AAA Game – A game made by a major publisher, typically with a large production and marketing budget. These games are generally expected to have a large scope, be of high quality, and sell well. Examples include Super Smash Bros Ultimate and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Affordance – An action that the player can perform on the game environment. For example, in many games a ladder or vines growing on a wall indicates that the player is able to climb up the wall. For more information, see How Does this Door Work?: Discoverability in Game Design

Ameritrash – A board game design philosophy characterized by a primary focus on theme instead of mechanics. These games are often associated with higher levels of randomness, and often include player elimination. Usually contrasted with Eurogames. For more information see Game Design Fights: “Eurogames” VS “Ameritrash”

AR – Augmented Reality – A technology that uses cameras and other sensors to overlay digital images on top of an image of your surroundings. This technique is used to mix information from the real world with the world of the game. Examples include Pokemon Go and Ingress

Assets – Artistic elements that make up the visual and audio components of a game. Examples include sprites, 3D models, music and sound effects.

Bottom-up Design – A game or component where the initial inspiration was a particular mechanic or unique component. Contrast with Top-Down Design

Bluff – Behaving in such a way as to mislead or deceive your opponents in a game. Bluffing can be used to project a sense of strength in order to cause your opponents to retreat, or project weakness to lure them into a trap.

Buff – Raising the power level of a component in your game. Opposite of Nerf.

Camera Perspective – The location of the camera within a digital game. See First-Person and Third-Person

CCG / TCG – (Collectible Card Game / Trading Card Game) – A card game in which the cards are randomly distributed in booster packs. Examples include Magic: The Gathering, Yu-gi-oh, and Hearthstone.

Checkpoint- A place within the game where players are able to save their progress. If the player loses the game, they will retain all progress up until their most recent checkpoint.

Chrome – A mechanic or component of a game that is considered unnecessarily flashy or complicated.

Chunking – A method of grouping multiple pieces of information together to make them easier to remember.

Component Hook – A unique component that is used to generate interest in your game.

CRPG – “Classic” Role-playing game. Players usually have control of a party of different characters, and the gameplay has a focus on tactical decisions. Usually contains a lot of grinding. For more information see What is an RPG?

Design Space – The amount of potential for new component designs within your game. An example of a game with large design space would be Magic: The Gathering with over 20,000 unique cards. A game with small design space is Tetris, in which there are only 7 potential shapes.

Deck / Dice / Bag Builder – A type of game in which the central mechanic is to build a set of components over time, usually from a public pool of options. This set of components can take the form of a deck of cards, a set of dice, or a bag of tokens.

Engine – A game engine forms the core of most video games, and is responsible for basic tasks such as calculating physics and rendering objects onto the screen. Developers can either develop an engine for their game from scratch, or can build their games using an existing engine such as Unity or Unreal.

Eurogame – A game design philosophy that originated in Germany. Often associated with a focus on mechanics instead of theme, and with a high level of strategic gameplay. Contrast with Ameritrash. For more information see Game Design Fights: “Eurogames” VS “Ameritrash”

Flavor – Components such as lore, architecture, and art style that reinforce the theme, setting and atmosphere of the game without having any effect on gameplay.

First-person – A camera perspective in which the player sees through the eyes of the character that they are controlling. Contrast with third-person. For more information see First Vs Third Person: A Matter of Perspective


  1. First-person shooter – a game with first-person perspective in which the players shoot at eachother with guns.
  2. Frames-per-seconds  – a measure of how quickly a game is able to run on a particular piece of hardware

Game loop – The core component of a game engine, the game loop runs constantly while the game is active and is responsible for rendering to the screen, calling functions and responding to player input.

Grognard – A term that originally meant “on old soldier” – now used to refer to players that are interested in older wargames. These games are typically very large, with hundreds of components and extremely long rulebooks.

GUI – Graphical User Interface – the visual components that a player interacts with within a game, such as menus.

Hook – A part of your game that is designed to create excitement and draw players in. Subcategories include Mechanical Hooks, Component Hooks and Narrative Hooks

HUD – Heads Up Display – Elements that appear on the players screen that give them information about the game and their character. Examples include health-bars and mini maps.

Indie game – A game that was developed by a smaller independent company or individual

Input Randomness- Randomness that occurs before the player makes a decision, and requires the player to respond. Contrast with Output Randomness

Jenny / Johnny – A type of player that plays games with the primary goal of expressing their own individuality and creativity. For more information see Player Psychographics: Why Do We Play?

JRPG – Japanese RPG – A type of Role-playing game that has a high focus on storytelling and character. For more information see What is an RPG?

Lenticular design – A design technique that hides complexity from newer players without actually reducing the complexity of a game. Often this is done by creating components that are open-ended, but seem to have one primary purpose. The newer players will use that component for it’s obvious purpose, while more experienced players will see the less obvious possibilities.

Ludology – An academic discipline that studies games primarily in terms of mechanics

Mechanical Hook – A unique game mechanic that is intended to create excitement and drive interest in your game

Meeple- A small, usually wooden token with a vaguely human shape that is used as a component in several board games


  1. The community of players that is built around a particular game
  2. The strategies, characters and components in a game that are considered to be the most competitively viable

MMORPG – Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game – A game in which thousands of players from all around the world play in a shared world at the same time and can interact with one another.

MOBA – Multiplayer Online Battle Arena – A type of game in which teams of players compete with eachother online in a combat-based competition.

Narrative Hook – A unique character, setting or plot that is used to create excitement about your game and draw players in

Narratology – The study of games in terms of narrative and story instead of mechanics

Nerf- Reducing the power level of a component in your game. Constrast with Buff

NPC – Non-player character – a character within the world of the game that is controlled by an external force such as a computer (in a video game) or a Dungeon Master (in a tabletop RPG)

Open World – A game in which players are able to freely explore a large virtual environment with very little restriction on their actions or movements

Orthogame – A competitive game with multiple players in which there are definite conditions for winning and losing.

Output Randomness- Randomness that occurs after a player makes a decision, and determines the outcome of the decision. Contrast with Input Randomness

Piggybacking – A method of conveying information about game mechanics to the player by using objects and ideas that players are already familiar with. The player already knows how the thing behaves in real-life, and this can allow them to accurately predict how it will behave in the game.

Polish – Attention to detail within a game design beyond what is strictly necessary for the game to function. Games that are considered highly polished will behave very intuitively, and all of the components will be very cohesive with one another.

Psychographic- A categorization of players based on why they play games. For more information see Player Psychographics: Why Do We Play?

Quarterbacking – A behavior often seen in cooperative games, in which one player attempts to dominate the game and make all of the decisions. For more information see Hut, Hut, Hike! Tackling the Quarterbacking Issue in Cooperative Games

Rogue-like – A style of game that is highly associated with two particular mechanics – the exploration of procedurally generated dungeons, and permanent death. For more information see Going Rogue-like: When to use Procedurally Generated Environments in Games

RPG – Role Playing Game – A style of game that can be found among both tabletop games and video games, in which the player takes on the role of a character within an imaginary world or scenario. For more information see What is an RPG?

Spike – A type of player who plays with the primary goal of proving something about themselves, such as their skill or intelligence. For more information see Player Psychographics: Why Do We Play?

Splash- A component in a game that is unique and exciting. Unlike a mechanical hook, which is usually one of the primary focuses of the game, splash is used in smaller amounts.

Strictly Better – A component that is superior to another component in nearly all situations.

Tammy / Timmy – A type of player who plays with the primary goal of experiencing the game and having fun

Third-person- A camera perspective in video games in which the player can see the character they are controlling. There are many subcategories of Third-person perspective, such as over-the-shoulder and top-down perspectives. Contrast First-Person. For more information see First Vs Third Person: A Matter of Perspective

Tier – A ranking of various characters, items and components within a game based on competitive viability. For more information see The Tiers we Cry: Why Tiers Exist in Competitive Games

Top-down design – A game or component where the initial inspiration was artistic, narrative or flavorful, as opposed to mechanical. Contrast with Bottom-up Design

Tutorial – A level or stage within a game that is specifically designed to teach players how to play the game. These levels usually appear at the very beginning of the game, and the goal is to provide the player right away with all the information that they will need. For more information see No More Tutorials! How to Convey Information Through Design

VP – Victory Points – a scoring method commonly used in Eurogames. Victory Points are usually obtained by completing a particular goal or action within the game. Often the game will end when one player reaches a certain threshold of victory points, and the player with the most Victory Points usually wins the game.

VR  – Virtual Reality – A technology that is designed to immerse the player within a virtual world by surrounding their senses. Virtual Reality usually involves a headset with screens that cover both of a player’s eyes, and headphones to provide stereo sound. Virtual reality is designed to be as immersive as possible to create the illusion that the player is actually within the virtual world

Yomi – “Knowing the mind of the opponent” – Attempting to predict your opponent’s actions in a competitive game. Yomi can go several layers deep – if your opponent is trying to predict your actions as well, you may have to react to their predictions, and so on.
Future words: Game, mechanic, component, rulebook, table presence, dungeon, boss, discoverability, feedback, playtest, dungeon master, legacy game, scope, walking simulator, weight