3D Platformer: A genre started by Super Mario 64. Subsequent examples include Spyro the Dragon, Jak and Daxter, and Sly Cooper: Theivious Racoonous. The game has you traversing a 3D space and collecting collectibles (cynically called a “collectathon”) and avoiding or attacking enemies.
Action Adventure game: A somewhat dated term used to refer to games in which you run around and explore a world. You might also encounter enemies. Examples include Tomb Raider, and sometimes The Legend of Zelda.
Brawler or Beat-em-Up: A simple side-scrolling game in which you attack all enemies on screen until there are no more enemies and you can progress forward. Often features multiplayer (support for more than one player). Many brawlers feature some degree of 3D up and down movement, giving enemies more places to stand on screen. Examples include Final Fight and Streets of Rage.
Dynamic Range: A term in music. The idea is the softest noises are very soft, and the loudest noises are very loud, highlighting the better parts of a recording. Music that is considered well mastered attempts to bring out the best parts of the music with Dynamic Range.
Emulation: The idea of re-creating physical game system hardware in software (computer code) to re-create the ability of the hardware. An emulator is legal in the United States, however the game files (ROM files – read-only memory files – and disc images) must be sourced by the user to be legal (often a “backup”). Also, a system may have BIOS with copyright code, required by the emulator, which is illegal unless sourced from the actual hardware (again, a backup). An emulator might be able to imitate the needed parts of BIOS (through reverse engineering) so the BIOS files are no longer needed.
Fighting game: A very popular, very technical game in which two characters face each other head-to-head, usually until the losing character’s life is depleted. Popular examples include Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, King of Fighters, Fatal Fury, Samurai Showdown, and Tekken. The “EVO” tournament in the United States is a large gathering of some of the best fighting game players in the world. Many fighting game fans are in Asia. The game Super Smash Bros. changed the fighting game formula by including multiple lives, and requiring the a player to knock their opponent out of the stage’s screen space for the opponent to lose a life. The Smash Bros. series is played at EVO.
FPS (or First-Person Shooter): A popular style of shooter. The earliest and most popular example might be DOOM, where a gun is pointing out from the bottom of the screen and you take down monsters. Many computer games that came after DOOM and were first-person shooters were called “DOOM clones”. A modern example of a first-person shooter is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which simulates combat the former United States War on Terror in the Middle East, from the “first-person” perspective (through the eyes of a soldier).
FPS (or Frames Per Second): The number of times the screen changes the picture visible in a second, the maximum potential indicated by the screen’s refresh rate. If a screen has a refresh rate of 60 hertz, the most frames per second possible is 60 frames per second. A “frame” is a still image of a computer or video game. Frames played out in a sequence create an animation.
First-Person Adventure: Usually the genre associated with the game Metroid Prime. Metroid Prime is light on combat and heavy on exploring the game world. Also sometimes used to talk about mystery games, like a Sherlock Holmes game.
Full HD: The highest possible HD resolution, a 1920×1080 screen resolution with a 60 Hertz refresh rate.
Game Engine: A collection of tools for creating computer games, typically using 3D rendering, but 2D game engines exist as well. Common examples are Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, Valve Software’s Source Engine, and Unity Engine.
High-Dynamic Range: Both a software technology, and a screen technology. The software attempts to use more color and include more vibrate color. The software technology also attempts to make the brightest colors appear brighter. The screen technology increases a Liquid Crystal Display color capacity from the standard 16.8 million colors, to over a billion colors.
Metroidvania or “Igavania”: A game that combines elements from the Metroid series (notably Super Metroid) and the Castlevania series. Koji Igarashi is usually credited as having created the genre (hence Igavania) but he has noted he worked on a team. The earliest example is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for PlayStation and less famously for Saturn. These games are 2D and feature character leveling and upgradable items (RPG elements). Metroidvania’s have become popular with independent game developers, examples include Shadow Complex, Dust: An Elysian Tail, and Hollow Knight.
Nintendo 64: One of the earliest home console attempts at 3D graphics along with the Sony PlayStation and 3DO, the Nintendo 64 featured a MIPS brand processor and the most popular game was Super Mario 64. The game console’s controller featured an early analog stick, that allowed for, for example, a slow walk, a moderate walk, and a run with the playable character.
NES (Nintendo Entertainment System): The original game console released by Nintendo in the United States in 1985, famously after the video game crash of 1984 involving Atari. Popular titles include Super Mario Bros. (1 through 3), Final Fantasy, Mega Man, and Castlevania. Nintendo was previously in the playing card business.
Puzzle Game: Any number of games that ask you do a repetitive task increasingly well. The most famous puzzle video game is likely Tetris, in which completing a horizontal line of blocks clears the line. Tetris Attack and “match three” games like Bejeweled play on the Tetris theme by matching similar objects to clear them. Peggle uses simulated physics to clear pegs with a silver ball before hitting the bottom of the screen.
QHD: Usually anything above 1080p screen resolution. 4K is a common television screen resolution, however monitors can be 2560×1440, which is somewhere between 1080p and 4K. 4K is four times the screen resolution of 1080p.
Refresh Rate: The number of times in one second that a screen refreshes. For many years, televisions were capable of 60 Hertz, which is a possible 60 frames per second. That said, cable television was often interlaced, so odd rows of pixels would refresh at a different time than even rows, giving the appearance of 30 frames per second. Film is often 24 frames per second. Modern computer monitors are supporting higher refresh rates, such as 75Hz, 120Hz, 144Hz, 165Hz, and 240Hz. “Adaptive refresh” technology has emerged to lessen the needed bandwidth on a video cable.
Reverse Engineering: A very broad topic about taking technology apart to understand how it works. The U.S. court systems have held up reverse engineering as legal multiple times. As a result, an emulator that re-creates physical hardware in software is considered legal through reverse engineering. If a video game’s source code is lost, the game can still be enhanced through reverse engineering.
Role-Playing Game (or RPG): Often credited as having started with the games Wizardry and Ultima, a role-playing game is a game in which statistics are tracked, such as the power of a sword, damage to an enemy, and damage taken by a hero character. Dragon Quest often seen as the first Japanese Role-Playing Game, was inspired by two Japanese developers who played Wizardry at a convention in the United States. The Japanese role-playing game series Final Fantasy is likely the most successful of all time. An offshoot, massively-multiplayer online role-playing games, is a role playing game with many participants playing over a network. The notion of a computer or home console role-playing game is often credited as being inspired by the pen-and-paper role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons.
Save State: The ability to save anywhere in a game. An example is The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim where you can pause the game at any time and save. The save file is a “save state”.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES): The successor to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Often called 16 Bit, new features included better graphics, psuedo-3D by use of Mode 7, and improved sound. Standout titles are Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid (sometimes Metroid III), Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy III, Super Castlevania IV, Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, and Mega Man X.
Side-Scroller: A broad genre of 2D games, the only real requirement is traveling from the left side of the screen to the right, or vice versa. Examples include Super Mario Bros., Super Mario World, Sonic the Hedgehog, Metroid, Chuck Rock, and Castlevania.
Western Role-Playing Game: This is a term that came into existence around the time of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. The word Western (as in Western Hemisphere) is a distinction because these games are dissimilar enough from Japanese (and sometimes Korean) role-playing games. A Western Role-Playing Game can include gun-based combat like in Call of Duty, but still has stat-tracking like weapon-grades and character levels.