The Ultimate Video Games Acronyms Dictionary

IBM, DHL, BBC, FIFA, USA, LOTR, NASA, FBI  … WTF!!! Every day we read, hear and use all kind of weird combinations of apparently random letters.  Our world has gone crazy with acronyms everywhere and Video Games and Serious Games are not an exception. We have gathered a list of common acronyms that we can find everyday in games, but also in the industry news.

COLG!! (or Come On Let’s Go!!)


  • MMO – Massively Multiplayer Online. Probably the most known genre acronym. It was coined by World of Warcraft, released in 2004 and the first game worldwide sucessful at giving players the opportunity to play together online with little restriction. The possibilities opened by WoW (yes, also acronymed) created an avalanche of MMO games trying to copy the magic formula that brought Blizzard 100 million subscriptors.
  • MMOG – Massively Multiplayer Online Game. Just add a G for Game and you got it, although this little difference usually confuses people.
  • RPG – Role-Playing Game. Create a personalized character and make it grow in strength, skills, knowledge… Give it a personality. Become the character! Players are engaged to imagine themselves as another being, whether it is completely human ,as proposed by Second Life, or a weird creature like WoW races.
  • ARPG – Action Role-Playing Game. Role playing with lots of action! Forget about Second life and fight, run and beat enemies.
  • MMORPG – Massively Multiplayer Online Role Play Game. And how you create new, long and impossible to pronounce acronyms? Just put them together and voilá!
  • TBS – Turn-Based Strategy. Usually TBSs structure is divided in phases or turns. One turn is used to implement your strategy and the next one is used to see how your idea works. Or, in PvP (Player versus Player) games, one turn is dedicated to your strategy while the other player waits. Chess is the most known TBS game.
  • RTS – Real-Time Strategy. Think about football. Players need to decide what they will do just in the moment. Improvise. No time for long thinking. RTS mechanichs tests the player’s ability to work under pressure simulating a real action. Examples are classics like Startcraft or Age of Empires.
  • ARTS – Action Real-Time Strategy. See MOBA
  • TPS – Third Person Shooter. Controlling one character, players need to shoot enemies to save the day. Usually they are accompanied by a misterious history to unveil. Most known examples are franchises like Metal Gear Solid, Tomb Rider or Resident Evil.
  • FPS – First Person Shooter. Take you gun and kill those zombies! Arcade games brought us the first person experience with games like Time Crisis or The House of the Dead. Instead of using controls to lead a character, the game reacts to your real movements. YOU are the character! Run for your life!! Today FPSs are still a great example of inmersive experience in gaming. We cannot wait to see what Virtual Reality will bring to this genre.
  • MOBA – Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. Also known as ARTS (Action Real-Time Strategy), a subgenre of RTSs were a player controls one character in one of two teams. The objective is to destroy the opposing team. Sometimes you will need to destroy a specific target, sometimes you will need to complete a specific mission preventing the other team’s success.
  • DOTA – Defence of the Ancients. Initially a custom game map created for the game Warcraft 3, DOTA is the best example of how a well designed map inside a game can become sucessful enough to create its own sub-subgenre. The objective in these games is for each team to destroy the opponents’ heavily guarded structures (the Ancients of the original title) at opposing corners of the map. Heroes controlled by players can be levelled up or equiped buying special armour and weapons. Leage of Legends or LOL, is the most important example of DOTA game.
  • TD – Tower Defense. The goal here is to stop enemies from reaching a specific point on the map by building a variety of different towers, or shooting devices) which shoot at them as they pass. Towers characteristics and price vary to add complexity and dynamism to the mechanics. Plants vs Zombies has been one of the most sucessful TD Games in the last few years.
  • TCG – Trading Card Game, AKA (also known as) CCG, Collectible Card Games. These games were born using physical cards in a profitable business led by Magic: The Gathering. Cards represent characters, monsters, special skills or artefacts used to beat opponents. Magic special cards prices could reach more than 5.000$ for a single one, like the legendary Black Lotus. The model was transferred to the digital world becoming a sucessful genre, despite players not being able to touch their collections. Magic: The Gathering Online or HearthStone have millions of players trading cards every day.
  • WoW – World of Warcraft. See MMO.
  • F2P – Free to Play. A monetization model that opposes to traditional “Buy to Play” games. Here, players can access and play the game for free although special features and boosters are offered for usually cheap prices. Ranging from 1 to 100 dollars, players can buy from clothes and weapons to “save-time” items. Non-payers contribute to generate a huge community that is enjoyed by payers. Casual Games like Clash of Clans or Hay Day benefit from this model.
  • PvP – Player versus Player. Players compete with live participants instead of trying to beat the computer.
  • SIM – Simulation Games. SIM Games simulate aspects of real life with, usually, the purpose of training players, though examples like SIM City or The SIMs, prove that simulating real life could also be fun!


  • AAA – This is not exactly an acronym but it is close enough. The triple A refers to games and game studios with huge budgets and promotions. It is the absolute opposite to “indie” games or studios. Hundreds of employees, millions spent in one single game, years of development… Why three As? It is based on the Academic grading in the United States with A being the highest and F, denoting failure, the lowest.
  • GDD – Game Design Document. The Bible of a video game in its initial phases of development. Game designers reflect in this document everything that will happen in the game: what, when and how. GDDs can easily overpass 100 pages and are a nightmare to maintain updated. They are usually really important in pre-production and early production phases but start losing importance in more advanced stages of production.
  • DLC – DownLoadable Content. Games that need to be downloaded instead of just playing online. Downloadable files can reach several GBs so areas with a poor internet connection find it difficult to enjoy this kind of products. These games usually have better graphics and more powerful mechanics that justify the download.
  • NPC – Non-Player Character. All those characters that provide you with missions or information while playing and stay forever in the same place (luckily) re-controlled by AI or Artificial Intelligence. They give the players the sensation of not being alone in the game through interaction, earning some of these characters fame and glory among players. Several WoW NPCs have their own fan pages on Social Networks and are loved or hated by people all over the world.
  • CB – Closed Beta. One of the last stages of development. The Game is open to a limited amount of players that act as testers. For the studio, it is helpful to find important bugs to be fixed before the next stage. For players, it is the perfect way to be the first to play and brag around about it.
  • OB – Open Beta. The last stage of game development. The game is released for every player as a final test. It is the perfect way to find the last issues and bugs and fix them before the final releasing date.
  • XP -Experience Points. Used in all kinds of games to show the evolution of your skills as a player. They can be obtained by killing enemies, finding clues, ending levels and so on.
  • CRM – Customer Relationship Management. Is the team in charge of maintaining customers, or players, happy and informed of any news. The are experts in social networks, newsletters, managing forums and answering questions and suggestions.
  • FAQ – Frecuently Asked Questions. Any game’s website needs one of this. The CRM team tries to reflect in this section the most common doubts. Checking this section saves lots of time both for players, as they won’t need to send and email with their question and wait two days for an answer; and for the CRM, by not being collapsed by thousands of similar questions every day.
  • HUD – Heads Up Display. Any transparent display that presents data without requiring users to look away from their usual viewpoints. SIM Games, FPSs and ARTSs commonly use this method to show relevant information to the player as if he was wearing a helmet or similar artifact.
  • QA – Quality Assurance. A MUST in any studio. The QA team plays, plays and plays the game and finds everything you did wrong. They are also the most hated people around!
  • ROI – Return of Investment. Business Development Teams, Board members, Sales and Producers are all about ROI and KPIs. Just a fashionable and shorter ways to say “Will we get any money from this investment?”.
  • KPI – Key Performance Indicator. Another fancy, shorter way to say: “Show me the numbers!”.


  • PBLs – Points, Badges and Leaderboards. We could also define them as experience, achievements and ranking that measure our performance in a game. Because they generate engagement better than other gaming tools, they appear in every gamified system. Sometimes PBL is used in a despective way refering to a boring gamified experience. Designers, are you focused on PBLs that forget about including FUN!?
  • LMS – Learning Management System. Software that facilitates the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of e-learning, MOOCs, or other training or educational programs.
  • GBL – Game Based Learning. One of the most engaging things in a video game is the learning curve or how players learn little by little to handle characters and environments. This system can be adapted to a regular learning curriculum making it fun and, apparently, more effective. Serious Games are Game Based Learning.
  • MOSG – Massive Online Serious Games. Serious Games targeted to a massive audience.
  • MOOC – Massive Online Open Course. MOOCs have caused a revolution in adult education in the last few years. Prestigious universities, like Harvard or the MIT, offer specialized short courses free of charge. From Greco-latin poetry or Chinese to Criptography and Data Analysis. Courses are conformed by video-lectures and review quizzes and are open to anyone, anywhere. The perfect way to take a look to that thing you always wanted to study but never dared to try. You can also obtain an official diploma by paying around 50$.
  • EBGD – Evidence Based Game Design. A lot of criticism and suspicion has arisen around Serious Games and their scientific methodology, especially in those games targeted to health issues, which need to have a strong basis behind them. Associations like EBGD try to gather this kind of games designed with evidence in mind.


Not directly related with the games, but near enough to appear now and then, we have gathered a little list of acronyms worth knowing:

  • IoT – Internet of Things. A trending topic that refers to machines connected to the internet sharing data and information to facilitate our lives. From the washing machine to our smartwatch, every electronic device will know what we want and when we want it!
  • M2M – Machine to Machine. The old way to refer to IoT. Less cool but more explanatory. The term refers to the communication between machines.
  • QWERTY – Regular Keyboards are known by their first six letters that you will find under your fingers. Take a look in case you never noticed it!
  • B2C – Business to Consumer. Refers to services or products targeted to be sold or bought by customers to a company. A lot of online services have a free or cheaper plan for customers (B2C) and a Premium one for companies (B2B).
  • B2B – Business to Business. Refers to services or products targeted to be sold or bought between companies.
  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization. This is used to appear higher on search engines like Google. There are thousand of rules to be better indexed by this Search Engines but the most important ones are: use of relevant words in your URL and content.
  • SEM – Search Engine Marketing. Another way of appearing higher on search engines but this time, paying for it. Companies usually bid for one word. The company with the highest bid, is shown first in the search page for that specific word and thus, attracts more clicks from users.
  • TED – Technology, Entertainment, Design. A global set of conferences run by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, under the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading”. Conferences last around 20 minutes and are interesting for the speakers’ quality and professionalism.
  • TEDx – Independently organized TED talks. Anyone can apply for a TED’s free of charge license to organize a TEDx event just by fulfilling a list of requirements.

And we don’t want to forget the most important one: ONSG – On Serious Games!! Yeah! Our website has also entered the world of acronyms!


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Photo by See-ming Lee 李思明 SML

About Belén Gómez

Graduate in Communications, Movie Direction and finishing a degree in English Language and Literature, her multidisciplinary career includes TV and movie direction, script-writing, video games localization, game design, international project management and multi-platform video game production. Curious about everything, she divides her time between, Serious Games projects, any Assassin’s Creed title and her Mandarin Chinese lessons.

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