04 Jan 2010 [ Prev | Next ]

Sources for Defining Terms and Concepts


If you come across an unfamiliar game-related term, please feel free to post a question asking for a clarification from me or your classmates. 

But since you are sitting in front of a computer right now...

  • What They Play -- Gaming 101
    A glossary designed for parents who don't understand what their kids are talking about.

  • Wikipedia
    Encyclopedias are never good at helping the reader assess the different opinions of individual researchers, so no encyclopedia is that useful in an academic research paper.  Nevertheless, Wikipedia offers an up-do-date compendium of popular culture; it's very useful as a starting point, but instead of citing Wikipedia directly, follow the footnotes to more credible sources.

    If your favorite game doesn't have a Wikipedia entry, or you think you can improve the existing entry, remember that Wikipedia is user-written and user-edited. If you're an expert, share that expertise.

    Here are a few game-related Wikipedia articles that you might find useful.
 Other Games-Related Glossaries

Acronyms and Terms (sampler)

  • Adventure game -- typically deals with quests and puzzles, with a complex story, interactions with in-game characters controlled by the computer (NPCs)
  • AI (artificial intelligence) -- computer-based emulation of thought; used to control the actions of non-player characters (NPCs)
  • GAG (graphic adventure game) --
  • IF (interactive fiction)
  • MUD (multiple user dungeon) -- text-based gmae for multiple players, named after an early mainframe adventure game called "Dungeon" (later released commercially as Zork).
  • NPC (non-player character) -- the computer-controlled characters
  • PC (player charater) -- the in-game representation of a human player sitting at the controls.
  • RPG (role-playing game) -- combat-based, resource-management games, dealing with extended campaigns, numerous variables, and a PC whose powers grow steadily over time. Dungeons and Dragons and J.R.R. Tolkien are big influences on this genre.

Academic Concepts

  • Review -- A news feature designed mostly to help consumers decide whether they want to buy, rent, or pass on a product. Reviewers play an important part in the economics of indsutries such as publishing, the movies, and games, but a game review covers only a subset of the kinds of issues we will discuss in this class. Reviewers work on a tight deadline, and may have time to play a game for only a few hours before they have to start churning out their article (if they want to beat their competition). Reviewers help consumers decide what games to buy.
  • Criticism -- An essay, written after sufficient time has passed so that a thoughtful author can consider the effect of a work, the ways in which the work has changed the field, the ways in which the field affected the way the target audience reacted to the work. Critics help publishers decide what to publish, and provide depth, context, terminology, and analysis that reviewers can draw on when their next pressing deadline looms.
  • Theory -- A body of knowledge that helps critics determine what criteria to use when evaluating whole categories of works. For example, a critic may draw on feminist literary theory when evaluating the way women are depicted in video games, literary theory when evaluating the emotional impact of the story, and film theory to critique the cut scenes.
  • Critical Thinking. Lower levels are Knowledge, Comprehension and Application. Higher levels are Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation. See "Writing that Demonstrates Thinking Ability."

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