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The Secret Words Only Game Developers Use

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Like any industry, game developers have their own lexicon, used to describe the unique people and quirks they encounter.

If you've ever wondered what some of these are, Gamasutra enlisted the help of a few developers (who had themselves picked the brains of plenty more) and found that across the video game industry there exist an established set of names and terms for things that are sometimes useful and sometimes tragically funny.


Here are some examples:

Joe Walmart: The lowest common denominator consumer that many publishers must cater to in order to mitigate financial risk. Coined to describe the powerful force that allowed Deer Hunter to become a market success. Can also be referred to as "Walmartian."

Data Wrangler: The human that tunes gameplay values for character types, items, and systems in the game.

Dice Humped: Consistently getting a poor result from a random number generator. Originally was used when playing tabletop games, but was expanded to be used as a warning thought experiment for any truly random number in a system. "What happens if the player gets dice humped?" It's a test if the designer actually wants things random or just distributed.

Graybox: The idea of making a game level without textures or high detail models, animations, etc. Just get it working, paced, and ideally, fun without any art requirements.

Grognardy: A game/universe/mechanic that is too niche/hardcore/nerdy. "That JRPG is too grognardy for Facebook, it'll never sell."

Pushing Buttons to Make Rainbows: Refers to a neighborhood of game mechanics and/or interactions where the psychological reward given to the player is disproportionately larger than the effort required on the player's part.

Scoping: A process where leads remove features from a game to meet deadlines.

Paper Awesome: As in, "Dude, that guy is paper awesome. He writes up all this crazy stuff and can't implement any of it."

Buzzword Compliance Pass: Adding a bunch of bullet-points to a presentation that have nothing whatsoever to do with the game but will certainly be brought up at the meeting by an exec, e.g., "I don't see anything on this update about leveraging social networking or microtransactions. How do you plan to ensure that your game has a high retention index?"

Peter Principle: The concept that all employees eventually get promoted to one level beyond their actual level of competency.

Pink Lightsaber: Something thrown in to give the IP Police a safe item to reject from your build because they operate under a directive to find at least one item to reject.


Phew. That's just some. There are plenty more over on the Gamasutra piece.

A Game Studio Culture Dictionary [Gamasutra]

You can contact Luke Plunkett, the author of this post, at You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.