The Basics 101 – Game Design and Developer Terms You Should Know If You Want to Pursue a Career in The Gaming Industry

Game Design

If you’re a gamer who likes to stay up to date on industry news, you’re probably already acquainted with some of the terms used here. This glossary of terms can come in handy when engaging in online forums, researching learning opportunities, or working on creating an indie studio and need to get more familiar with game design and development. Featured image by Sigmund.

If you are looking to finance your game design career, we suggest you check out this “A financial guide to gaming” to learn more on how to do that.

General Game Design and Development Terms

Game Design
© Senad Palic

A Video Game Designer and Developer are used interchangeably on a regular basis. This is understandable because a lot of the terminology is shared between each discipline. By 2026, growth for designers is expected to increase by 8%, while demand for software developers is expected to increase by 24%.

For anyone interested in a career in video games, there is excellent job security and limitless opportunities. The median income game developer salary will almost certainly rise, as will the salary prospects for all IT professionals working in the video game industry.

AAA (Triple-A)

Anything that isn’t known as “indie” and is produced and published by a mid-size or large publisher.

Agent

An in-game character or object that interacts with other objects in its environment using artificial intelligence.

AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a form of in-game entity whose functionality is determined by computer code rather than human input. NPCs (non-player characters) are typical AI entities.

Alpha

A version of the game that includes all of the main features and the majority of the assets. Internally, this iteration of a game is normally propagated to check for consistency and bugs.

AR / VR / MR / XR

Augmented / virtual / mixed / extended reality. XR (extended Reality) is Technology-mediated touch points that combine virtual and real-world environments and realities.

Asset

Characters, objects, sound effects, charts, environments, and other elements of a video game are all referred to as “Assets.”

Baking

A method of preprocessing game assets and data to ensure that they load and execute well in real-time without slowing down gameplay by necessitating a large amount of processor or GPU power.

Balance

Providing a consistent and predictable gaming environment. For example, instead of giving one weapon significantly more power than others, make sure weapons deal sufficient damage and protection absorbs the damage sufficiently, or make levels are not too challenging to be enjoyable. Unbalanced gameplay, on the other hand, is often done on purpose.

Beta

A version of the game that includes all of the main features and properties. There are no big bugs in this version of the game, and it is nearing code release. Now and then, a limited version of a beta update is made available to the public for bug reports and constructive feedback.

Bug

Any problem with a game’s creation that renders it unplayable, unreliable, or unsatisfying in its current state.

Build

The “version” of a game is referred to in game development jargon. Often known as a “release nominee” or “release.”

Cert

Meaning certification. The procedure by which console manufacturers evaluate a game’s compatibility with their technology and delivery networks. Playtesting and efficiency assurance are not included.

Cinematics/Cutscenes

Parts of a game that the player does not have influence over. These are usually used to highlight important plot points.

Clipping

The method of pre-defining several sections in a game where rendering takes place, in order to improve game performance in those areas.

Clipping Region

A section of a game dedicated to making GameObjects and landscape.

Code

Computer languages are used to create and define software features. C# (C Sharp) is one such programming language used as well as C++

Code release

The edition of a game that is authorized for approval by console manufacturers.

Collision

This is two or more separate objects that are destined to interact with one another. You standing the ground in a park necessitates collision criteria on both the subjects feet as well as the ground. If these parameters are not met the subject simply falls through the ground into a void and repeats over and over.

Collision detection

A method for determining when and where an object in a game can “collide” with another object. This is usually achieved with a hitbox object, which can either avoid a collision or determine what area must be reached to cause a collision.

Console

A gaming computer is a type of personal computer that is designed specifically for playing games. Consoles examples include the Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, and Nintendo Switch.

Content

Artifacts, modules, GameObjects, and scripts, along with others are all components of your game.

Cross-platform

Anything that can be used or worked on a variety of platforms.

Culling

In game design, the identification, isolation, and removal of any unnecessary information.

Debug

In a game, identifying and eliminating bugs. Bug-bashing is another term for it.

Demo

A game that has been published to the market as a proof-of-concept for marketing and/or feedback purposes.

Dev

Slang for “developer” or “development.”

Edge

An angle’s relation between two vertices.

Event

A game action that is done with the help of the player. An incident occurs when a player clicks a button on their controller and the on-screen character hops.

Feature

Any feature of a game that contributes to its overall value and intent. Mechanics, plot, and level design are all factors to take into account.

Game design document (GDD)

A technical document created by game developers to completely describe and explain the project they’ve created or intend to create, typically as part of a publisher’s pitch. A game design document lays out and describes the plot, gameplay, characters, level design, and other key elements of the game.

Game designer

A game designer is someone who creates the aesthetic and layout of a game. TAKE NOTE: The words “game designer” and “game developer” are frequently interchanged, despite the fact that the two positions are functionally distinct.

Game developer

One who uses coding and in-engine asset development to transform a game concept into a playable game.

Game development

The process of making a game; also known as “gamedev.” While some titles have been developed by only one or two game developers, the game development process usually involves contributions from one or more game designers, artists, programmers, animators, testers, project managers, and so on.

Game Engine

Software that provides game developers with a set of tools and features to help them create skilled and productive games.

Gold master

A game that meets all publisher and platform specifications, has all assets and functionality, and is ready to go live.

Hitbox

An invisible object that is formed around another GameObject and defines the region in which collisions with certain other objects can happen.

Keyframing

The process of placing an asset in a standalone frame of activity and recording that moment, to be accompanied by others, until there is a sequence of these frames to effectively express animation of the asset, as used in game production.

Lightmap

A lighting system that has been pre-rendered and saved for use in a game.

Localization

Creating multiple playable games that can be played in several languages.

Mechanics

The roles, rules, and outcomes that make gaming possible. A game’s mechanics determine how rewarding, engaging, and immersive it is.

Mesh

A collection of vertices, edges, and faces that act as the foundation of a model in a video game.

Mobile

A portable system with a personal computer’s processing power and features for real-time voice and data communications.

Mobile Gaming

Mobile gaming is one of the most common types of entertainment in the world since it can be played just about anywhere.

Model

A completely 3D asset developed by applying textures and other attributes to a mesh in a video game.

Multiplatform

Compatibility with a variety of hardware and operating systems.

Parallax

Background elements move at a different pace than their foreground counterparts through player/scene movement, giving the illusion of depth and scale in 2D games.

PC

PC is an abbreviation that usually refers to a desktop or laptop computer. Because of its improved performance capabilities and customization options, many gamers prefer PC gaming to console or smartphone gaming.

Physics

To make movement and environmental behaviors more realistic in games, real-life physics laws are used.

Pixel

A single point of illumination or color that, when merged with other pixels, forms a picture or larger visual element; the smallest building-block of a screen image.

Pixel art

To closely fit classic arcade and console graphics, this design style is usually restricted to 8 and 16-bit graphics.

Playtesting

Playing through each development project to look for bugs, ensure gameplay flow, and identify possible areas for improvement.

Polygon

A three-dimensional (3D) object generated by a computer-programmed sequence of lines.

Prop

Objects within a game that are interactive

Prototyping

Creating several early iterations of a game to test various mechanics and features before deciding which would be better for the final product.

Quality assurance (QA)

The process of evaluating a game’s overall output, which usually entails identifying and removing bugs.

Ray tracing

A light-rendering methodology that creates an ultra-realistic simulation of light interaction with elements in a game.

Render

The act of using computer processing to continuously generate and update a 2D or 3D image.

Scripting

The act of writing code

Shaders

Lighting and shadow effects are usually regulated by small programs within broader game development processes.

Skeletal animation

A type of computer animation in which a mesh is given a set of “bones” that enable the mesh to be expressed and posed for animation keyframing.

Sprite

A Drink. Just Kidding. Sometimes used as 2D GameObjects, bitmap photos. Sprites are often used in game design as textures in 3D.

Terrain

In a video game, something that generates the world that is traversed.

Texture

A visual covering applied to GameObjects, such as a character’s skin as an example.

Texture mapping

The application of textures to GameObjects.

Tile

In a 2D game design, an image that is used to construct other, larger images (such as a platform).

Tilemap

A framework for storing and managing tile assets for 2D level development.

UI/GUI

The graphical user interface (GUI) is a type of user interface. Usually comprised of but not limited to on-screen menus, inventories, and other non-game interactive systems.

UX

User experience is a term used in the game development industry to describe how a player feels while playing a game. Assuming that a game design and execution are enjoyable and user-friendly.

Vector graphic

A type of graphic image that connects lines and curves with two-dimensional nodes, allowing it to be scaled and personalized.

Vertex

A point in two-dimensional or three-dimensional space. An edge is formed by joining two vertices together in this game design.

Vertical Slice

A component of a game that is usually offered to stakeholders or publishers as a proof-of-concept in exchange for funding and collaborations.

Visual scripting

A method of visually organizing and generating code, in which developers can build and attach graphical nodes to arrange various GameObjects, events, processes, and so on.

Genres of games and in-game terms for game design

Game Design
© Nick Hamze
Action-adventure

Players must conquer a variety of small and large challenges when advancing through several levels or scenarios in this game.

Augmented reality (AR)

A virtual reality experience overlayed on a physical location that mixes gaming and augmented reality technology. Pokémon Go and Jurassic World Alive are two examples of mobile AR games. Game Design has barely scratched the surface with this experience.

Battle Royale

The game map acts as an arena for several combatants to locate and battle one another, with the usual objective of being the last player remaining.

Bullet hell

Games in which the main mechanics are firing guns and avoiding return fire, sometimes on an unrealistic and grandiose scale.

Casual

Games with simple mechanics that allow players to jump right into the action. Some of the more relaxed game design you can do.

Cooperative

A game or style of gaming that encourages players to work together rather than compete.

Couch co-op

A cooperative multiplayer game that requires two or more players to be from the same geographical place to play.

Downloadable content (DLC)

Enhancements or expansions to a game that can be downloaded and installed through an in-app installation procedure.

Educational

A game in which the goal is to teach players a specific skill or subject.

Esports

Professional gaming competitions are held.

Fantasy

See role-playing game design and development (RPG).

Fighting

Hand-to-hand fighting in a player versus player (PvP) environment is the main mechanic of this game.

First-person shooter (FPS)

From the viewpoint of the shooter, a game in which they aim their gun at various targets.

Free-to-play (F2P)

A game that is free to download and play, but the studio/publisher can earn money via microtransactions (such as IAPs), compensated videos, advertisements, or other methods.

Horror

Paranoia and suspense are instilled in players by the game design and mechanics.

Hyper-casual

A game that typically has a single, simple mechanic that provides immediate gameplay pleasure.

In-app purchases (IAPs)

You can purchase additional or replenishable merchandise from within a game.

Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG)

A multiplayer online role-playing game design that allows hundreds or thousands of players to play and communicate in the same virtual world.

Match 3

See tile-matching game design.

Metroidvania

A subgenre of action-adventure games influenced heavily by Metroid and Castlevania in terms of design and functionality.

Microtransaction

A small online purchase, typically for an in-app transaction.

MOBA

See multiplayer online battle arena.

Multiplayer

A game in which several players will participate at the same time.

Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA)

A strategy game design in which two teams of participants compete against one another, with the members of each team synchronizing their attacks and defenses in order to win.

Non-playable character, or non-player character (NPC)

Artificial intelligence-controlled in-game character (AI).

Open-world

A game in which the character is given an enormous world to discover and play in.

Party

Multiplayer games with four to eight players that allow mates to compete for prizes and victories.

Platformer

A two-dimensional game design wherein the players must sprint, climb, and leap across platforms in order to advance.

Player(s) verses player(s) (PvP)

A game design in which two or more players participate against each other.

Point-and-click

A game in which you progress characters, solve puzzles, and make decisions using mouse clicks.

Puzzle

A game in which players must resolve visual or logic challenges, find similar items/patterns, and so on in order to earn points or advance to the next level. Monument Valley is an example of this genre and game design style.

Racing

Any game with a competitive racing mechanic against AI or other competitors.

Real-time strategy (RTS)

A video game design in which users create a squadron of characters and attempt to defeat an opposing force controlled by a computer or another player. This genre includes games like Civilization, Age of Empires, and the original Warcraft/Warcraft II.

Rhythm

A game in which controller inputs correspond to rhythmic encouragement, which is typically provided by music or sound effects coupled with sensory information.

Roguelike

A sort of role-playing action-adventure game in which players normally have one existence or very small chances for revival to make it to the end of the game.

Role-playing game (RPG)

An engaging play style that emphasizes immersion and engagement while also allowing you to extensively modify and personalize your playable characters. Common RPG genres include science fiction and fantasy.

Sandbox

A video game design that enables players to create their own playable universe.

Shooter

A game genre that focuses on gunplay. First-person shooters, third-person shooters, and other subgenres are all available.

Simulation (SIM)

A game that closely resembles real-life events and functions, typically to a high degree of accuracy.

Souls-like

A type of action-adventure game that, like Dark Souls, relies on “dodge or die” mechanisms.

sports

A game in which a collective or individual sport is replicated, such as football, soccer, tennis, or cycling.

Stealth

A game in which players must stay hidden and sneak past or around obstructions in order to be successful.

Strategy

A video game design that necessitates preparation and coordination in order to progress (and prevent missteps) toward a final objective.

Survival

A simulation video game in which participants must keep their characters safe and healthy by avoiding enemies while searching for food, water, and shelter.

Text-based

A mostly defunct gaming genre in which players are faced with text-based scenarios and must answer with text commands in order to progress through the game.

Third-person shooter

A video game in which the shooter and their surroundings are seen through the eyes of an “objective” camera.

Tile-matching

A game in which players must match or recognize a group of similar tiles. A match 3 (match-three) game is a common form. Tetris is an example of this genre.

Virtual reality (VR)

A game in which players must use a virtual reality headset and input devices such as a keyboard or hand controllers to operate in a virtual 3D world. Beat Saber and Rock Band VR are two such examples.

Visual Novel

Played by selecting predetermined answers to the story being told, this style relies on static sprites or art pieces that align with text-based narration. Frequently employs an anime aesthetic.

We hope this was helpful and educational for you. If you want more articles on Game Design, please let us know. We give a scholarship to those who are pursuing a degree in the video game industry.

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