A Beginner’s Guide to Video Game Acronyms

Acronyms are a daily part of our lives – we say things like “TV,” “ATM,” and “PB&J” in everyday conversation, and nothing is lost in translation. Some acronyms have even become words in their own right, like “scuba.”

There are some acronyms, however, that aren’t very common. For example, if you didn’t follow Maggie’s Musings, you might not know that “WIR” is an acronym for “Week In Review.” A lot of groups, from writers to musicians, have their own systems of acronyms that don’t usually make sense to anyone outside of that group, and nowhere is this truer than in the world of gaming.

Even though I’m a gamer myself, there are some acronyms I didn’t know until recently. One of my friends kept referring to “DPS” during a Pokémon Go raid a while back, and at the time, I felt too embarrassed to ask what that meant. So trust me, you’re not alone if this jargon sounds like a foreign language – you’ll get the hang of it soon!


Stands for artificial intelligence. In gaming specifically, it refers to the programming for computer players or non-player characters. If something has “good AI,” that usually means that specific character is very responsive to the environment and the changes that happen.

“The AI for that enemy is super glitchy; it keeps running into the wall even though I’m not there!”


AOE is the Area of Effect, used to refer to attacks that impact a certain radius rather than a specific target. In other words, if a player were to use an AOE attack, it would affect all of the players in that set radius, not a specific one.

“If you use an AOE attack here, you’ll hit multiple enemies at once!”

One of the characters is using an AoE attack, designated by the yellow cone-like shape.


Not necessarily an acronym that stands for anything, but CPU refers to computer players. This is not the same as a non-player character. A CPU is controlled with artificial intelligence, but unlike a non-player character, it is often an opponent that the player engages in battle.

“I definitely set the CPU’s difficulty way too high, because I keep losing this fight.”


DLC is the term for downloadable content, which refers to digital updates for a video game, usually available sometime after a game’s release. DLC may be free, or it may be purchased through some type of online service. It can include things like patches or updates for the game, or bonus features like extra maps in a first-person shooter or “skins” that can change a character’s appearance.

“With all the DLC they’re releasing, it doesn’t even feel like I’m getting a full game anymore.”

DPS (Damage Per Second)

A way of measuring how powerful a weapon or character is by how much damage per second it can deal. Measured by dividing the damage dealt by how long it took for the attack to take place.

“My character is super-fast, and her sword is really strong, so she has a really high DPS rating.”


Made popular by mobile gaming, free-to-play games don’t require an initial purchase, but also provides other features at a fee. This may include extra lives, in-game currency that can be redeemed for goods, or bonus game content. Candy Crush is one example of this.

“I always feel like I’m getting cheated out of my money when I play F2P games.”


First-Person Shooters are video games where the player sees through the eyes of their character and uses a gun or gun-like weapon to fight enemies. Unlike a third-person shooter, the player doesn’t see their character “from the outside,” except for possibly in cutscenes. Popular examples include Call of Duty, Halo, and Doom.

“I tried Call of Duty once, but FPS games just aren’t my thing.”

An example of an FPS, where the player sees through the eyes of their character.


Literally health points, but it’s such a common term that it’s really just used to a character’s health level. It may be measured in the form of a ratio (e.g. 45/100), percentage, or visually as a “health bar.” If a character gets attacked by another, they lose HP.

“My HP is really low right now, so I really hope I find some healing items soon.”


The heads-up display is the part of the game that shows the player their health or other stats in the game. It may include what items the player has equipped, a map of the area, or the in-game time.

“This HUD has way too much stuff, I feel like I can’t even see the game I’m playing.”

HUD zelda
The HUD in the original The Legend of Zelda is at the top of the screen.


A massively multiplayer online game is a genre where players engage on an online server with hundreds or thousands of other players simultaneously. They often feature an open-world design, and may be cooperative, competitive, or a combination of the two. Examples include World of Warcraft, Minecraft, and Clash of Clans.

“I love MMOs, but my internet is so slow that my game is always lagging.”


The reason we have acronyms. These are a specific subset of massively multiplayer online games, massively multiplayer online role-playing games combine the large-scale aspects of massively multiplayer online games with the gameplay of role-playing games. Examples include RuneScape, World of Warcraft (again), and EVE Online.

WoW is fun, but I’d rather play an FPS than an MMORPG.”


This acronym refers to multiplayer online battle arenas, a type of video game where players form teams and battle other teams. Different players often have different abilities that encourages strategic thinking, so MOBAs combine role-playing games and real-time strategy games. Examples include Dota and League of Legends.

“Did you hear about that new game coming out next year? It looks like a MOBA, since there are so many different characters.”


Like computer players, non-player characters are controlled by artificial intelligence, but players don’t engage them in combat. They include any other character the player interacts with, from the shopkeeper who sells you a potion to the woman who gives you a sidequest.

“I love how the developers gave their NPCs such self-aware dialogue in this game.”

Here, Link is talking to an NPC (and a relatable one at that)


Refers to a character that is overpowered, and almost never in a positive way. You’ll often hear it used in cries of frustration.

“Dude, your character is so OP, it’s not even a fair fight! Pick someone else!”


A role-playing game is a broad genre of games where the player typically controls a group of characters (the “party”), embarks on some type of quest, and engages in battle with computer-controlled characters. Examples include anything from Pokémon to Final Fantasy to Mass Effect.

“I really want to try out a new RPG, but there are so many I don’t know where to start!”


Real-Time Strategy games are strategy games where the player must make decisions on the fly – in other words, there aren’t “turns” in the game, so the player can’t stop to decide what their next steps will be. The player often has to juggle multiple tasks at once, making these games challenging. Examples include Starcraft, Pikmin, and Age of Empires.

“I tried to play an RTS once, but it really stressed me out!”

This RTS game requires players to manage different units, like blimps and ships.


Literally experience points, or more commonly, just experience. This is a feature most commonly seen in role-playing games, where characters are rewarded with XP after a battle. If characters gain a certain amount of XP, they may increase in their “level” and therefore, their strength.

“I just need a little bit more XP before my Charmander levels up and I can evolve it!”

Readers, have you encountered any weird acronyms in your life? What would you do if you had to explain them to someone who didn’t know what it meant? Feel free to share in the comments! I’m always interested to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Have a great week!

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