PC Gaming from A-Z: The Windows 10 Gaming Glossary

Hi there, Xbox gamer! Are you excited about all the awesome possibilities that come with playing games on your PC, thanks to Windows 10? We sure are! But boy howdy, those PC gamers sure do have a lot of lingo that they sling back and forth that makes regular guys like us downright scratch our noggins. Not to worry, though: We’ve put together a quick set of definitions for some of the most common terms – one for every letter of the alphabet – so that you, too, can talk shop like the best of them. Now, some of these terms have, naturally, bled over into console gaming as well, so they’re not necessarily all quite as PC-specific these days. Regardless, it’s helpful to understand just what all this stuff means!

Acronyms: If there’s one thing not lacking in the world of PC gaming, it’s acronyms. From AFK (Away from Keyboard) and DPS (Damage Per Second) to GG (Good Game) and FTW (For the Win), it seems like there’s a shorthand way to let people know how you’re feeling or what you’re doing. Some acronyms are specific to certain genres (example: APM, or Actions Per Minute, is a real-time strategy term), while others are just generally applicable to gaming.

Benchmark: A test for measuring and evaluating the performance of a given PC’s hardware, including processors and video cards. Software such as 3DMark Vantage is very popular for this. Running benchmark tests can help you figure out which settings should be tweaked or changed for optimal performance.

Camper: A filthy, no-good player who stalks prone foes for repeated, easy kills. The practice is prevalent in first-person shooters, and it’s usually frowned upon, since campers habitually set up so that they can easily snipe players in spawn locations ad other such spots. Also see “Griefing,” below.

DirectX: A collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) dedicated to handling all manner of multimedia and game development tasks. DirectX’s Direct3D API is especially prevalent in game development. Windows 10 will ship with native support for the latest version, DirectX 12. Upgrading to a newer version of DirectX typically make your games look better and run more smoothly than ever.

Engine: As in “game engine” – examples include Unreal Engine 4 and Frostbite 3. These are software frameworks that developers use to build their games. Each engine has its own set of advantages and drawbacks, and some are more suited to specific genres of games.

Frames Per Second (“fps”): Not to be confused with first-person shooters, the other FPS. This represents the number of graphical frames that the game outputs in one second. The higher, the better. 60fps generally indicates smooth, video-like performance that can often border on lifelike, while 30fps looks similar to the sort of visual fidelity you see in films or on television shows.

Griefing: The act of killing or otherwise harassing other players in-game, with the express intention of frustrating them and/or spoiling their gaming experience – thus causing them grief. Can effectively constitute a form of cyber-bullying. Don’t be that person.

Hands-On Throttle and Stick (“HOTAS”): A combination throttle (left hand) and joystick (right hand) controller setup, popularly used for flight simulators and other piloting games such as Elite: Dangerous and EVE Online. Very immersive!

Indie Games: As in “independent.” Creative, small-scale titles that are developed without the backing or support of a large publisher. This has been a growing trend – particularly in the PC gaming space – for the past several years, and has resulted in a number of wonderful games, such as Fez and Limbo. Our own ID@Xbox program gives small game developers the tools they need to self-publish independent games on Xbox One.

Joystick: If you’re a gamer over 30, you almost definitely know what this is. If you’re under 30, we’re jealous of you and hope your treat your gaming elders with respect.

Keyboard/Mouse: The default controller setup for PC gaming. In a first-person shooter or online RPG, for example, movement is controlled with WASD keys (see below), typically with the Spacebar mapped to jump, Ctrl mapped to crouch, and so on. In this case, the mouse would control camera movement, with the buttons mapped to various attack functions. Other genres, such as real-time strategy games, can leverage the keyboard for all manner of variously complex hotkey layouts.

Latency: A measure of time delay – interchangeable with “lag.” Latency might indicate a problem with a gamer’s Internet connection, some critical miscommunication with the game’s server, or (in the worst cases) some sort of malicious server-level attack. In any case, it usually causes you to miscalculate your actions or miss narrow performance windows. A source of frustration on any gaming platform!

Mod: Short for “modification,” a mod is a user-generated level, weapon, or other customized piece of content for a game. Many PC games natively support mods, in an effort to cultivate an active community and extend the game’s life beyond whatever content the developer has provided. Depending on the game, these can range from small, one-off pieces of content, to full-blown campaigns or scenarios. Many professional game developers begin their careers as hobbyist modders!

Noob: A newbie – literally someone who is new to a genre or game, and has not learned how to play it adequately and/or skillfully. Although, these days, “noob” is more commonly just used to indicate someone you don’t like, for any reason at all.

Optical Motion Tracking: Another technology that’s popular with flight sim junkies, this tends to consist of a set of infrared sensors that can track your head movement as you play a game. You can use these sensors to, say, look around an in-game cockpit naturally. NaturalPoint’s TrackIR headset is especially popular for this. Coupled with a HOTAS, this can result in an even more immersive flight experience.

Player Versus Player (“PVP”):  Player-on-player combat, in contrast to player versus environment (“PVE”) combat. If you get camped (see above) by some griefer (see above), in PVP, then you might just be some QQing (see below) noob (see above). Work on that APM (see above), bro!

QQ: Derogatory shorthand for crying. When someone is said to be “QQing,” it’s because they are whining or complaining about something that they are upset about in a game. Named “QQ” because the two Qs look like teary eyes. “QQ MORE NOOB” is a popular response to chronic complainers.

Raid: A large, team-focused, and repeatable multiplayer event – usually in the form of a dungeon or other gauntlet – that tests a group’s endurance and organizational aptitude. Raids tend to constitute a large part of the average MMORPG’s high-level content.

Steam: Valve’s PC gaming storefront, publishing platform, and social networking client, launched in 2005 alongside Half-Life 2.

Tank: A big, burly, heavily armed and/or armored character (examples: Team Fortress 2’s Heavy; many of World of Warcraft’s Warrior and Paladin builds). Their job on a team is usually to soak up damage and protect other players. Also, a giant war vehicle that shoots stuff and blows other stuff up. That’s not really PC gaming-specific, though.

Uber: German for ‘OMG best thing EVAR!!!!11!!!11″ (we may or may not be translating this correctly). A succinct way of describing especially powerful items or tactics. Not to be confused with the popular transportation app.

Ventrilo: A popular voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) client for Windows, heavily favored for team communications in games. Similar to other programs like Skype, Mumble, and Teamspeak, it lets you quickly communicate with your friends and teammates. Very important for tense, high-synergy competitive team games like League of Legends and Team Fortress 2!|

WASD: Shorthand for the W, A, S, and D keys on the keyboard – the most common keys bound to movement in first-person shooters (and other action games). Usually pronounced “wazz-dee,” W moves forward, S moves back… you can figure out the rest. Think of this like the left thumbstick on your Xbox controller, while the mouse functions like the right thumbstick. You’ll be crushing noobs in no time!

X-axis and (might as well kill two letters with one stone) Y-axis: The horizontal and vertical planes of movement (respectively), as typically directed by an analog controller or thumbstick. In other words, the X-axis is the one that turns a character or vehicle left and right, and the Y-axis is the one that looks up and down. All you people who don’t play with an inverted Y-axis (i.e. push the stick up to look down, and vice versa) are straight-up wrong. [Editor’s Note: Nope, sorry, you’re the wrong one, inverted writer!]

Zerg Rush: A popular – if not very creative – real-time strategy tactic, wherein a player swarms and attempts to overpower their opponent with a massive horde of weak units. This term was popularized in StarCraft, thanks to the Zerg faction heavily favoring such swarm tactics. It has since become a ubiquitous way to refer to such methods.

And there you have it. Now jump onto your sweet Windows 10 PC and get gaming!