of discussing something more momentous than a run-of-the-mill meeting.
- Conference Call - A phone call involving more than two parties.
- Confidentiality Agreement - A contractual document in which one or both parties agree not to divulge certain information to parties other than the parties involved.
- Consensus - Group agreement on a policy or plan of action.
- Console - Used to refer to a hardware device connected to a television set for the purpose of playing an electronic game.
- Consultant - (1) Person who has long experience and offers his services as an advisor. (2) Freelancer.
- Content - (1) Noun. In relation to games, a sweeping term that includes the concept, the universe, characters, storyline (if any), the gameplay itself. Might sometimes be used synonymously with "IP." Accent on 1st syllable. (2) Adjective. Someone who enjoys his work and his life is said to be "content" (or "contented"). Like the cows whose milk is used to make California cheese, or Borden's evaporated milk. Accent on 2nd syllable.
- Contractor - Person or company who does work under a contract (as opposed to someone who does work as an employee).
- Controller - A hardware peripheral held in the user's hands to perform all user inputs in interacting with a game.
- Cool - Archaic spelling for "kewl." Used only by old fogies like your parents. Or me. Rhymes with "fool."
- Copycat - See "cloner."
- Copyright - A form of legal protection for intellectual property. Copyright law protects the tangible expression of an idea (not the idea itself, which cannot be protected). Not to be confused with trademark law or patent law. A few examples of things that are copyrightable are a design document, lyrics to a song, or the wording used in an instruction manual.
- CORPG - Competitive Online Role-Playing Game. A mode in which a player and his group may play together in an "instanced" (see) area of the game, without interference of outsiders.
- Cosplay - Short for "costume play." The practice of dressing up like a character from a game, movie, or manga. Often seen at conventions, trade shows, and expos. Also seen in LARPing events.
- Cost of Goods - The money spent by a game publisher to manufacture the finished product (CD, in package, including manual and any inserts, plus color printing, shrinkwrap and holographic stickers, etc.).
- Costs - All development costs, purlisher overhead, cost of goods, and marketing expenses must be deducted from Gross profits to determine Net proceeds of a game.
- C.O.T.S. - "Commercial Off The Shelf" games. As opposed to online games not sold in bricks-and-mortar stores, or non-commercial games, etc. I first saw this term in the program of the 2005 GDC - had to ask 8 or 9 people before somebody knew! (^_^) I like the term "mainstream games" but perhaps COTS will become a mainstream term.
- Cover Letter - A one- or two-page document that must be included whenever sending a resume by mail. Whereas only certain types of information are to be included in a resume (or C.V.), other sorts of information can be included in a cover letter (a personal connection to the addressee, for instance, or other demonstrations of creativity or passion).
- CPA - 1. Cost per action - how much an advertiser pays the site or game in which an ad appears, for each action taken by a site visitor or game player - also known as PPA, Pay Per Action. 2. Cost per acquisition - the cost to acquire a customer. 3. Certified public accountant.
- CPC - Cost per click. The amount an ad host earns for every time a visitor clicks on an ad link.
- CPLU - Cost per loyal user.
- CPM - Cost per thousand users.
- CPU - Central processing unit (the brain of a computer or game console or mobile device).
- Creative Director - A job title for someone who has responsibility for (or management authority over) artistic and/or design aspects of games.
- Credits - (1) You know that boring list of names and job titles you see at the end of a movie? The same thing, only for a game. May be included in the game itself (sometimes seen during the attract mode or after completing the entire game - or, in the case of a computer game, through the menu), usually included in the instruction manual, and sometimes not divulged to the end user at all (subject to the whim of the game's publisher). (2) A list of the completed/published games that an individual has worked on.
- Creds - Credentials, Credits. Demonstrable evidence of your having participated in the game industry and/or on making games.
- Cromulent - Legitimate, fine, acceptable. As in, "shoulda's is a perfectly cromulent word that embiggens us all." Origin - The Simpsons. Possibly a combination of the words "common" and "prominent." (Source: http://www.snpp.com/episodes/3F13.html. Thanx also to "jerusalem" who reminds us, "A good English vocabumalary is becoming extinct.")
- Crunch - Working overtime; the term is mainly used to refer to extended periods of working overtime in order to get a game released on schedule.
- CS - (1) Computer Science, a type of university degree recommended for aspiring game programmers. (2) Customer Support (see).
- C2C - Cost to complete. The amount of expenditures remaining to get a currently ongoing game project finished.
- Customer Support - (1) Aid provided by a game company (either a software publisher or a hardware manufacturer) to the end user. (2) The department of a game company dedicated to providing such aid.
- Customizer - A player type who likes to adjust the settings of his game or his computer to suite his own preferences. He would spend a lot of time on his avatar or Mii, making it look as much like himself or his famous celebrity as possible. He may enjoy fiddling with the settings or the equipment more than he enjoys playing games.
- Cut Scene - A non-interactive animation, often accompanied by voice and/or music, to further the storyline between play segments. (Oddly, the name means something else altogether in Hollywood - in Hollywood, "cut scene" means a scene that was removed from the film in editing.)
- C.V. - Short for "curriculum vitae." Folks in England (and some nations of the old British Empire) use this term instead of "résumé." Some may say that a C.V. is a different thing from a resume, but who the hell cares? One word is French; the other is Latin. Whichever language floats your boat, that's what I say!
Oh, all right. Inspired by John Lira, who wrote to tell me the difference in May 2005, here's the difference. While a résumé focuses on work experience, a CV focuses on academic course studies, thus is useful for an applicant who's got no work experience to point to. Anyone with limited work experience or who has been out of college for only a few years would be well advised to provide a prospective employer with a CV, or a document that's a combined résumé/CV.
- Cyberstalking - The practice of using email, IM, or some mobile phones' GPS feature to engage in unwelcome harrassment of another person.
- Cylindrical File - A wastebasket. The place where bad résumés and game ideas often wind up.
- Database - An organized collection of data (information, facts, names, addresses, statistics) in computer form so the data can be used in a variety of different ways. Can be useful for marketing or game administration or sales or a variety of purposes.
- DAU - Daily Average Users. One of the metrics a social game publisher watches very carefully.
- DBA - 1. "Doing Business As." A "fictitious business name," a legality used when doing business as an individual. 2. "Database Admin." Someone who administrates databases.
- "D" Bug - The lowest category of bug. Whenever someone uses the phrase, "It Would Be Nice If" in discussing a bug, that's a "D" bug. In the interest of getting the game finished so people can play it, it usually doesn't hurt anything if a "D" bug is not fixed.
- Debug - The process of fixing a bug, or sometimes of merely determining the source of a bug so that it can be fixed.
- Debug Station - May be used to refer to one of two different kinds of hardware. A "debugger" is a machine formerly used specifically for the purpose of "trapping" (identifying) the source of a bug. These days, "debug station" is used in reference to a game console that can be used to play a game that has not yet been encrypted or authorized for release by the console manufacturer.
- Dedicated Handheld - The term "dedicated" here doesn't have anything to do with the worship of divine beings or sacred rites - rather, it has everything to do with the meaning "set apart to a definite use."
A "dedicated server", for example, is a server which does nothing but, um, serve web pages. A handheld game machine which is "dedicated" is a handheld machine which can play only the game that was originally programmed for it. A handheld which is "dedicated" to playing one particular game doesn't have a cartridge slot. A handheld game machine like the Game Boy, however, isn't "dedicated" to a particular game - Game Boy is instead a "programmable" handheld. It isn't programmable by the consumer, but the consumer can purchase different games to play on the Game Boy. Tamagotchi, on the other hand, is a good example of a dedicated handheld (the only game you can play on a Tamagotchi is the Tamagotchi game).
- Deliverable - A contractual term for what a developer or vendor must provide in order to be paid. Usually a milestone is comprised of numerous well-defined deliverables (line items).
- Demo - A truncated version of a game, intended to entice players to shell out their hard-earned bucks to buy the full version.
- Demo Disc - A CD created with the intention of showing off the services or talents of a creative individual or company.
- Demo Reel - A videotape, cassette tape, or CD created with the intention of showing off the services or talents of a creative individual or company.
- Design - Hoo boy. Where do I start on this one. "Design" can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it's usually intended to refer to a GDD. As a verb (according to Merriam-Webster), it means "to conceive or execute a plan; to make a drawing, pattern, or sketch; or to draw or lay out the plans for" a game. You will probably note that the word "design" does not equate with "write a program," nor does it equate with "draw a picture." Those who equate "game design" with programming or with computer animation are not your friends, darn them all to heck! (Ahem. I seem to have gotten a little carried away on this one. Sorry about that.)
- Design Director - Job title that may be used in some game companies to refer to a game designer who has risen to a high level of authority and responsibility. Analogous or possibly even equivalent to "creative director."
- Designer - A person who creates, who designs. By contrast, a person who executes, who builds a thing based on a design, is an implementor (not a designer). Not to be confused with the term "programmer."
- Developer - Usually used to refer to a company that builds games but does not publish or distribute them. May also be used as an all-encompassing term to refer to anyone involved in the building of games. Some non-game industries may use the term to be equivalent to "programmer" - and some game companies may also use the term this way.
- Development - Sometimes refers to the entire process in which a game is made. Sometimes used mainly in reference to the earlier process of researching the feasibility of a game, as opposed to the later actual building of the game (which is then called "production"). Sometimes refers to the process of making a game, within the studio or development company (as opposed to production, which would then refer to the process of overseeing development, especially external development).
- Development Kit - A collection of software utilities, documentation, and sometimes hardware that enables a programmer or programming team to build software for a particular platform. Also called "S.D.K." (Software Development Kit).
- D.I.C.E. Summit - Conference/award event organized yearly by the AIAS.
- Director - Job title that varies from company to company. Usually refers to someone higher than a producer but lower than a Vice President.
- Disclosure Agreement - One party is disclosing information to another party, and the agreement protects one or both parties from possible legal ramifications of such disclosure. See also "Submission Agreement" and "Non-Disclosure Agreement."
- Distribution Deal - A contractual arrangement between the creator of a game and a publisher. Getting a game developed and produced is a different thing from having it manufactured. And getting the manufactured game onto store shelves is yet another thing. A party who's good at making a game is not necessarily good at getting a game distributed. Thus deals are made with parties who are good at those other important aspects of the business. Pretty much the same thing as a "publishing deal," but not quite.
- Distributor - A company that gets games onto the shelves of stores and onto the pages of catalogs, but does not do much in the way of marketing of a game. The biggest game publishers also distribute.
- DLC - Downloadable Content. Extras one can get online for one's game. Levels, items, abilities...
- Doofus - One step beneath Dork. (It's arguable that I've gotten this backwards.)
- Dork - Several steps beneath Dweeb. Not to be confused with Zork.
- DotA - Defense Of The Ancients, an instanced e-sports map for Warcraft III; this game spawned a genre often called M.O.B.A. (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games.
- Downwardly Compatible - A game machine that still supports games that were made for its predecessor game machine, such as the Playstation 2, which was able to play Playstation games - or the Game Cube Advance, which was able to play games made for earlier Game Boy units.
- Dress code - People who work in the game industry are expected to wear long pants and a shirt, shoes and socks. But I have seen testers and even programmers or game designers who wear short pants, or sandals without socks. I worked with one programmer who preferred to go barefoot in the office. Executives and upper management have a different dress code: it's not unusual to see higher executives wear neckties or suits or dresses, but they don't do that because they have to.
- D.R.M. - Digital Rights Management. Use of software technology to control access to (since we're talking about the game industry) a game.
- Dungeon Master - A person who acts as game moderator in a paper RPG, or a person who acts as game moderator in an online MMORPG.
- Dweeb - Geek.
- E.C.T.S. - Video game trade show that used to take place in London, for the European market. Analogous to E3. See Lesson 6 for more about trade shows.
- Educational Game - A specific type of game made primarily for the purpose of teaching younger players.
- Edutainment - A game that teaches and also entertains.
- E For All - A new expo debuting in L.A. in 2007. See http://www.eforallexpo.com/.
- Elevator Pitch - A very short (45 seconds) verbal description of the central concept of a game. So short that it can be delivered between floors on an elevator, should the designer happen to find himself in an elevator with a game executive or VC. Sometimes referred to as the "Hollywood pitch."
- Embiggen - To empower, to enlarge, to engrow... to fertilize, as it were. It's a perfectly cromulent word, like "shoulda's." Origin: the Simpsons.
- Employment Agreement - A contractual agreement written by an employer to secure the long-term services of an employee. In exchange for the employee's agreeing to stay for a predetermined number of years, the company generally provides enticements such as stock options, raises, and bonuses.
- Encryption - In games, this usually refers to a technology that's used to prevent the unauthorized publication of games or to prevent user piracy.
- End Cap - Placement of products at the end of a store shelf.
- End User - The person who buys a game for the purpose of playing it. A product starts with the developer, then is tested by the publisher, manufactured by a manufacturer, distributed by a distributor, and warehoused and placed in stores by a merchandiser, before being purchased by the last party in the chain - the end user. See also E.U.L.A.
- Engine - A software package that enables the creation of a game without having to create every line of code from scratch. A good game engine provides the ability to create environments, objects, and characters, as well as the ability to move the characters and detect interactions between characters and environments, objects, and other characters. The engine probably also includes routines that interact directly with the game hardware to display graphics and play sounds, I suppose. What do I know? I'm not a programmer. You want to know more about engines, go do your own research and leave me alone already!
- EPROM - Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory. A chip that a game developer could "burn" and play in a socketed cartridge board. Only applicable for the old-style game machines that used cartridges rather than CDs. You don't need to know this in this modern era of the twenty-first century, so don't bother reading this.
- E.S.A. - Entertainment Software Association. New name (effective July 21, 2003) of the old I.D.S.A. - Interactive Digital Software Association. Coalition of game publishers and software publishers.
- e-Sports - Online games that can be played with spectators watching, often with commentation.
- E.S.R.B. - Entertainment Software Ratings Board. A body created for the purpose of providing ratings for games. Some parents, government officials, and nervous nellies of all sorts got all up in arms when some games were put on store shelves with content that they thought unsuitable for kids. The ESRB was created to forestall the possibility of government regulation of game marketing practices.
- E.T. - One of two Atari 2600 games that raised a red flag, signalling the beginning of the end of the first videogame boom-bust cycle (circa 1982).
- E3 - A video game trade show that used to take place annually (usually in Los Angeles). Trade shows are important for moving product into stores. E3 used to take place in May, laying the groundwork for the selling season that will begin the following November. Beginning in 2007, E3 was downsized to a small invitation-only gathering rather than the huge spectacle it used to be.
See Lesson 6 for more about trade shows.
- E.U.L.A. - End User License Agreement. The legal "contract" that an end user of a computer software program ostensibly agrees to (by clicking "Yes" or "Agree") and that governs what rights in the program are reserved by its publisher, and what limited rights the end user is buying.
- Executive Producer - A high-level manager (one step below a Vice President) responsible for managing producers.
- Executive Summary - A very short written description. Depending on the scope of what's being described, may be as short as one paragraph or maybe as long as two pages.
- Experience - When used on a résumé, this word means "professional paid job experience." If you worked in game design on a mod with some friends, whether the game is viewable online or not, that project cannot be listed on your résumé under "experience." You can describe it another way, if your résumé is less than one page and needs filling out - but you can't call that "experience." Read my October 2006 column, "The Games Game: The Experience Experience, archived on the IGDA website, at http://www.igda.org/games-game.
- Exploiter - A type of player who finds loopholes in game rules and features so he can use them to his advantage.
- Explorer - One of the four Bartle Player Types. This type of player wants to see all the areas, meet all the characters, try out all the features of a game.
- Expo - Like a trade show. The difference between an expo and a trade show is that anybody can get into an expo, but only people in the trade can get into a trade show. If that isn't an actual definition, it oughta be.
- External - Refers to a separate company or to a location not in the same building or building complex. If someone at Activision says "this game was developed externally," that means that the people on the development staff do not work at Activision's main office, and probably are not full time employees of Activision.
- F & F - Friends and family. A great resource for playtesting a board game prototype.
- Fan fiction - An unauthorized story written about a popular character or universe (written by someone who has no ownership or rights in that popular character or universe).
- Fan game - A term I use to refer to an unauthorized game created as an homage to a popular game (created by someone who has no ownership or rights in that popular game).
- Farming - A practice gamers engage in to collect a game commodity such as in-game gold. Some players farm gold and then sell it online to other players.
- F, F, & F - Friends, Family, & Fools. A fallback resource for venture capital if banks and VCs won't lend you the money to start a game company based on your "Ultimate Idea" for a video game.
- First Party - Used in the video game business to refer to games published by the console hardware manufacturer (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) AKA platform holder.
- First Person - Used in reference to the point of view in a video game. In a first-person game, the player sees the game world through the eyes of the player character. By contrast, in third-person games, the player sees the player character (example: any Mario game). Until the advent of good 3D engines in games like Doom, just about all games were third person. FYI, there is no such thing as a second-person game (the player would always see the player character's face, and all movements would be in reverse).
- Flow chart (flow diagram) - A visual representation of how a software program or routine should work. Flow charts use circles for entry and exit points, squares to describe actions taken by the program, and diamonds to poll the user interface for user actions and to make branching decisions. See example flow chart in Lesson 13.
- Fool - (1) A person who acts as his own lawyer when negotiating and signing a publishing deal, licensing deal, development deal, or submitting a patent application, trademark, or copyright. Yes, I've heard all the lawyer jokes, and I understand that you don't trust them. Does that mean you should be a fool? "He who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer." (2) A person who selects a lawyer without checking him out, without first verifying that this is a good lawyer who knows his business. (3) A person who enters into a publishing deal, licensing deal, or development deal with a company or entity whose professional ethics are under question or in doubt. (4) Someone who lends money to a startup based solely on an "Ultimate Idea" for a video game; (5) Someone who does not learn from his past mistakes.
- 401(k) - A particular type of retirement savings plan that's offered by some American game companies as part of the employee benefits package. Under this type of savings plan, the employee contributes into the plan from each paycheck (and the company might put something in too). The savings are tax-deferred, meaning the employee doesn't pay taxes on the income that's been salted away until taking the money back out of the account (which is not supposed to happen until retirement age).
- 4X - An empire-building strategy game in which the player must "explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate."
- FPP - First person perspective.
- FPS - First Person Shooter. Or frames-per-second.
- FRAND - Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory. A term used in patent licensing.
- Freelance - Refers to an individual who does work as an independent contractor, rather than as an employee of a game company. In case this description makes you perk up your eyebrows and think, "that's the life for me," think again. You need to have experience and credentials before you can find work as a freelancer.
- Freemium - A game that is free to play but offers additional DLC through microtransactions.
- Freeware - Software that's distributed for free, usually over the internet. Not a business model that'll get the author rich.
- Full Version - A complete game (as opposed to the demo version or the shareware version).
- F.Y.I. - For Your Information. An abbreviation used often in office memos.
- Game - Much discussion has taken place as to what exactly constitutes a "game." Any definition will probably attract much controversy and further discussion, but what the hey. I'll take a stab at it. A game is basically "an activity for one or more players, involving a set of rules or constraints in which the player(s) must vie to achieve a goal." There are video games and computer games that don't adhere cleanly to that definition, I suppose.
- Game Design - At the risk of attracting controversy again, here goes. Game design is "the act of defining a game in detail." Game Design is not "programming," and it isn't "graphic design." It's mostly ideation and writing. Game design is about more than simply writing a GDD, just as architecture is about more than simply creating a blueprint.
- Game Designer - A person who engages in game design. A person who defines games in detail, or who defines the details of a game. Not necessarily a programmer. Not necessarily an artist. Someone who communicates well through writing and imagery.
- Game Developer - See "Developer."
- Game Developers Conference - A yearly event in which those who work in the creation of video games gather for the purpose of exchanging ideas and renewing and establishing personal contacts and relationships.
- Game Mechanic - Play pattern. For example, a crossword puzzle entails a different player activity than does a card game.
- Gameplay - The term is sometimes spelled as two words rather than one. And the term can be used in a sentence in a variety of ways to refer to different aspects of the enjoyable act of playing a game. Sometimes used to be synonymous with the phrase "play pattern" or "game mechanic." ("What kind of gameplay is it: is it 'run and dodge,' or is it 'sit and puzzle'?") Sometimes used in attempts to quantify the level of fun of a game. ("Does this game have better gameplay than that game?")
- Gamer - A person who is facile with games. Especially, someone who plays games professionally. (Term is not used within the game industry to refer to people who work in the game industry. Most people who work in the creative side of the industry are gamers, but it cannot be said that most gamers work in the industry of making games.)
- Games 411 - "Reference guide for game related businesses, that lists everyone from companies, artists, music producers, marketing and distribution, and retailers." See Lesson 8.
- Gaming - Term is primarily used in reference to gambling activities, such as those which take place in casinos.
But don't believe just me. Read it for yourself. Look up "gaming" at dictionary.yahoo.com.
See my rant at http://www.igda.org/games-game (May 2008 column, see Archives).
- G.D.C. - Game Developers Conference.
- G.D.D. - Game Design Document. When printed on paper, usually a very lengthy and detailed document or collection of documents.
- Geek - (1) A person who is really into games; hardcore gamer. (2) A person who is really into comic books, coins, movies, Star Trek, the Civil War, the Dark Ages... whatever. Anything but real life, today, the here and now; hardcore enthusiast/hobbyist. (3) A programmer.
- Genre - Term used to classify, categorize, or pigeonhole games by different types of gameplay (action games vs. simulation games, etc.). There isn't a universal system for genre classification. What one reviewer calls a "card game" might be called "strategy" by another reviewer (if that other reviewer doesn't have a pigeonhole labeled "card games").
- GG - "Good game." Not to be confused with "God game."
- Glass Cannon - The term refers to the practice of focusing on offense with zero attention on defense.
- Go - A board game thousands of years old, in which two players vie to capture the most spaces or nodes on the board. Also: "wei qi" (Chinese), "baduk" (Korean), "igo" (Japanese).
- God Game - A simulation game in which the player, viewing the world from on high as if from heaven, weilds godlike powers to influence the goings-on in the game world below.
- Gold - (1) Sometimes used to mean that a game has reached a high level of sales. Exact numbers may vary depending on the magazine or statistics company using the term (might mean game has sold a million units, for instance). (2) Sometimes used to refer to hit games from a bygone era.
- Gold Farming - See Farming.
- Gold Master - A copy (usually on a CD or DVD these days) of the game in its final incarnation, after Q.A. has certified the game as final and the programmer(s) have ceased working on it.
- Good Game - (1) What players say to one another after an enjoyable play session. (2) From a player's point of view: a game that's enjoyable and/or kewl. (3) From the corporate point of view: a top-ten-selling game.
- Go-Stop - A delightful card game played widely in Korea and Hawaii (origin: Japan). Played with flower cards called "hwa-tu." See the Hanafuda zone on this website.
- Graphic Designer - A person who creates graphics for products, signs, advertisements, packaging, websites, etc. Wikipedia has an article on graphic design at
- Greenlight - Official approval of a plan, by executives with the authority to grant such approval. Greenlight reviews are usually also held at First Playable, Alpha, and Beta. Without a green light, a project either doesn't happen or gets cancelled. May also be written as "green light."
- Griefer - In multi-player games, someone who harrasses or repeatedly "kills" other players.
- Griefing - Harrassing or repeatedly killing one or more other players in a multi-player game.
- Gross (Gross Profits) - The proceeds of the sales of a game, before deducting costs to arrive at the Net.
- G-Star - A Korean expo and conference. See also Kamex and KGC.
- G.U.I. - Graphical User Interface. Onscreen information presented for the user to interact with the computer program, presented in a graphic way.
- Hachi-hachi - "Eighty-eight." A Japanese game played with flower cards (hanafuda).
- Hanafuda - Flower cards used widely today in Korea and Hawaii (origin: Japan). See the Hanafuda zone on this website.
- Hand-Eye Coordination - A skill that game companies tell parents that games are good for developing in their kids. Hey, I'm sorry if that doesn't make you happy, but it does make the military happy.
- Handheld - A small game machine, battery-powered, designed to be played while held in the, um, hands. Like Game Boy, PSP, or Tamagotchi.
- Hardcore Gamer - A person who spends a high percentage of his time playing action games (like FPS games, for instance). I suppose someone who plays an RPG so much that his wife divorces him would also qualify, but I'm not so sure that other hardcore gamers would agree with this supposition.
- Hardware Manufacturer - Company that manufactures game systems (Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft).
- Headhunter - Person who earns a living by matching jobseekers with employers. Typically, headhunters work with higher-level personnel (like producers, directors, and executives). Game companies prefer to hire people directly whenever possible, to avoid incurring the extra costs that headhunters entail.
- Hero - See Protagonist.
- High Concept - A very short statement of the basic concept or "hook" of a game. The high concept of the Steven Segal movie "Under Siege" was, "Die Hard on a battleship."
- Hoity-toity - Fancy-shmancy.
- Hollywood Model - Many in the game biz think Hollywood's film/TV industry is a good role model for the game biz. In some ways, the Hollywood model is applicable to games, and in some ways, the print publishing model, or the music recording industry model, or even the toy industry model, may be more apt.
- Hollywood Pitch - see Elevator Pitch.
- Honcho - Manager or executive.
- Hook - A very short statement of the basic concept or "high concept" of a game. The hook of GTA Vice City is, "more of what you loved about GTA3."
- HOPA - Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure game.
- Horriblizing - A term coined by Dr. Laura to describe the way that people (especially, in the context of Sloperama.com, a wannabe or n00b) can imagine horrible consequences that might possibly arise from a decision or course of action, then become frozen in fear, resulting in inaction and stagnation. Life is a risk. Live your life! Don't go around horriblizing everything. See Lesson 24.12.
- Hotbed - On this website, I use the term "hotbed" to mean "an area where there are lots of game companies." For a map of hotbeds in North America, see http://www.frappr.com/gamesdevhouses (give it a moment to populate).
- H.R. - Human Resources.
- H.U.D. - Pronounced "hud." Stands for "heads-up display." The sort of informational interface found aboard modern jet fighters. Sometimes used in reference to the informational user interface used in video games (life gauge, score, etc.).
- Human Resources - A department of a larger company whose function is to take care of the needs of the employees, especially in regards to hiring and firing,
401(k) plans, employee policies re jury duty and vacations, etc.
- Hwa-Tu - Flower cards used widely today in Korea and Hawaii and Japan (origin: Japan). See the Hanafuda zone on this website.
- I.A.P.s - In-app purchases. Also sometimes called microtransactions.
- I.D.S.A. - Interactive Digital Software Association. Coalition of game publishers and software publishers. Changed name on July 21, 2003 to ESA - Entertainment Software Association.
- I.G.D.A. - International Game Developers Association.
- Igo - Japanese name for the game of go.
- IM - Instant messaging by means of a computer rather than a mobile phone.
- Independent - When used in reference to a company: a company not owned by another company. When used in reference to an individual: a person not employed by a company. When used in reference to a game: a game that was created without publisher funding. Also called an "Indie Game."
- Indie (or Indy) - Definitions vary, and may depend on context or on the intent of the writer or speaker using the term. May mean "outside the mainstream game industry," or may mean "not owned by a publisher" or "not funded by a publisher."
- Indie Game (or Indy Game) - Definitions vary. In my view: A game that was created outside the mainstream game industry (game was made independently of funding from a game publisher). Not precisely synonymous with "student game."
- Indie Team (or Indy Team) - Definitions vary. In my view: A group of people who have banded together to create a game, but who have not yet incorporated or registered a business name with the local government and/or have not yet made any money. As opposed to a "company" (see). Not precisely synonymous with "mod team" (see).
- Informational Interview - An interview that was requested by an individual outside the mainstream game industry, for the purpose of gathering information about working in the industry. As opposed to a job interview, which is typically arranged by an employer, a recruiter or someone in H.R., for the purpose of evaluating a candidate for a particular job.
- Infringe - To use another party's IP without having secured the rights to do so.
- Installed Base - A number which represents the number of households owning a particular game machine. For example, if a company has manufactured two million game machines but half a million of them are in stores and store warehouses, then the installed base is a million and a half (not two million).
- Instancing - A practice used in MMOGs to give a small group of players a chance to explore an area of the game without interference of players outside the group. The game area is "instanced," served to the group for the extent of the play session.
- Intellectual Property - An intangible (such as a game design, a game character, a game title, or a game logo) that rightfully belongs to someone and has value to that owner.
- Internship - An unpaid or very low-paying position. Usually offered to students or recent graduates. The company benefits in getting cheap labor, and the individual benefits in getting experience inside the industry.
- I.P. - Intellectual Property.
- Inverted Pyramid - A writing practice begun by news reporters during the American Civil War. Reporters sending news by telegraph (a cutting-edge technology back then) knew that the line could be cut before they were finished sending, so they started by giving the most important points first, then expanding on that, and finishing off with the least important parts. This principle is still used today in newspapers, and it applies to game designs as well. See FAQ 13.
- Iterative Methodology - See "Cerny Method."
- Jacked in - Connected to internet, by any means (mobile, cable, telephone, satellite, etc.). Term comes from cyberpunk novels. See also Online.
- J.A.M.M.A. - Japan Amusement Machine Manufacturers Association. Organization of arcade manufacturers in Japan. Holds a yearly trade show. http://www.jamma.or.jp/english/index.htm
- Job Description - A written description of the duties, responsibilities, and prerequisites for a job position.
- Job Title - A word or two (or maybe three) that generally hint at the duties and responsibilities of what a person does in his job.
- Kamex - Korean Amuse Expo. Click here. Now called G-Star.
- KAMMA - Korea Amusement Machine Manufacturers Association. Click here.
- Kanji - Japanese word for Chinese characters. Because of my long involvement with Japan and Japanese, I am sometimes guilty of using the word in reference to Chinese writing, even when not in reference to Japan.
- Karoshi - Japanese word. "Death from overwork."
- Kewl - Perhaps already an anachronistic spelling. A characteristic of a GG.
- KGC - Korea Games Conference (formerly called Korean Game Developers Conference), once held in conjunction with G-Star. Usually held just prior to or concurrent with G-Star.
- KGDC - Korean Game Developers Conference. See article 33. Now called Korea Games Conference (KGC).
- Killer - One of the four Bartle Player Types. This type of player enjoys killing other players' characters. He camps at spawn points to kill spawning PCs.
- Killer App - A program (an application) that is so desirable that a lot of people need to buy the only platform upon which that program runs. Want the latest Mario game? Buy the latest Nintendo hardware (iOS/Android games excluded; you see what I mean).
- Killstealer - A person who lets another player do most of the work against an enemy, then steps in at the last minute to deliver the killing blow, thus taking the loot and XP awarded for kills.
- Kiosk - A standup unit with a built-in computer monitor and (usually) a touch screen, usually used in stores and malls to provide information.
- Klondike Solitaire - A particular solitaire game played with playing cards. Also called "Patience."
- Koi-Koi - A delightful card game from Japan. Played with flower cards called "hanafuda." See the Hanafuda zone on this website.
- LARP - Live Action Role Playing. Instead of moving pieces on a board, the players are the pieces. Often incorporates cosplay.
- Lead Time - I've heard this used as regarding printing, mostly, but could apply to the time it takes to produce other things as well. Usually: (1) The amount of time between when a writer for a game magazine has to turn in his or her article and when it will actually show up on newsstands. (2) The amount of time between when a game's box and docs are finalized and when the printed materials will actually show up at the manufacturing plant for assembly.
- Level - Video games are usually broken into bite-size chunks called "levels," "stages," or "missions." Different games may refer to these as "worlds." These terms may sometimes be used interchangeably, or may be used to mean subsets of one another in various ways in different games.
- Level Design - The art or practice of designing levels, stages, or missions, often by means of mod tools or level editing tools.
- Level Editor - A program or tool created by the makers of a game, for use in creating new levels, stages, or missions for that game. Not all games come with level editing tools. Also called "mod tools" or "modding tools." For a list of some level editors/mod tools you can use to start out, see FAQ 56.
- Library - (1) A collection of DLLs or routines in an SDK. (2) A collection of IPs owned by a game company or other licensor. (3) A collection of sound effects offered by a sound effects provider. (4) A room with lots of shelves filled with books. Or games.
- License - A legal agreement between an IP owner and another company, for the purpose of using that IP to make products. For example, when THQ made the Battlebots game, they first had to have a license from the owners of the Battlebots IP. When a T-shirt company wants to make a Lara Croft line of shirts, they first have to have a license from Eidos. A license usually provides for a percentage of the profits on the licensed goods to be paid back to the IP owner. This is called a "royalty."
- Licensed Developer - A company who makes games under the permission of the hardware manufacturer. For example, a developer who wants to make PS2 games must obtain a license from Sony.
- Licensed Game - A game based on a property that isn't owned by the publisher. For instance, THQ made a Battlebots game. THQ didn't have the rights to make a game using the name "Battlebots" until they got a license from the party that owned those rights.
- Licensed Publisher - A publishing company that has secured permission (from a platform holder) to publish games on a particular platform.
- Licensee - A company who pays a licensor for the rights to use an IP.
- Licensor - A company who owns IP rights and collects royalties from licensees.
- Line Producer - Definition may vary. The producer of a game usually works at a publisher, and a line producer may work at a developer.
- Localization - The process of making changes to a game so that it appeals to the players in a part of the world other than that in which it was originally created or originally published.
- Lone Wolf - An individual who chooses not to live life as a member of a pack, either out of some intensely individualistic life approach or out of an inability to get along with others effectively or satisfactorily.
- Look and Feel - Based on the legal principle of "trade dress." Someone might make a video game that plays roughly similarly to, for example, Tetris, without violating copyrights or trademarks of the owners of Tetris. But if the game looks too similar or "feels" too similar, then a lawsuit might result. A lot of beginning programmers want to make clones of existing games to practice game building, and when these clones are offered for sale, legal problems can result when the new game looks and feels too much like the game that inspired it. See also "trade dress."
- Loser - Has different meanings, depending on context. The word's power is further dependent on the speaker's motives. The best use of the word in the context of the game biz is "the person who lost the game... this time." Note that someone who lost a game this time may well win it the next time. Alternately, a "loser" might also be "someone who couldn't keep a QA job because he was a whiner who thought the game company owed him a promotion after 3 months even though he never worked that hard, came to work on time, or showed any initiative."
- Lower Case - u no, those little letters that u c when u don't use the shift key - like the poetry of t. s. eliot. (Note: game designers understand when to, and when not to, use lower case letters - they do NOT use them ALL of the time.)
- Maguffin - A game object that has no inherent significance except to be a focal point of the action. Alfred Hitchcock defined "maguffin" as "the thing that the protagonist has, the antagonist wants, and the audience doesn't care." Like a secret formula, a piece of evidence that unravels a murder case, a deed, etc.
- Mah-Jongg - A game for four players. Not to be confused with tile-matching games (clones of the game Shanghai). Game name is spelled in numerous ways (mahjong, mah jong, mah-jong, mahjongg, mah jongg, mah-jongg, majong, ma cheuk, etc.). Mah-Jongg originated in the middle of the nineteenth century (about the same time as the card game of Rummy, utilizing similar gameplay), yet many people erroneously believe that it originated in the time of Confucius. See http://www.sloperama.com/mjfaq/mjfaq11.htm for the truth about mah-jongg's history.
- Majan - Japanese name for mah-jongg.
- Majiang - Chinese name for mah-jongg.
- Manga - Japanese comic book. Actually, the Japanese make a distinction between "comic books" and "manga," but the distinction is minor if you're not in the comics biz, or if you're not manga shopping in a Japanese bookstore.
- Margin - The difference between the wholesale price and the retail price (or between the wholesale price and the manufacturing cost). Usually measured as a percentage. Can also be used in conjunction with the term "profit," as in "profit margin," to refer to the percentage of profit being earned by any kind of company (developer, publisher, whatever).
- Market Penetration - The ratio of installed base versus population. (People who buy a product vs. people who do not.)
- Marketing - (1) The practice of working to maximize the sales of a product, sometimes by advertising to the end customer, and sometimes by promoting the game to the retail channel and to magazine editors. (2) The department of a company whose function is to maximize the sales of a product.
- Massively Multiplayer - A game that can be played by not just a few players but a WHOLE LOT of players. I mean really really a lot of players.
- Masters Degree - According to www.universities.com, a degree "that requires completion of an organized program of study of at least one full-time but not more than 2 academic years of work beyond the bachelor's degree."
- MAU - Monthly Average Users. One of the metrics a social game publisher watch very carefully.
- M.B.A. - Master of Business Administration. A graduate degree (a degree obtained after first having obtained a Bachelors degree) that's very useful for those aspiring to be game business executives, producers, or to run their own company.
- McGuffin - Possible alternative spelling for "maguffin" (see).
- Mentor - A person who advises another, offering insights and philosophies intended to aid the other in his job or career.
- Me-Too Game - A game that was created to ride the coattails of a phenomenally popular game by using a similar theme or game mechanic.
- Metric - A measurement of user activity, used for the purpose of monitoring and improving a social game's profitability.
- Microtransactions - A method of monetization in which the player (user) is offered incremental upgrades and improvements: costumes, items, level-ups.
- Middleware - A software package that enables a programmer or programming team to build a game or assets for a game. 3D engines, modeling tools, stuff like that. Supplements rather than replaces an SDK.
- Mii - An avatar used on the Nintendo Mii.
- Milestone - In development contracts, the developer is supposed to deliver certain things at certain times in order to receive incremental payments. In the contract, what the publisher expects to receive from the developer is written in detail and is referred to as a "milestone." When the publisher accepts the deliverables that are part and parcel of a milestone, payment is made. The term "milestone" may refer to the description in the contract, the delivery itself, or to the payment for such delivery. (1) The written description of what the developer is to deliver on a particular date. (2) Code and/or assets that the developer delivers to the publisher as defined by the contract. (3) The payment made by the publisher to the developer for acceptance of such delivery.
- Minimum Guarantee - A sum of money paid by a licensee to a licensor upon signing of a license, or according to a schedule defined in the license agreement. If the licensee sells more product than was guaranteed, then the guarantee is recouped, and further payments are to be made according to the terms of the license.
- Minimum System Requirements - Computer games only (does not apply to console games). A written description of the lowest operating system, CPU speed, CD drive speed, RAM, hard disk space, etc. that are required in order to play the game.
Min/Max - Verb. Role-playing game term. To configure your game character's settings so as to minimize its weaknesses and maximize its strengths.
- M.M.O.G. - Massively Multiplayer Online Game. Used to refer to online games that can be played by a LOT of players simultaneously.
- M.M.O.R.P.G. - Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game.
- M.O.B.A. - Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. A type of game also known as a "DotA clone" or an AoS (Aeon of Strife)-style game. Popular in e-Sports (games as spectator sport).
- Mod - Can be used as a verb or a noun. Verb: to use game level-editing tools to create a custom level or unique game. Noun: a game made by using level-editing tools. Also short for "moderator."
- Modeler - An artist who creates 3D objects or figures.
- Moderator - Someone who has responsibility for maintaining order, civility, and on-topic adherence on a bulletin board or other online forum.
- Mod Team - A group of people who have banded together to create a game using level-editing (modding) tools from an existing computer game. As opposed to a "company" or an "indie team" (see).
- Mod Tools - Level editor. For a list of some level editors/mod tools you can use if you're just starting out, see FAQ 56.
- Monetization - The way that a game earns money for its publisher. Some games are monetized through brick-and-mortar retail channels, some through direct online sales. Some are monetized through subscriptions, some through microtransactions (paid DLC).
- Motion Capture - The creation of animations by means of a live actor and special equipment to record the actor's movements.
- Muckymuck - Executive.
- M.U.D. - A text-based (non-graphical) multi-player RPG.
- n00b - See "Newbie," below. Spelled with zeros instead of Os.
- N.A.B. - "Not a bug." Term used by a producer to squash a bug reported by a tester.
- Narrative Design - Writing story for games, in partnership with game designers, influencing the design of the game (as opposed to a writer who simply fleshes out a story outline created by a game designer).
- Narrative Designer - A person who does narrative design, of course.
- N.D.A. - Non-Disclosure Agreement.
- Net (Net Proceeds) - The profits that result after deducting costs from the Gross.
- Netiquette - Commonly accepted good practices to use in cyberspace.
- Newbie - (1) A person who has recently joined the game industry but has not yet gotten much experience. Popular slang: "n00b." (2) A person who has gotten an applicable degree or who has merely dabbled in game development.
- New Business - A small department of a game publishing company (may be just one or two people), responsible for finding new ways of making money from a game IP. Some companies' New Business guys may double as Submissions Managers (taking on also the responsibility for bring in new IP).
- Non-Disclosure Agreement. A short contract that must be signed prior to the discussion of sensitive information, such as a forthcoming game project. See also "Disclosure Agreement" and "Submission Agreement."
- n00b - See "Newbie," above. Rightly spelled with zeros instead of Os.
- No Problem - A phrase used by game developers in Japan. Meaning: "No! [There is a] Problem [with your request]!" (Naah, I was just joshin' ya. This misunderstanding did happen to me once, twenty years ago, but it was a fluke, not a pattern.)
- No Worries - A reassuring phrase used by game developers in Australia. Meaning: "No problem."
- N.P.C. - Non-Player Character. A game character not under the direct control of the end user, usually controlled by the game's A.I.
- Object Code - What Source Code becomes after being compiled. You can play object code, but you have to compile source code before you can play it. You can read source code, but object code looks like gobbledygook.
- OBT - Open Beta test. Also called public Beta test. Open to a broad range of users (as opposed to closed or private Beta testing).
- O.E.M. - Original Equipment Manufacturer. Some computers and game machines come "bundled" with software (including games). When a game is bundled with a new machine, that version of the game is called "the OEM version."
- Online - Connected to internet, by any means (mobile, cable, telephone, satellite, etc.). Term falling out of use (originated in the America Online heyday of the nineties).
- Online Game - A game that can be played against other human players, via the internet. Part of the acronym "MMOG."
- On Spec - "On speculation." An endeavor taken on for no money up-front, in hopes of maybe getting paid at the back end. Like a guy has an idea for a game, and he emails me looking for a "partnership" in which he expects me to work for free now, and we both get "rich" later because he has an "ultimate" idea. Yeah, like that'll ever happen! See FAQ 31.
- Open Beta (test) - A type of "beta test" that is announced by the game publisher to the general public so that the general public can try out the beta version (not yet finished version) of the game.
- Otaku - A Japanese word meaning "fan"... only the word goes much further than just "fan." A fan might actually have a life. An otaku, though, might be so obsessed with the thing, um, that he's a fan of, that he doesn't have a life in the normal sense. Picture a trekkie, multiplied by, I don't know, a zagrillion (that's a trekkie word I just made up to show you how far beyond fandom an otaku is). Somebody who's actually an otaku might take umbrage at my definition. If so, I welcome a better definition!
- Outsource - To hire an external vendor to handle a service for you. For instance, if your toilet leaks, and you can't fix it yourself, you hire a plumber. That's outsourcing. Or if you need a lot of graphics for your game project but your internal art staff can't do it all, you hire an art house to create those graphics for you. That's outsourcing. Some people use "outsourcing" as if it means "hiring overseas vendors" only, but that's not the entire meaning of the term. It's just the latest hot button meaning of the term.
- Overhead - Ongoing expenses incurred as a natural result of running a game company, aside from wages and salaries.
- Overtime - Extra pay that a tester gets for working more than 40 hours a week. Applies only to personnel who earn an hourly wage (not applicable to salaried personnel).
- Pac-Man - (1) One of two Atari 2600 games that raised a red flag, signalling the beginning of the end of the first videogame boom-bust cycle (circa 1992).
- P&L - Profit and Loss. An analysis that is made by a game company to determine whether or not money should be spent developing a game.
- Parlor Game - A game that is played without any electronic equipment, without a board, without mah-jongg tiles, and without dice, roulette wheels, or suited playing cards. Get this. People play mainly by talking, sometimes shouting and sometimes laughing, sometimes drawing pictures. Can you imagine? What kind of fun could that be, without any pixels or simulated gore or anything kewl?
- Passions (as in "Follow your passions") - Creative or constructive endeavors or activities that you enjoy doing. For instance, creating fan art based on your favorite manga character, or writing game ideas, or writing original stories. If you're really into karate, mountain-climbing, or MBX riding, those also count as passions. Even stamp collecting counts as a passion. The following do NOT count as "passions"... (1) an unhealthy addiction to playing video games; (2) the inability to get your lard-filled behind off the TV couch; (3) going on and on about how unfairly the game industry is ignoring you, in countless chat rooms and blogs.
- Patent - A form of legal protection for intellectual property that is useful and novel. A software routine that performs a useful and novel function is patentable, as is a hardware device that also does so. Patent law is not to be confused with copyright law and trademark law (legal protection for two different forms of intellectual property).
- Patience - 1. The British name for Klondike Solitaire. 2. A quality needed by a wannabe while working to make himself hirable. 3. A quality needed by someone who's aspiring to get promoted.
- Payroll - The department of a game company that writes the paychecks. Make friends with these people. Invite them to play parlor games.
- P.B.M. - Play by mail. I write you my move, then you write back your move. Also PBeM (play by email).
- P.C. - (1) Personal Computer (may include Windows or Macintosh, but mostly used to refer to non-Mac computers). (2) Politically Correct.
- P.C. Thug - No, it doesn't mean a cyberstalker. It refers to someone who uses the notion of "political correctness" to make an opponent (or an opponent's viewpoint) look bad. I tend to think that pretty much anyone who tries to enforce political correctness in any way is probably a P.C. thug.
- Permadeath - When the player character dies, that's it. There's no respawning, no continuing from where the death occurred. Start over from the beginning if you want to try again. Primarily used in RPGs.
- Pigeonholing - The practice of assuming that a person who has worked on a particular type of game (or has performed a particular specialty task) only works on that particular type of game (or performs that particular specialty task).
- Piracy - The act of using software without paying for it, or of copying software without permission of the software owner. (Freeware excluded.) Note: Of late, some attempt has been made to discourage the use of the terms "piracy" and "pirate" in this context. I do not support such attempts, and furthermore, I suspect the motivations of those making such attempts. It's a form of P.C. thuggism
- Pirate - Person who uses software without paying for it, or who copies software without permission of the software owner. (Freeware excluded.)
- Pitch - Verb: to make a presentation for a business venture or a game concept. Noun: a presentation for a business idea or game concept.
- Platform - Term can vary depending. Usually refers to the hardware supported by a game, but sometimes refers to the operating system, the online environment (Steam or Gaikai or Facebook, for example) or even the programming language.
- Platform Holder - Another term for Hardware Manufacturer. I first learned of this one from Kathy Schoback's chapter in the Charles River Media book, "Secrets of the Game Business." You should read it - she explains things so good...!
- Play Balancing - Adjusting values in a game (values like damage points, hit points, speed, stamina, strength, etc.) to make a game more engaging, fair, and fun.
- Player - Usually refers to the end user, the person (the human being) who plays the games we make. At one time, Atari programmers used the term as a synonym for "sprite" (now itself an outdated term).
- Player Character - The protagonist or hero of the game, the character directly controlled by the end user.
- Player Types - Richard Bartle identified four types of MUD players in a 1996 paper: Achievers, Explorers, Killers, Socializers. There are other types of players often discussed as well: Casual, Hardcore, Exploiters, Button Mashers among them.
- Play Pattern - Game mechanic. For example, a crossword puzzle entails a different player activity than does a card game.
- Play Testing - Testing a game to determine how fun it is, or to determine how the play could be better balanced, as opposed to testing a game to determine whether or where it has bugs.
- PM - Private messaging. Many community websites offer PM to their registered users. Like IM only it's not instant, and the messages don't show up in your regular email inbox (you only know you have a PM when you log into the community site, usually).
- P.O.C. - See Proof of Concept.
- Point of Purchase - See P.O.P.
- Point of View - See P.O.V.
- Points - Percent.
- P.O.P. - Point of Purchase. You know when you're standing in line at a store, you're almost at the cash register, and they have some small goodies for sale there? Those goodies are a trap called "Point of Purchase." DON'T FALL FOR IT, PEOPLE! KEEP YOUR HANDS IN YOUR POCKETS!
- Port - A version of a game made after the initial release, so that owners of a different platform could also enjoy the game.
- Portfolio - (1) A collection of an artist's best works to conveniently illustrate why the artist should be hired. (2) A collection of stocks owned by a rich game company executive.
- Post-Mortem - A detailed analysis written after completion of a game project, the purpose of which is to learn and improve the process. In a post-mortem, the focus is on (1) what went wrong, (2) what went right, and (3) what can be learned and used to advantage in the next project. It's a reality of the working world that feelings can be hurt, so sometimes punches are pulled in these documents.
- Post Production - A phase in the creation of a game that occurs after all the graphics, sounds, and code have been created. During this phase, the majority of the development staff has moved on to other projects, but the core programmers are still busy fixing bugs, tweaking gameplay, etc.
- P.O.V. - Point of View. Almost all movies are in the "Third Person POV." You see the main characters from the point of view of an omniscient and invisible viewer. There have been one or two movies filmed in First Person P.O.V. - notably, the Phillip Marlowe movie "Lady in the Lake" (1947). What? You're not a film noir buff? Oh, okay, then I'll explain POV from a game POV. Look at Doom or Quake. First person. Look at any Mario game. Third person. ...No, there is no such thing as a Second Person POV game or movie. In a 2nd Person POV, you would always be looking right into the face of the main character, and he'd always be talking to you as if you were right there in the game or movie with him, and you wouldn't be able to see the scenery.
- Powergaming - playing a game with singleminded purpose towards a goal, ignoring story and social aspects.
- Powerpoint - A presentation software package by Microsoft. A very useful tool for presentations (such as game concept submissions or game feature design meetings, developer bids, marketing/sales meetings) that forces the presenter to boil down his discussion points into short bullet points.
- P.R. - Public Relations.
- Pre-Production - A phase in the creation of a game that precedes the creation of the graphics, sounds, and code. During this phase, the designer is writing the design, the producer is making the budget and schedule, deals are made to obtain needed license rights, the team is selected, and Marketing is plotting ways to take control. (Okay, I didn't really mean that last part.) (Like hell I didn't.)
- PRINCE2 - A project management methodology and certification, especially in Europe, the U.K., and Australia. Stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, 2nd version.
- Print Campaign - A plan for magazine advertisements, previews, and covers to build demand for a game prior to its release.
- Procedural - Adjective: A way of generating some sort of game content by an automated process. Noun: A type of TF police show showing the procedures by which a crime's forensics are used.
- Producer - A manager at a game company who oversees the process of making a game.
- Product Manager - Depending on the company, a product manager may be the same thing as a producer, or may be someone who works in marketing, in brand management.
- Product Placement - The practice of putting products, product names, or product logos in a game, in order to get a little extra cash from the product's owner. Like an Advergame, only to a lesser extent.
- Production - A phase in the creation of a game that involves the work of artists, programmers, actors, musicians, and sound engineers. Occurs after the design has been written and before the bulk of testing and tuning. Alternatively, term is sometimes used to differentiate from development being handled externally, at a game development studio (production oversight then would be handled at the publisher while the actual development process was handled at the external studio).
- Production Coordinator - A job title for a person involved in the management side of things - lower than an Assistant Producer. May involve some making of coffee, calling for pizza, etc., but also involves a hell of a lot of valuable learning.
- Professional - A person who puts his personal feelings and needs aside to make sure that the job gets done.
- Profit - What business (such as the game business) is all about. Revenue (income from sales) should be more than expenses. If it does, that's profit - if it doesn't, that's bad business.
- Profit-Sharing - A benefit provided by some game companies to the employees. In good years, the company's profits are shared among the employees in a manner that varies from company to company (and even year to year).
- Programmable Handheld - the opposite of a "dedicated handheld."
- Programmer - A person who writes software.
- Project Manager - Sounds like the same thing as a producer to me. Some companies may use this title instead of producer, I don't know (hey, I'm not the guy who decides what words everybody ought to use).
- Proof of Concept (POC) - An early iteration of a game, created with the intention of determining the feasibility of a gameplay concept.
- Protagonist - Movie term for "main character" or "hero."
- Prototype - Term may be used differently in different situations and by different people. Usual meaning: an early build of the game (thus "prototype" could be the first playable version, or it could be Alpha or Beta). It's kind of an all-inclusive term for a game that isn't finished yet or hasn't yet been mass-produced. In regards to board games or table games, a prototype is a version of the game made by the designer rather than mass-produced.
- Public Relations - The department of a publisher or hardware manufacture who issues press releases and generally is responsible for shaping public opinion (including the opinion of Wall Street analysts) about the company.
- Publisher - A company that pays for the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of a game.
- Publishing Deal - A contractual arrangement between the independent creator of a game and a publisher. Getting a game developed and produced is a different thing from having it manufactured. And getting the manufactured game marketed effectively and placed on store shelves is yet another thing. A party who's good at making a game is not necessarily good at marketing it effectively. Thus deals are made with parties who are good at those other important aspects of the business. Pretty much the same thing as a "distribution deal," but much more inclusive of the benefits a publisher can offer.
- Punctuation Marks - Little dots and squiggles used in the writing of English prose. Punctuation marks are very important in that when they are not used, or are used improperly, the sense of the sentence (for the reader) may be significantly impacted. Consider this example. John got an email from Gloria, who uses "chat room" style writing, without capitalization or punctuation. She wrote:
dear john i want a man who knows what love is all about you are generous kind thoughtful people who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior you have ruined me for other men i yearn for you i have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart i can be forever happy will you let me be yours gloria
He optimistically imagined the punctuation marks being placed in her email this way:
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy--will you let me be yours?
This made him very happy. So he went to see her, but she slammed the door in his face. What Gloria really meant was this:
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
Gloria can never be a game designer. Knowledge of (and consistent proper use of) punctuation marks is extremely important for game designers, since game designers must possess excellent written communication skills.
That was so much fun, here's another example of the importance of punctuation. In each of the following, insert commas, colons, or apostrophes (as indicated) to completely change the meaning of the sentence:
- The panda eats shoots and leaves. (Two commas)
- A woman without her man is nothing. (One colon and one comma)
- Go get him surgeons! (Shakespeare) (Two commas)
- Those old things over there are my husbands. (One apostrophe)
- Push IAPs - "Push" in-app purchases is the "pushy" practice of offering microtransactions to players while the game is in progress.
- Puzzle Game - A type of game that involves more thinking and less twitching.
- PvE - Player versus Environment. A mode of gameplay in which the player plays within a game world without having to deal with other online players. Also called PvM (Player versus Monster), since the player's opponents are computer-controlled as opposed to human-controlled.
- PvM - Player versus Monster. See PvE.
- PvP - Player versus Player. A term used in online games, particularly MMORPGs, CORPGs, MUDs, and other online role-playing video games.
- Q.A. - Short for "Quality Assurance." (1) The phase during a game project in which testers scrutinize a game to identify any and all problems, and to verify that the game meets its pre-defined requirements. (2) The name of a department at a game company (usually a publisher) which tests games or equipment. Not to be confused with "Q&A." Not to be confused with "Beta testing." See also "tester."
- Q&A - "Question & Answer." An entirely different thing from "Q.A." Often, after a speech, the speaker will open the floor to questions and answers.
- Q.C. - Quality Control. Term rarely used in the game industry. We usually call it "Q.A." instead.
- Q.o.L. - Quality of Life, sometimes measured mostly by how much crunch time a team has to put in. Other factors of QoL are morale, benefits, resources (having good equipment and tools), and facilities (a workspace conducive to productivity and morale).
- R&D - (1) What some companies call the game studio (not entirely accurately). (2) Technically speaking: "R&D" departments exist to solve problems by developing new technology, usually starting with a known problem in mind. (3) In practice, sometimes: a department of very large game companies that can afford to spend money on ideas without a firm budget or schedule. Sega used to have R&D departments (in Tokyo, Japan), and Nintendo probably still does (in Kyoto, Japan). But most American game companies don't do things that way.
- Real-Time - A situation in which a clock keeps ticking without waiting for the player to think and act, and in which opposing characters act simultaneously, not taking turns doing stuff. By way of contrast, see "Turn-Based."
- Recoup - To make back all the money paid to a developer or licensor as an advance.
- Recruiter - (1) A headhunter. (2) A person who works for a game company and whose job it is to find and entice employee candidates to join the company.
- Red Flag - A warning sign. Handwriting on the wall. For example: the developer of a racing game acknowledges that this milestone might be lacking speedy gameplay, but they'll put it in at the end of the project, so why don't you just pay for this milestone for now regardless. (You might not see this as a red flag until it's happened to you, but once it does, boy, you won't fall for that one again, let me tell you! And whoever said I was talking about Argonaut is lying!)
- Requirements - A term used in engineering projects to set forth criteria that a project must satisfy. Also applies to the game biz, but the game biz is an entertainment industry, not precisely an engineering discipline. Accordingly, requirements can be more difficult to determine for a game project.
- Release - (1) When spoken by someone involved in developing a game: Code release (game is declared final and is sent off for manufacturing). (2) When spoken by someone in Marketing or the media: Ship (game is manufactured and appears on store shelves).
- Research - A lot of n00bs think "doing research" means "asking somebody to tell you everything about a subject." That's not correct. Research begins with reading. Asking people to tell you everything there is to know about a subject ought to follow after first having put yourself out at least a little bit. Without your starting with research, you are asking your advisors to work harder at answering you than you were willing to work at asking. You're the one who seeks information - so you're the one who should begin by making at least a small effort. If you find some FAQs on your research topic, begin by reading them. Use Google and Wikipedia as well. Follow links to obtain further knowledge. After having done your homework, then (and only then) ask experts to fill in gaps for you. It's less work for them (which is a kindness you gave them in exchange for their answering your narrowly focused questions), and a more effective way for you to gain the knowledge than just skipping the reading and asking broad questions.
- Residuals - Effectively the same thing as a royalty. Term used in the TV industry; not so much in the game biz.
- Respawn - When a player character dies, and the player still has "extra lives," the player may come back to life and continue playing, either from where the death occurred, or from the most recent save point, or from a designated spawn location.
- Responsibility - An aspect of a job title that varies with experience and authority. An individual with high responsibility has a bigger weight on his shoulders than does an individual with low responsibility. How to put this: when you have more responsibility, you have higher expectations on you, and more that you are expected to accomplish. You probably also have more people reporting to you.
- Résumé or resume - A document that details the work experience and education of a potential employee. See also CV.
- Retail Channel - The traditional sales model for games and game machines. Distributors, store buyers, chain stores, etc. Also includes mail order catalogs, if such things still exist.
- Reticle (also reticule) - Player-movable gunsight used to indicate where bullets or other projectiles are aimed.
- Rights - Legal permission to use an IP, either under a license, or by dint of ownership of the IP.
- Risk-Averse - An outlook, an attitude, a way of life for a company that's anxious to make money, with little or no toleration for financial losses. A risk-averse outlook will often prevent a company from taking a chance on an untried original new type of game concept or business model.
- Risk Management - The practices used by a risk-averse company.
- R.N.G. - Random number generator (also: random number god/goddess).
- Roguelike - A type of turn-based RPG involving procedurally generated dungeons and permadeath.
- R.O.I. - Return On Investment. The ratio of income to expenditures, or an analysis of income versus expenditures.
- Role Playing Game - A type or genre of game in which the player takes the part of a character. Usually a turn-based game in which the player character endures the effects of "hit points" and attribute value changes which are sometimes controlled by, and sometimes not under the control of, the player. Much more "anal retentive" a type of game than an adventure game (which is the nearest equivalent genre). Far removed from an action game in that an action game occurs in real time, requiring twitch reflexes.
- Royalty - Money paid to a developer or IP owner based on profits made from a product, according to the terms of a contract.
- R.P.G. - Role Playing Game. RPGs can be played using pencil and paper (usually involving multi-sided dice) or on a game console or computer.
- R.T.S. - Real-Time Strategy game.
- Salary - An amount of money paid to an employee regardless of the number of hours worked.
- Salaryman - Japanese word. Salaried personnel.
- Save Point - A location in a game at which the player can stop, save the game, and on a subsequent play session pick up where he left off.
- S.B.A. - Small Business Administration.
- Schedule - (1) A document that details when events in a game project are to occur, else checks will not be cut and heads will roll. (2) "Ship date."
- S.C.O.R.E. - Service Corps Of Retired Executives. Some old guys (even older than me) who act as mentors to guys who want to create their own businesses (like aspiring game developers, frinstance). Note that before you decide to use their services, you ought to have several years of experience inside the game industry first. Either that or be a lone wolf. Website: http://www.score.org/.
- Script - Might be used to mean a variety of things or acts. A script might be a particular type of code that serves as a list of actions that the game will perform. Or it might be a document that defines lines of voice-over dialogue, or a document that defines onscreen text. As a verb, "scripting" might refer to the creation of a scripted sequence in code, or to the act of writing dialogue or text. It's advisable to use the term with modifiers so as not to confuse folks.
- Scroller - Also called a scrolling game. The onscreen display acts like a window onto a digital world, scrolling either sideways or vertically to reveal the world sequentially during play. One of the first examples of a "side-scrolling" game was the arcade game Scramble. Due to technological advancements, scrolling games are more generally found on handhelds and mobile games these days - and not so much on console games, arcade games, or computer games.
- Scrum - A type or flavor of agile production methodology.
- S.D.K. - Software Developers Kit. A collection of software utilities, documentation, and sometimes hardware that enables a programmer or programming team to build software for a particular platform.
- Sell Sheet - A one-page document created by Marketing to extoll the virtues, pricing, advertising schedule, and ship date of a game.
- Sequel - A game that picks up where a previous game left off, using the title of the previous game within the title of the new one.
- Serious games - Games that educate, or train, or inform. In other words, games with a "serious" purpose, rather than merely to entertain.
- Shanghai - A tile-matching game (played with mah-jongg tiles) first published by Activision in 1986. Often cloned and often erroneously referred to as "mah-jongg."
- Shareware - A game that is passed around (thus the word "shared," can you dig it?) and which usually requires the user to pay up in order to get the "full version."
- Shelf Space - Availability for a product to be placed in a store.
- Shell - The part of a game that comprises the entrance and exit points. Usually also includes the main menu of a game.
- Shift Key - An oversized key on a computer keyboard, which causes letters to be typed in upper case (ABC) or lower case (abc). An extremely important key for game designers, since game designers must possess excellent written communication skills.
- Ship - What happens to a game the day after it's manufactured. Hundreds of thousands (give or take a factor of ten) of copies of the game are trucked from the manufacturing facility to the warehouses of chain stores across the North American continent. (Apologies that this FAQ is North America-centric.)
- Ship Date - The date by which a game is due to ship.
- "Ship it!" - Phrase frequently spoken during the final day or two of a game project, to emphasize the priority of finishing the game over any minor problems standing in the way of release.
- Shmup - A "shoot-em-up." A game in which the primary action is shooting.
- Shooter - A game in which the action consists primarily of moving and shooting (no, I don't know why they aren't called "movers").
- Shoulda's - A word whose origins come from the Simpsons. A whiner is a person who "has a case of the shoulda's." Anytime you see the word "should" and it isn't preceded by "I" or "we" (but rather is preceded by "they"), that's "a case of the shoulda's," especially when "should" is so used multiple times. Note: to those who might denigrate "shoulda's" as nothing more than a made-up TV word, let it be known that shoulda's is a perfectly cromulent word that embiggens us all. (Thanx to "jerusalem" for that one.)
- Shouting - THE USE OF ALL UPPER CASE WHEN TYPING. CONSIDERED RUDE UNDER "NETIQUETTE" PROTOCOL. (Game designers know not to do this.)
- Simulation - A game that mimics some real life activity.
- Skew - Not exactly a videogame biz word. Means to "twist" or "distort" - I've used the word in videogame biz recently in a couple of different ways. (1) "You've skewed the meaning of the term 'informational interview.'" Meaning: you've used the term in a way other than the way it's usually used, in order to sneakily get an interview. (2) "That IP skews younger." Meaning: the licensed property under discussion appeals to a younger target audience. (3) If you are looking here for the meaning of the word as you heard it in a conversation, then perhaps you were looking for the term "S.K.U."?
- S.K.U. - Stock Keeping Unit. Often pronounced the same as the word "skew." Term used in retail. If a game company makes two versions of a game, one to work on Xbox and one to work on PS2, that would be two different stock keeping units, or SKUs. If, however, a game company makes a game in which the same disc works on both PC (Windows) and Macintosh, and puts them both on the same CD, then that would be just one SKU. (But the store would have difficulty figuring out which shelf to put it on.) (No, they wouldn't. They'd put most of the copies on the Windows shelf.)
- Snowball - (1) Noun. Ball made of snow. As it rolls downhill, it gathers size, speed, and momentum, while simultaneously decreasing in controllability and predictability. Just like a game project when red flags are ignored. (2) Verb. To increase in size, speed, and momentum, while decreasing in manageability. Just like a game project when red flags are ignored.
- Social Game - A type of game in which players can share information, give each other goodies, ask each other favors, etc. Common on Facebook.
- Socializer - One of the four Bartle Player Types. This type of player enjoys games for the social aspect. He chats with the other players to the extent that other players can become annoyed, exhorting him to "just play, already!"
- Solitaire - A game played by one person. There are many solitaire card games, but most people think of Klondike (also called Patience), perhaps due to the Windows program.
- Sound Designer - A person who creates audio for games.
- Sound Engineer - A person who creates audio for games.
- Sound Guy - Audio Engineer, Sound Engineer. A person who creates audio for games. Note: Might be female (the term "guy" isn't meant to negate the possibility of femaleness when used in this context). Note Also: Hey, it's not my fault that there are multiple different job titles for the same position...
- Source Code - That which the programmer writes (usually in C++), which gets turned into Object Code after having been Compiled. You can't play source code (you have to compile it first). But at least you can read source code (object code just looks like gobbledygook).
- Spawn - Term used to mean the sudden appearance of a player character or non-player enemy. In real life, a being is born and then must grow up. In games, a being is simply "spawned" fully grown.
- Specs - The term "spec" might be short for (1) specifications, (2) speculation, or (3) spectacles. Meaning is easily deduced from context. For instance, if somebody says, "you want a game algorithm? Okay, what are the specs?" - he isn't asking for glasses or a guess. He's asking for meaning #1 - the design specifications, the requirements. If somebody says "take off your specs so I can pound your face," he isn't asking for your opinion about the precise manner in which he's going to pop you one, and he isn't interested in any speculation either - he's using meaning #3. And if somebody wants you to work "on spec," I guess he might mean "within specifications," but he probably means he doesn't have any money to pay you. He'll gladly pay you in 2010 for some work you begin today. Maybe.
- Spelling - The ability to write English language words according to established standards. An immensely important skill for game designers, since game designers must possess excellent written communication skills.
- Spinoff - A game (or TV show) whose main character was in a previous game but was not the main character of that game (or TV show).
- Sprint - A portion of a game project during which the agile team is pushing towards a particular sub-goal. Term used in Scrum (see).
- Sprite - A movable object seen in a video game.
- Stock Options - A benefit offered to valuable employee candidates of a publicly owned (stock-based) company. The employee will be able to buy company stock at the price specified in the employment contract (incentivizing the employee to work hard and increase the stock price so that the employee will make a profit).
- Strategy Game - A game that involves more thinking than twitching.
- Strategy Guide - A book or magazine article that provides information about how to play a game.
- Student Game, Student Project, Student Team - These terms all refer to working while a student. Different things from Indie Game, Indie Project, or Indie Team. Indie refers to being independent (outside the mainstream game industry)
- Studio - A place where creative work is done.
- Style Guide - A "bible."
- Subject Line - A very important part of every email, memo, bug report, etc. The subject line encapsulates the gist of the remainder of the communication. Sometimes the recipient of an email with a bad subject line, or no subject line at all, won't even read it. The best way to write a subject line is to write the communication first, then write the subject line before posting or sending the communication.
- Sublicense - The practice of a licensee granting some of its rights to a third party (the licensor and the licensee being the first two parties).
- Submission - (1) Showing a game to a game company, in hopes that it will be greenlit for production or distribution. (2) Kowtowing to your boss.
- Submission Agreement - A document that a game company would want you to sign before you show them your game concept. The intent of the document is to protect the company in case you show them something vaguely similar to something they might possibly create, and you might want to sue them for using your idea.
- Submissions Manager - A person who views externally-created games and game concepts.
- Sut Da - A Korean game played with Japanese flower cards (hanafuda, hwa-tu).
- Table Game - A game that is played on a table, usually with cards, tiles, and/or a board.
- Talisman - A symbolic game object of great power and influence. For example, the sword Excalibur, which only Arthur could pull from the stone. Or the scar on Harry Potter's forehead.
- Target - (1) You know what a target is. It's a thing you aim for and try to hit. So, "target audience" means the audience who you hope will buy the game you are working on. "Target platform" means the hardware that your game idea is ideally suited for. (2) One of many different major store chains where games are sold.
- TCG - trading card game. See CCG.
- T.D. - See Tower Defense.
- T.D.D. - 1. Technical Design Document. A document created by the technical staff after analyzing a GDD. Whereas the GDD describes what the game will be, the TDD describes the plan for building the game. The game's technical staff, under leadership of the technical director, sets forth in the TDD:
- What technology is to be used (engine, middleware, environment)
- What art asset file formats are required
- What audio asset file formats are required
- Filenaming conventions for all assets
- Plan for localization
- What version control system is to be used
- Staffing plan, and bios of team members
- Challenges expected in programming the game (which parts of this particular game present particular challenges), and the plan for dealing with them (including fallback plans).
2. Test-driven development. A programming method involving automated tests to tweak gameplay or create new features.
- T.D.M. - (1) Team deathmatch, a mode of multiplayer games; (2) Time division multiplexing (bit-interleaving or byte-interleaving).
- T.D.R. - Technical Design Review. Alternate name for TDD, or perhaps a meeting in which the TDD is discussed and accepted.
- Team - A collection of creative individuals brought together to make a game.
- Team Player - A creative individual who is capable of professionalism and submission (definition #2).
- Teamwork - Collaborative and harmonious activity between a collection of creative individuals.
- Technical Design - See TDD, above.
- Technical Director - A person who manages programmers. There's more to it than that, but I'm tired of writing at the moment.
- Technical Support - (1) Aid provided by a game company (either a middleware provider or a hardware manufacturer) to the user (game developer). (2) The department of a game company (middleware provider or hardware manufacturer) dedicated to providing such aid.
- 10/20/30 Rule - An idea by Guy Kawasaki, describing how to make Powerpoint presentations most effective.
- Tester - An individual who analyzes and reports findings on the playability of a game. Testing is a paid job which requires the tester to report to the company's office every day (testing cannot be done from home, as "Beta testing" can). Testing being paid work, it counts as work experience on a résumé. See FAQ 5 and FAQ 17 for more about testing.
- Test Lead - Also "Lead Tester." An experienced tester who leads other testers by example. One step below Test Manager.
- Test Manager - A manager of testers and lead testers. Responsible for handling personnel issues, equipment needs, and costs incurred by his teams.
- Texting - Instant messaging via mobile phone.
- T.G.I.F. - (1) Toy and Game Inventors Forum. Yearly conference for designers/inventors of board games. See Lesson 20. (2) "Thank God it's Friday." Phrase spoken by (a) losers who don't have enjoyable jobs in the game biz, or (b) folks who have plans for a fun exciting weekend.
- T.G.S. - Tokyo Game Show. Yearly or twice-yearly trade show.
- Third Party - A company who supplies games that run on a game platform. There are third party publishers and third party developers. As near as I can figure out, a "second party" developer is a developer hired by a hardware manufacturer (platform holder AKA "first party") to develop games for the manufacturer to publish.
- Third Person - A point of view most commonly used in movies and television, and until first person games became hugely popular was also the point of view most commonly used in games. In a third person POV game, the user sees the player character on the screen (not just the player character's hands, as in a first person POV game). There is no such thing as a second person POV game or movie; imagine a game or movie in which the main character's face is always right there in the middle of the screen. Weird!
- 3D - Three-dimensional. The term usually doesn't mean that the end user has to wear goggles or red and blue glasses (although it has meant that, and does sometimes mean that). Usually these days, the term is used to refer to a pseudo-3D effect that all happens inside the machine, and displayed on the 2D display screen. The 3D effect comes about by the changing perspectives enabled by an imaginary "camera" that can move within the game's digital "world." Compare Mario 64 with the original Mario Bros. and you'll see the difference between 2D and 3D. Or see that Simpsons episode where Homer goes into the third dimension and accidentally creates a singularity, falling through it to the real world. Or see Toy Story vs. Aladdin.
- Tile-Matching - A popular computer solitaire game often erroneously named "mah-jongg." Usually a clone of Shanghai.
- Title - (1) A game's name. (2) Often used by industry insiders synonymously with "product" or "game."
- Tower Defense - A type of game, a sub-genre of RTS, in which the player builds strategically-located sniper towers or gun turret towers to stem the flow of massed enemies.
- TPP - Third person perspective (third person point of view).
- TPS - Third-person shooter, a sub-genre of shooter games in which the playable character (avatar) is visible to the player.
- Trade Dress - A legal principle usually referred to as "look and feel" in discussions of video games. A successful game has a particular look and a particular way of acting and sounding. Copycats run the risk of legal action when their clones borrow too heavily from the successful game's copyrighted graphics and sounds, or patented processes, or trademarked name. Copycats frequently seek free legal advice about how close they can make their game look like a successful hit game. There is no clean answer (especially from non-lawyers like myself). See also "look and feel."
- Trademark - A form of legal protection for intellectual property, especially the name and logo of a game company, the name and logo of a game console, or the title and logo of a game. Not to be confused with copyright law and patent law. A trademark must be distinctive and well known through commercial use and/or advertising. Other examples of trademarks would be proprietary names of peripherals, applications (such as a 3D game engine), and game characters.
- Trade Show - A gathering of game companies showing their latest and upcoming titles for the purpose of moving product into the retail channel. See also "expo."
- Treatment - A 10-20 page document that provides highlights about a game concept. Describes the game's characters, genre, target audience. Discusses competitive aspects (what other games this game will compete against in the market). Sometimes discusses development aspects such as anticipated team size, cost, and timing. Longer than a "concept" and shorter than a "GDD." The purpose of a treatment is to get a greenlight to go to the next step: writing a GDD.
- Trekkie - "Star Trek" geek.
- Triple-A Game - A game that earns a place among the top ten sellers, usually the product of an extremely expensive production process.
- TRPG - Tactical RPG. An RPG that adds strategy, RTS, or simulation elements.
- Turn-Based - A game mechanic for a multi-player game in which the players' inputs are not made simultaneously. Chess is a good example of a turn-based game. Capture The Flag is not turn-based.
- Turnkey - A term used to refer to a service or device that can be used without a lot of setup or peripherals. A new automobile is ready to drive off the dealer's lot with the turn of a key. Sometimes a new computer might first require installation of new software or inserting of cards or drives (such a computer would not be "turnkey"). Sometimes a company will offer services that are complete - "we'll do your programming and your graphics and your sound and music." Such a full-service company might refer to their services as "turnkey."
- Tweak - Adjust finely.
- Twitch Game - Derisive term for an action/arcade game, used by proponents of RPGs, puzzle games, and adventure games. Used to be heard a lot at the first couple of CGDCs but rarely heard at GDC these days.
- 2D - Two-dimensional. Flat, like the drawings in a comic book or like the animation in King Of The Hill. For an example, see any game from the old Atari game consoles or the early 8-bit Nintendo and Sega systems.
- 2.5D - A 2.5D (two and a half dimensional) game is one that's drawn and displayed in 2D, often with a "3/4" or isometric POV, to create a pseudo-3D look. Examples are the arcade game "Zaxxon," the PC game "Sim City," the Facebook game "Cityville." Many 2.5D games further create the illusion of 3D by having flying objects or characters cast a shadow on the landscape.
- UI - User Interface. While a game's controller (or a computer's mouse and keyboard or touchscreen) is a way for the user to interface with the game, the onscreen display is the way the game interfaces with the user. Example UI: A shooter (an FPS) UI often includes a health gauge, an ammo gauge, a compass/map, and a weapon indicator.
- U.K. - The United Kingdom. Formerly known as Great Britain. If you thought it was the abbreviation for Ukraine, slap your forehead and say "chikusho" (that's Japanese for "silly me").
- "Ultimate Idea" - A term I made up to mean a game that can be summed up: "This game is so awesome it'll knock all the big game companies for a loop. It's a surefire hit, you gotta work on it for nothing, and you'll get rich on the royalties when it takes off!" As discussed in FAQ 31.
- Underpants Gnomes Theory - A business theory espoused in the South Park episode, "Gnomes," and utilized by many pie-in-the-sky idea guys. In South Park, the gnomes had an idea about getting rich off stolen underpants according to the following plan:
1. Collect underpants
Many idea guys think the following is a great business plan:
1. Make ultimate game
Of course, the problem is step #2. Must have plan, not a question mark. Must have plan before doing step 1.
- Unique Selling Proposition - Central concept of a game. The thing that makes this game stand out from the crowd.
- Universe - A term used to mean some licensed IP in toto (including a complete set of characters with back story and such). For instance, Harry Potter is not only the name of a character. The name can also be used to refer to an entire "universe" which embraces not only Harry himself but also Hogwarts, Dumbledore, Hermione, Snape, etc. Alternate or similar terms: canon, lore, world.
- Unsolicited submission - A game concept that was sent to someone in the game industry without first checking to see if submissions are welcome, and without first going through the recipient's submission process. Read FAQ 21.
- Upper Case - Capital letters. (Hint: see "Shift Key.") Game designers know when to, and when not to, use upper case. (They do NOT use them ALL of the time, that would be called SHOUTING.)
- User - A human being without whom it would be pointless to make a game. The computer doesn't enjoy having a game run on it, any more than a VCR enjoys one tape over another.
- User Interface - The connection points between the "game" on one side and the "user" on the other. There are two aspects to a user interface: (1) The information that the game provides to the user so that the user will know what to do (score, icons, status gauges, context-sensitive text messages, character voice prompts). (2) The information that the user provides to the game by pressing keys or buttons, moving a mouse, moving a joystick, touching the screen, or making voice commands.
- UX - User eXperience. The experience a user has while using a product. The UI is a big part of enabling a good UX.
- V.C. - Venture Capitalist. Someone who has venture capital available.
- Venture Capital - Money available to invest in a business venture (such as starting a new game development house).
- Vested - I can't figure out how to explain this one other than by using it in a sentence. Here goes. An employee who was offered stock options when signing an employment contract with a publicly owned company can buy and sell the stock when the contractually specified time period has elapsed (thus now his options have "vested").
- Videoconferencing - The use of video cameras to conduct a conference call.
- Video Game - Technically, this refers to a game that's played on a TV screen (and differs therefore from a game that's played on a computer monitor). But is commonly used to encompass console games, computer games, handheld games, and arcade games.
- Voice Over - Recorded dialogue overlaid upon an animated scene.
- W.A.D. - "Works as designed." Phrase used by a producer to squash an erroneously reported bug.
- Wage - Money paid on an hourly basis. Work eight hours, get paid for eight hours. Work thirty-seven, get paid for thirty-seven.
- Wall Of Text - A large paragraph. It's inadvisable to write walls of text, because they tend to discourage a reader from even starting to read them. A large paragraph is probably composed of numerous disparate thoughts -- best to separate the disparate thoughts into their own paragraphs.
- Wannabe (or wannabee) - Person who is not working in the game industry but would like to do so, and is probably planning or trying to get in.
- Waterfall - A type of production methodology in which the GDD is written, then the TDD is written, then the budget and schedule are determined, then development proceeds step by step from the GDD and TDD according to that budget and schedule. This methodology may ensure that a budget and schedule are adhered to, but does not ensure that the game will be of high quality (fun).
- Wei qi - Chinese name for the game of go.
- Whiner - Someone who engages in whining. Not to be confused with "loser."
- Whining - A huge waste of time. See also "shoulda's".
- W.I.P. - Work in progress. A game that isn't finished yet.
- W.N.F. - "Will not fix." Phrase used by a producer to squash a low-priority bug as the ship date nears.
- Work For Hire - Creative output that is wholly owned by the party who paid the creator for it, without having to pay royalties or residuals after the work's release. Link.
- Writer - (1) Person who creates story text or a story dialogue script. (2) A technical writer (one who writes documentation for an SDK or an engine, for instance). NOT to be confused with "programmer." (3) A copy writer (person who creates the copy for a box, ad, or instruction manual). See Lesson 32.
- Writing - The act of creating story text, story dialogue, game instructions, a game design, or documentation. Not to be confused with "coding." See Lesson 32.
- Xiang Qi - Usually called Chinese Chess, an ancient board game still popular after almost two thousand years.
This FAQ is a work in progress. Reader questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome. Click here to ask about terms you don't see listed, to express disagreement with a definition, or to ask about terms that ought to be added. It is NOT intended that this be a "Compleat Encyclopedia" - please don't bother suggesting inclusion of highly technical terms, or names of particular individuals, companies, or games.
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