Games Dev Glossary

Last modification: 9 Dec, 2020

Do you ever come across a new word and think to yourself what in the world is that? Gone are the days of endlessly searching through forums because we've compiled a list of the most common game dev terms to ensure that you'll be a games whiz in no time.  

AAA Game:

Opposite of an indie game. Games created by major companies. [1]





In gaming, artificial intelligence is used to deliver a realistic gaming experience. AI is also used to increase the player’s interest and satisfaction. [2]

Alpha Game:

Early version of a game that is still in the development phase. Generally, software goes

through two levels of testing; alpha is first. During alpha testing, internal users will test the game. [3]


Assets are elements you can add to your game project and simply use. Assets can be created on your own, or they can be purchased. A benefit of having assets in game development is the reduction of load time. [4]


The character or model that is used to represent each player in the game. [5]


Donkey Kong

Fun fact: Miyamoto, creator of Donkey Kong believed the words “Donkey” and “Kong” meant “stubborn ape” in English.[6]


Baking is the process used to pre-compute texture and lighting information. Think of baking as combining a system of data into a simplified, more permanent form. [7]


The second stage of testing in which external users pilot the game.[8]



Bugs are defects which are unexpected results from the code being used in the game build. [9]



Game development lingo for the “version” of a game. Also known as a release or release candidate. [10]


Detection, isolation and rejection of unnecessary data in game design. [10]


Process of removing errors and undesired behavior from a program. [11]

Barry T. Smith



A free version of the game that is released to demonstrate its capabilities to be used as a trial before purchasing the entire game. [12]


Easter eggs:

A hidden feature or surprise in the game. Easter eggs are often unlocked by using certain techniques to complete in-game tasks. [13]


Image credit: IGN [31]

Fun fact: The very first recorded easter egg was created by Warren Robinett who sneakily built a secret room without his Atari bosses’ knowledge or consent. Once unlocked through a series of hidden steps, players would see the flashing words “Created by Warren Robinett" [14]


An action that is completed through user-input. For example, when a player presses a button, and we see the on-screen avatar jump, this is considered an event. [10]


Game Design Document (GDD):

A document that serves as a blueprint from which the game is to be built. The benefit of a game design document is that it helps define the game and keeps the entire team on track. [15]

 Example: The original GDD for the first Grand Theft Auto [16]


Game Designer:

The designer is the person who comes up with the overall design of the game. Designers are responsible for coming up with the initial framework of the game.[17]

Game Developer:

The developer is the person or group of people that are responsible for converting the ideas and objectives of the design team into the actual game. [17]

Game engine:

In order for developers to bring the vision of the design to life, they must write out the code. Fortunately, they are not required to write all of the code from scratch because many of the games we play today are implemented on prebuilt computer software also known as an engine. [18]

Game localization:

When video games are to be sold in other countries, they must be prepared beforehand. It allows developers to tailor the experience to fit the needs of the different audiences located in different parts of the world. The most common form of game localization is translation. Another form is censorship. [19]

Final fight scene

Original Japanese version vs. Localized version

Blood graphics replaced with cartoon graphics [20]

Garbage Collection:

The concept referring to how your program will clean up the memory it uses. Garbage Collection refers to a process where the virtual environment running the program will occasionally look at things that it has needed memory for and will if possible tell the computer when the memory is free to use. [4]


Gold Master:

It is a release candidate milestone which passes all of a publisher and platform's requirements. It is considered the finished game, locked and ready to be reproduced and sold. [21]


Graphical User Interface (GUI):

This video game concept includes everything onscreen that the user is going to see as part of their gaming experience. Common elements you’re going to find on a GUI include the player character’s health and gear, or like in “Rise of the Tomb Raider” a map helping guide the player to his or her next objective. [22]


Rise of the Tomb Raider - IGDB



When an element is repeated numerous times. For example, play testing is iterative. [23]




The way you establish parameter values in a video segment to enable easier editing and progress logical visual development. Keyframing becomes a major part of animation, allowing for edits in every frame. [24]




A pre-rendered lighting system that is stored for continual use in a game. [10]


Non player character (NPC):


Refers to a character that is controlled by the AI instead of the player. [23]


Player agency:


The level of interaction and control the player has. Actions performed by the player has an impact on the gameplay. [25]




Playing a prototype of a game to try to find ways to improve it. Sometimes play testing in video games is used to work out the bugs in the game; proper play testing is intended to improve the design of the game. [23]




Anything that supports the scene but is not part of the level layout or character set. [26]


Role playing game (RPG):


Genre of game where the gamer controls a fictional character (or characters) that undertakes a quest in an imaginary world. [27]

The Witcher - IGDB



Term describes a game where players are free to do more or less as they please rather than follow a linear story. [23]


Scene graph:

A data structure used in game development for organizing objects in the game world for drawing and other record-keeping. [28]



Another word for coding or programming; the act of writing code. [10]


Texture mapping:

The process of applying textures.


A discipline of design that is focused on the psychology of the player to improve the overall game experience. [29]


Visual scripting:

It is a tool designed to make the entry barrier to programming much lower. As code is more visual, it needs less abstract thinking to be understood. [30]

Now that you're a master at games terminology, get out there and show off your new skills! 




[1] A GLOSSARY OF GAME BIZ TERMS. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[2] AIT. (2020, February 19). Understanding the Role of AI in Gaming. Retrieved from

[3] Beal, V. (n.d.). Alpha Version Definition & Meaning. Retrieved from

[4] Glossary of Gaming, Game Development, and Game Design Terms. (2016). Retrieved from

[5] M. (n.d.). Video Game Terminology. Retrieved from

[6] Kohler, C. (2016). Turns Out the Best Ideas for 'Donkey Kong' Came When the Game's Creator Was Fully Nude. Retrieved from

[7] A Brief History of 3D Texturing in Video Games. (2019, May 09). Retrieved from

[8] Beta. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[9] Look At Various Types of Game Bugs Found in Game Testing Methodologies. (2020, August 06). Retrieved from

[10] Technologies, U. (n.d.). Game Development Terms. Retrieved from

[11] Knickerbocker, P. (n.d.). Game Maker Debugging. Retrieved from GAME MAKER DEBUGGING

[12] Demo: Definition of Demo by Oxford Dictionary on also meaning of Demo. (n.d.). Retrieved November, from

[13] What is an Easter Egg? - Definition from Techopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[14] Porges, S. (2017, December 20). The True Story Behind The Original Video Game 'Easter Egg' That Inspired 'Ready Player One'. Retrieved from

[15] N. (n.d.). Game Design Document Template. Retrieved from

[16] Race'n'Chase Game Design. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[17] What's the Difference Between a Game Designer & Developer? (2020, June 15). Retrieved from

[18] What's the Difference Between a Game Designer & Developer? (2020, June 15). Retrieved from

[19] What is Game Localization & How Does it Affect Designers? (2018, May 12). Retrieved January, from

[20] Mandelin, C. (2018, September 14). Game Localization and Nintendo of America's Content Policies in the 1990s (NSFW). Retrieved from

[21] Gold Master. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[22] Pagan, E. (2017, September 7). Beginner's Guide to Game Design: Learning the Terms and Lingo. Retrieved from

[23] Glossary for Game Designers. (2010). Retrieved from

[24] Keyframing in Visual Development for Animation & Film Explained: Academy of Art University's Blog. (2020, September 01). Retrieved from

[25] Eng, D. (2020, August 20). What is Player Agency? Retrieved November, from

[26] Nelson, S. (2014, September 30). Using Photoshop to Create Art for a Mobile Game. Retrieved from

[27] What is a Role-Playing Game (RPG)? (n.d.). Retrieved from

[28] C. (2016, July 31). Game Development: The Scene Graph. Retrieved from

[29] Long, S. (2017, November 28). What Is Games 'User Experience' (UX) and How Does It Help? Retrieved from

[30] Linietsky, J., & Manzur, A. (n.d.). What is Visual Scripting. Retrieved from

[31] The First Easter Egg - Adventure Wiki Guide. (2018, March 28). Retrieved from

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