Modern Gamer Glossary – Game Informer

Whether you’ve been playing for a long time or are just getting into the hobby, we throw a lot of terms when discussing games and it’s easy to get confused. It’s impossible to create an exhaustive list of every term that is commonly used and not commonly used in gaming, but there are some words we see repeatedly being misunderstood or questioned.

Below are some of the most commonly used and misunderstood terms, along with short definitions of what they mean and how they are most commonly discussed. In addition, we paired several words that are often used in conjunction with each other or are often misused in context.


The description we reserve is to discuss the game’s ability to support all types of players, especially those with sensory, physical or cognitive impairments or any disabilities that may affect the enjoyment of the experience.


A competitive game in which players are not equal, or where competing teams each control a different character or element than their opponents. A common variant is one-to-many, where a single player competes with others, but often with a significant advantage.

battle royale

A genre of online multiplayer games in which players compete to be the last man or the last team, often with elements of scavenging, survival, and area exploration. A narrowed playing area usually limits the playing time.

Critical Path

Also known as the Golden Path, the most direct point from the beginning to the end of the game to complete the core story or experience, but not experience side content, replays, or other optional elements.


A game experience that results from player experimentation, creativity, or discovery, but is not explicitly outlined or bound by the game structure or story.


Despite simple categorization, games may be designated as indie games because they are actually indie games, or may alternately have an indie “feel”, even if following a more traditional release-to-release model. In either case, a combination of innovative systems or narrative, experimental nature, artistic goals, unique aesthetics, or small team size earned the game that label.


A slanted graphics view shows the character from above and from the side, and shows more of its surroundings than a top-down perspective might allow.


The most effective available tactics (meta) are the combination of character builds, weapons, or other factors that lead to the highest chance of success in the game. Game or current metadata at a particular moment is often discussed. Or, in terms of narrative and themes, the technique of making self-referential comments about the game or genre being played.


An informal name often used for exploration-focused games with gear or ability-gated progression, non-linear interconnected maps, and incremental improvements to abilities, weapons, or skills. The term is sometimes considered an oversimplification, but it has always been part of the legacy Metroid and Castlevania built: Symphony of the Night.

Massively Multiplayer Online Game

Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games have large numbers of players in a shared game space interacting in a large open shared world. While some games are pure MMOs, the term also discusses games that borrow specific mechanics or ideas from the genre.


Multiplayer online battle arena games feature two teams competing in a given environment or battlefield, often demarcated by different routes of travel. Players usually control a character whose weapons or abilities expand throughout the game, often strategically.

procedural generation

A method of generating levels, characters, or other features that algorithmically mixes random elements to create unique outcomes, often providing players with a novel experience each time they engage in a game.

season ticket

A monetization method where players pay to access specific game content published. Sometimes manifested as tiered progress unavailable to those without paid access, often time-limited. The Battle Pass may be part of the Season Pass, or in some cases synonymous.


A more recent term referring to the rapid expansion of games partly from Dark Souls or Demon’s Souls games. They often feature significant difficulty, lost currency or death progression, and a methodical time-based approach to combat.

Triple A

A widely used industry term for high-budget games from the most well-known publishers or developers.

Field Service

An increasingly common name for a game backed by multiple ongoing updates, patches, and changes—potentially for years—often representing a major or even fundamental reorganization of the primary mechanics or available experience. Sometimes called the game of life.

User Interface

User Interface (UI) refers to the components, menus, and graphical elements that help players navigate the game, including but not limited to health, maps, currencies, or abilities. The user interface may include a heads-up display (HUD) of information available during the game, such as ammo counters.

This article originally appeared in Issue 345 of Game Informer.