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The Rules of Gaming Terminology – Separating the N00bs from the Smurfs

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

Sometimes it can feel that gamers are speaking a different language. Terms that have evolved through in-game communication usually prioritise efficiency as strategies need to be decided upon and executed at a moment’s notice. The most well-known also achieve a certain degree of universality as online players can often find themselves with teammates from all over the world. Aside from functionality, gaming terminology also has social significance. The gaming community places great value on knowledge and experience and, as such, gaming jargon can act as a form of social currency. To get you started we’ve set out some of the basic rules and need-to-know terms.

Abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms

The gaming community are very comfortable shortening words and phrases. It is even become common for players to invent bespoke examples and simply expect their audience to figure out the meaning. Through AA&Is gamers can achieve more efficient communication and can save time on commonly used phrases. Some common examples of this include ‘GG’ meaning Good Game and ‘Bot’ which is short for robot and means an AI NPC but can also be used to imply a player is so bad they are worse that an NPC.

There are also examples of relatively arbitrary abbreviations such as the word ‘Rekt’ which is commonly used instead of the word “Wrecked” when an opponent is defeated in a particularly humiliating way. Further explanation on arbitrary word variations can be found below.

Arbitrary characters and capitalisations

Online games usually only allow one player account to have any given name at one time. Unfortunately, this would mean that you might have missed your desired character name by the time you sign up. This has led to players often using characters and capitalisations to create some semblance of their chosen name. One example of this would be the Smite player ‘BaRRaCCuDDa’.

Additionally, there is a massive volume of instant communication within the gaming community allowing for a continuous stream of new words and phrases. Linguistic rules are often secondary to aesthetic and phonetic appeal leading to arbitrary uses of characters, capitalisation and numbers. One example in common gaming lingo is ‘noob’ which is often written as ‘n00b’. Esports organisations often lean into this leading to team names such as ‘FaZe Clan’.

An important point to note here is that this is not the case with esports. As in ‘esports’. The word esports itself follows conventional linguistic rules but can is sometimes, incorrectly, written as eSports or e-sports.


Esports is highly transparent. Almost every aspect of the industry is recorded, streamed and reported on in one way or another. As such it is often very easy to create new words and phrases through association with their origin. One great example of this is ‘GOATs Comp’. A GOATs composition is a team built entirely of support and tank units which is incredibly hard to defeat despite their lack of damaging characters. It originated from season 2 of the North American Open Division of Overwatch where a team called GOATs first demonstrated the unstoppable power of this meta-defining strat. Examples of association are particularly common in certain genres such as CCGs where professional players and streamers will often name their deck compositions.


While simple emojis have been around for some time now, platforms such as Twitch have been instrumental in the increased creation and use of more bespoke emotes. The virtually inherent digital literacy of the gaming community means that there is a continuous stream of new emotes and the most popular ones can be seen spammed all over streaming platform chats. Each emote has a particular meaning which can sometimes be discerned from the image itself but not always as the meaning may require insider knowledge or may be being used sarcastically. Some classic and popular emotes include ‘Pogchamp’ which is the surprised face of youtuber Ryan Gutierrez and is used when reacting to something amazing and unexpected, and ‘Kappa’ which is the greyscale face of programmer Josh DeSeno and denotes sarcasm or irony. Emotes such as these have evolved to allow easy visual communication of complex messages which might be misunderstood if written, especially when written facetiously.

Mockery and humour

Gaming culture involves a lot of mockery and humour. This is largely due to the inherent competitive element of gaming and the safety of online anonymity. One example of how this has influenced language is the use of the prefix “NA” meaning North American to describe poor play. This has developed out of the community-wide joke that North American players are not as skilled as Asian players. Example uses of this prefix include “NA strats” meaning poor strategy, “NA aim” meaning poor aim, and, perhaps the most common use, “NA ult” meaning the poor execution of a characters most powerful ability. Another way humour influences gaming lingo is through sarcasm. Although sarcasm is obviously a common rhetorical technique across language, the gaming community takes it to new heights to the extent that almost every term below can be used to mean the exact opposite depending on the context. For example ‘GJ’ meaning Good Job could be used if a teammate made a particularly inadvisable play, or someone could spam the ‘MonkaS’ emote in chat to when a streamer is finding the game EZ, even though it traditionally symbolises nervousness.

Game development:

AAA / Triple A – Blockbuster, big-budget games of the highest quality

Buff (Game dev) – Where developers improve the power or playability of a character or item

CCG – Collectible Card Game

DLC – Downloadable content, often released in periodic bundles following a game’s release

Easter Eggs – Secret in-game features or rewards

F2P / P2P – Free to play games / Pay to play games

FPS / 3PS – First Person Shooter / Third Person Shooter

MMO – Massively Multiplayer Online game

MOBA – Multiplayer Online Battle Arena

Nerf - Where the developers reduce the power or playability of a character or item

P2W – Pay to win, referring to games where success is dependent on purchasing advantages

Patch – An update of a game releasing new content, bug fixes and game balances

RNG – Random Number Generation, random elements of a game

RPG – Role Playing Game

RTS – Real Time Strategy

SIM – Simulation game

Gameplay / in-game chat:

AFK – Away From Keyboard

AoE / Area of Effect – attacks or abilities which target an area rather than a specific player

Baited / Jebaited (emote) – tricking or ‘baiting’ another player

BM – Bad Manners, referring to unsportsmanlike conduct or communication

Bot – An NPC. Now also used as an insult or joke to suggest a player is as bad as an NPC

Buff / Debuff (In-game) – In-game interactions which improve (buff), or reduce (debuff) stats

Camping – Staying in one spot which often offers an advantageous view or Gank potential

Carry – A character who, though often weak earlier on, can carry a team to victory later

CC/Crowd Control – effects which incapacitate or hinder an opponent’s character

Cheese – Exploiting tactics notorious for their ease or underhandedness.

DC – Disconnect from the game’s server.

Dive – Aggressively pursuing an enemy player despite environmental threats

DPS – Damage Per Second

Farm – Focusing on building in-game currency, such as through battling numerous NPCs

Feeding – losing in a way that makes the opposition more powerful (Fed)

Fog of War – Areas you/ your team cannot see.

Gank – To ambush an opponent

GG – Good Game

GLHF – Good Luck Have Fun

Inting – Intentionally feeding

KDA / KDR – Kills/Deaths/Assists / Kill to Death Ratio

Lag – Delay between player input and the game’s reaction due to a technical issue

NPC – Non-Playable Character

Ping – Time in milliseconds for inputs to be communicated to the server. High Ping = Lag

Proc – To trigger an in-game effect

PvP / PvE – Player vs Player / Player vs Environment

Pwned / Owned/ Rekt – Defeating someone in a particularly humiliating manner

Ragequit – To surrender or turn a game off out of anger

Spam – To repeatedly do or say something, such as spamming an ability or a phrase

Spawn – To be brought to life, often at the start of the game, or ‘Respawn’ following a death

Strats - Strategies

Toxic – A player’s poor attitude or behaviour, usually when BMing

Troll – A person who deliberately frustrates others. Also a verb ‘to troll’.

Ultimate / Ult – The character’s most powerful ability which can usually only be used rarely

Ward – An in-game item which grants vision

Wombo Combo – A combination of characters or abilities which synergises particularly well

XP – Experience, generated through in-game actions to track and reward progress


Grinding – Repeating an action to progress, for example when trying to climb the Ladder

Kappa (emote) – Sarcasm or irony

Ladder – Often used to refer to ranked tiers within a game which players want to ‘Climb

LAN – Local Area Network

Meta – The current perception of optimal character and item choices, can change per Patch

MonkaS (emote) – Anxiety or nervousness, sometimes used insincerely

Noob / N00b – A person who is new to the game or who is playing poorly, as if new

Pepehands (emote) – Sadness, often used insincerely

Pogchamp (emote) – Elation and surprise

QQ – Symbolises crying eyes, often used to imply a player is whining and being a baby

Salt / Salty – Bitter about something, such as losing or Cheese. Can become Toxic

Scrim – From scrimmage, a practice match between competitive players

Skin – The customisable appearance of a character or item

SMOrc (emote) – Used to suggest that someone is being obnoxious, usually a streamer.

Smurf – An experienced player using a new account to be matched against Noobs

Speedrun – Attempting to complete a game in as quick a time as possible

Adam McGlynn


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