Home / Gaming / Feature: Video Game Vocab To Spark Forum Wars – Ten Of Gaming's Trickiest Terms – Nintendo Life

Feature: Video Game Vocab To Spark Forum Wars – Ten Of Gaming's Trickiest Terms – Nintendo Life

As with any medium or specialised field, the world of video games has created a vast list of jargon that may not mean much to people unacquainted with the medium and its making. Try describing the latest anime roguelike MOBA with turn-based SRPG trappings to non-gamers and you’ll be met with blank faces.

Video game enthusiasts — as with fans in any field — can often be linguistic sticklers when it comes to definitions. However, with the medium having grown to include such a broad range of genres, experiences and fans, ubiquitous language can get caught in a no-man’s land between being specific enough for die-hard fans and functioning as useful chunks of terminology for non-experts. For some people, getting wound up by this lack of specificity is a full-time job.

We’ve taken a breezy look at how you pronounce certain gaming-related words before, and we thought it would be fun to look at a handful of gaming terminology that has been known to trigger forum wars in the past (and the present). The words below can mean something very particular to one person and something entirely different to another; laser-specific in one sense, or vague enough to be meaningless, depending who you ask.

So, let’s take a lighthearted (repeat: lighthearted!) look at a few of the terms guaranteed to rile up somebody, somewhere — maybe even you (or us)…

“ludonarrative dissonance”

"ludonarrative dissonance"

Coined by game designer Clint Hocking in a 2007 blog post on the subject of BioShock, this neat term is used to describe a scenario when a game’s systems and mechanics (the ludic ‘play’ elements – from the Latin ‘ludus’) encourage behaviour that contradicts the nature of its characters or the story being told.

One frequently used example is the fact that roguish (but not roguelike) Nathan Drake is, in fact, a genocidal criminal given the piles of corpses left in his wake. The narrative frames him as likeable, sympathetic guy while the gameplay promotes offing dudes by the dozen. In a game with a popcorn-style, Indiana Jones vibe, it’s more humorous than distracting. In other games, that tension between story and gameplay can push you out of the experience; ‘Ludonarrative dissonance’ is an economic way to describe that complex idea.

Nathan Drake

Absolute monster, but ya gotta love ‘im!

So what’s the problem?

Embarrassment, perhaps? It’s an unashamedly academic term and sticks out like a sore thumb when dropped into casual conversation: when Clint Hocking uses ‘ludonarrative dissonance’ in an essay, he sounds like a total boss; when you use it while chatting with your pals down the pub, you sound like a total asset. Hocking is a game designer of renown, and his first name is Clint — Clint! Your first name is not Clint*, ergo you cannot pull off ‘ludonarrative dissonance’ whatever the context.

Jokes aside, there’s a large section of the video gaming audience actively opposed to viewing them as high art or worthy of deep academic analysis. Video games are just about fun right? Why do you have to pollute my hobby with all your highfalutin nonsense!?

While we can sympathise to a point, video games have the same potential as any creative form of expression. They can be anything from trashy time sinks to treatises tackling the weightiest, worthiest subjects — and sometimes many things simultaneously.

And just like literature or cinema or a ten-part Netflix series, tough subjects can be addressed with a deft, delicate touch or wielded with all the subtlety of a battle axe to the temple. Games continue to grow more sophisticated all the time, as does the language to discuss them.

*apart from you, Clint. How you doing?

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