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PC gaming terms and their true meanings

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The language of gaming is constantly mutating. For instance, "lag" used to refer to delays in client/server communication, but lately we've heard it used as if it's synonymous with "low framerate." Baffling. To help clear some things up, we've asked regular PC Gamer writer and all-round lexical savant Richard Cobbett to create a brief glossary of PC gaming's most important terms and their modern definitions (with a few additions of our own).

Page one: AAA - DRM

Page two: Early Access - Kill streak

Page three: Lag - Quick time event

Page four: Real-time strategy - Zombie

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AAA: Industry talk for ‘big and amazing game’. Since nobody will admit to actively making crap, almost nobody will admit to going below AA.

Abandonware: A nice sounding but legally-meaningless term for games no longer sold and thus deemed fair to download for free. Respectable abandonware sites will remove any that return to the market, such as via GOG.COM, even if their current rights-holders ambitiously think a game that nobody actually liked back in 1995 is now worth $10, had nothing to do with the original, and nobody involved with its creation is being paid.

Achievement: An in-game recognition of your ability, specifically your ability take a sense of pride in such things as playing 500 multiplayer games or collecting a hundred hats. Originally referred to actual achievements, but people didn’t like them being so hard to achieve.

Action: A niche genre defined by things happening, sometimes things involving movement.

Adventure: A point and click-based genre involving wonderful worlds, often hilarious dialogue, epic tales, and mindbending puzzles that any sane person would solve by taking $20 to the nearest hardware store instead of stealing from tramps and whipping up chlorine gas.

Aimbot: A cheat that cheaters use to have the computer aim for them, the cheats.

ARPG: Action RPG. Or a grammatically incorrect way of saying ‘an RPG’.

Assassin’s Creed: Ubisoft wishing you a Happy New Year.

Autosave: Something you know you shouldn’t switch your PC off during, but occasionally feel the urge to just to stick one to that smug spinning icon.

Avatar: A player character, usually customisable. Come in many flavours, occasionally including tall and blue, but none worse than that M. Night Shyamalan movie.

Beta: See Finished game.

Boss: A particularly tough enemy that proves its wits and tactical savvy by either living in a room designed to kill it, or a dungeon containing a weapon which is its only weakness. May repeatedly attempt to charge and headbutt you despite being knocked unconscious with every failed attempt.

Buff: A beneficial effect placed on a character to make them stronger or shinier. Debuff is the negative, yet Debuffest is highly regarded.

Bullet hell: Games and mechanics that involve filling the screen with dangerous projectiles. It is not clear what the bullets did to deserve their damnation. Probably jaywalking in improbable expanding patterns.

Cheese: Any strategy that enables players to win in a manner unforeseen by the developers. Cheese is increasingly spreadable thanks to the internet. (And always delicious.)

Checkpoint: Thing that you die a hundred times before reaching.

Cooldown: The amount of time you have to feel depressed between using cool attacks.

Console: Something non-PC owners will need once their new toy becomes outdated.

cRPG: Computer Role Playing Game. Typically like playing a party based game of Dungeons and Dragons with your friends, only without the need for a Dungeon Master to handle the action, dice to determine results, or indeed, friends.

Cover system: A way of spending entire battles staring at the side of a crate, occasionally popping up into the air to trade shots like they’re Pokémon cards.

Crouch jump: A height-giving move better appreciated than imagined.

Class: In which the vast possibilities of the universe are condensed into a few more easily balanced archetypes, the female variants usually wishing they got proper armour.

Closed beta: A brief period of time where developers give a game to fans to test, and then pretend that all of their problems and complaints will actually be fixed before release.

Cutting edge: About $400 more than you secretly know you actually needed to spend.

Cutscene: A scene intended to convey plot, which in most cases should have been cut.

Difficulty level: A decision you’re asked to make by psychically predicting what the developer's definition actually entails, and are then stuck with even if they turn out to be sadists.

Double-jump: An affront to physics so common, it is its absence that often feels strange.

DLC: The rest of the game you bought.

Dungeon: A sprawling world of monsters and treasure and occasionally a cell. It is rarely particularly clear who built these things and why. But on the plus side, loot!

DRM: An expensive and controversial way of making pirates wait almost a week to play the latest games, sometimes.