Topic: Knowing the lingo
By Ben F. Badger Jr.
If you know someone who plays video games, you’ll have noticed that they sometimes speak in a language that comes dangerously close to Klingon. For a lot of non-gamers that’s pretty intimidating, so I’m going to try and help demystify all of that weird game lingo.
Now I could list a bunch of terms and their definitions, but frankly that’s what Google is for. For the sake of convenience, here are the two most common terms you will come across in the world of video games: “HP” and “MP.”
“HP” will usually stand for “hit points” or the amount of damage your character can receive before biting the big one. “MP” usually means “magic power” or the number of times your character can do something such as casting a spell to defeat enemies or restore “HP.” One thing to keep in mind is that there are many versions of “MP,” but the general concept behind the term remains the same. It’s present in virtually every fantasy game that involves magic.
The truth is unless you’re an avid gamer, knowing the lingo to a meaningful extent is virtually impossible. Even I have a hard time speaking with some gamers; it’s like they have their own language. But it’s not so tough once you realize that game lingo is just an illusion.
Before you even bother trying to decipher the stuff, you’ve got to know what kind of game the person is playing. Since there are so many types of games, you should focus on the three main types: fighting, adventure and shooter. Why does this matter? Well, the lingo varies depending on the game type.
If you don’t know what these different types look like (this may seem obvious, but bear with me), they’re pretty easy to identify. Fighting games like Street Fighter and Tekkenusually have two characters hitting each other. First person shooters like Quake and Halo 3 are seen from your perspective with a gun in hand. There are also third person shooters like Gears of War and Resident Evil 4. And the adventure games are pretty much everything else you will see, which ranges from Super Mario Bros. to World of Warcraft.
OK, back to game lingo. For fighting and shooter games, the terms are the easiest to decipher—mostly because a lot of them are self-explanatory. Blocking refers to, well, blocking. Duck and run game play, most recently seen in Gears of War, is all about hiding, shooting stuff and running to find another hiding spot. Riveting, isn’t it?
When it comes to shooting games, think about as many war movies as you can. Most terms come from some B-war movie or another. So a basic knowledge of guns and karate will have you figuring out what’s going on in those two types of games.
Adventure games, though, are a wildcard. Have a look: “The MP core is overloading the phantom barrier and the necro sprits are breaching our contingency barriers.”
I don’t know about you but I’ve heard my fair share of gamers ranting such phrases. Curious as to what was said in that quote? Here’s the basic English translation: “Our shields are failing and the bad guys are getting in.”
Since there are so many types of games in the adventure genre, you can’t generalize. The trick to understanding adventure lingo is looking for key English words such as barrier and overloading. As for the other game-specific terms, like “necro,” you’ll have to do some research.
Now, game scriptwriters don’t want to admit it but the adventure games are really all the same. Don’t get me wrong, each storyline is different. Still, fundamentally they’re all the same. All you have to do is substitute the strange alien names for the names of strange magical creatures and proton torpedoes for abracadabra.
What it boils down to is that game lingo is just like all other jargon. It’s all the same stuff everyone speaks, but gamers have a habit of compounding so many terms on top of one another that the meaning behind them is lost to anyone who hasn’t spent 40 hours in the “Land of the Lost” or some other arbitrary location.
So next time you hear a gamer rambling on, or if you’re playing a video game yourself and don’t quite understand what’s going on, step back look for a few key words and you’ll get the gist of things.
Next month’s column topic: “Actually playing games for the first time.”