Thursday, 14 August 2014

10 Words Or Phrases That Confuse Non-Gamers

I wrote this piece for Forces Of Geek on Thursday 31st July 2014. I had the idea when a friend of mine (Hi, Tim!) discovered that the word 'game' had been used as a verb long before video games began, in doing so he helped me to justify using the word 'gamer'! 

Words can be confusing, some exist entirely within the parameters of a single language or culture and others have double meanings with each definition having its own unique usage.

There are also words borne from specific sub-cultures that possess completely different meanings to their original uses. No wonder the English language is considered one of the hardest to learn for non-native speakers! 

With that mind, it's easy to see why language barriers and misunderstandings occur in life. Gamers are no exception to this and like many other sub-cultures have built their own exclusive language based around one shared activity. 

Pedants among you might call me out for using the term 'gamers', claiming that 'gamer' is in fact a noun, not a verb.

However, thanks to the evolving nature of language the word 'gamer' is now also classed as a verb in most dictionaries (including the superior Oxford dictionary). 

That said, one of the very first uses of 'game' as a verb has been cited as early as 1512, fifty or so years before the Shakespearean era when William himself created new language uses by altering words normally used as nouns and adapting them to verbs .

So, as Shakespeare himself might put it; thou art a gamer, if thou doth play!

Here are some words (and by extension, phrases) from my gaming lexicon that don't make sense to some of my non-gaming friends out of their original context, you might be surprised how many have caught your own friends and family out:


For us, it's the noblest of kills, each headshot is a badge of honour - the mark of a perfectionist - yet referring to those exceptional headshots you're so proud of to a non-gamer, it's easy to see how they might mistake your gaming prowess for vanity and assume you have acquired some professional photography shots and intend to embark on a career in acting. Maybe you are? We all know most actors enjoy playing as several characters or roles so chances are they're also gamers?


It's a guarantee that if you play any Call Of Duty title online that you will happen upon camping, you may will be a camper but normal folk don't understand the need to sit in one spot, sniping unsuspecting players and infuriating others but then my guess is that you don't really enjoy sleeping under the stars (unless you have a hand-held console maybe?).

Your family might be under the illusion that you enjoy the outdoor pursuit of camping and you might not be able to avoid the portable stove and sleeping bag gifts on birthdays and at Christmas.


If we're getting technical, this word essentially means the same thing to gamers and non-gamers alike - it is the bringing together of separate parties (sadly, not everyone will understand that to mean LAN parties). However, while an online gamer may interpret this as creating a match within a virtual environment and grouping suitable players to take part in it, matchmaking means something quite different to others. Tell a friend you were in a matchmaking lobby last night and they might be surprised that you're dating. Worse still, tell a partner who doesn't understand gaming terminology and you might find yourself in a bit of trouble (...and with an ex-partner).


Another word which means the same a way. Actual farmers put in a lot of hard work, they have actual agricultural skills, they get up early, feed and rear their animals and tend to their crops on a daily basis. When gamers partake in farming, it's less interesting. In fact, farming requires a gamer to switch off mentally because it usually involves a repetitive action being done over and over again just to be covetous and gain items or XP - and no, I don't mean the outdated, crappy Windows system - which incidentally, a non-gamer might think you're talking about!

Easter Eggs 

Delicious egg-shaped chocolate wrapped in pretty tinfoil and eaten once a year you say?! No.
Just think about that for a second. You might dash someones hopes when they think you are offering them could you?! Just because you consider an in-joke in a game or a secret left in by the programmers or games developers exciting, doesn't mean your non-gaming friend will, they'll just be mildly annoyed that they don't currently have a chocolate egg.


This is one which might not confuse all of your friends, family or colleagues - just the ones who are stuck in the late 80s to early 90s. We understand multiplayer to mean a game mode with the capacity be played by more than one person. Most people know this to be the case, gamers and non-gamers alike - yet an older generation or perhaps your grandmother, will jump to the conclusion that the word concerns a multi-disc CD player or a DVD player that can cater for multiple regions.

Clipping Error

In layman terms, a clipping error is a glitch in the graphics of a game. To the un-gamed, this phrase just suggests a haircut gone wrong. 

Shoulder Buttons

Surely, this phrase makes sense to everyone? It was coined to describe specific buttons on a games controller, it couldn't be more obvious! But, what about the people who work in the fashion industry or who refer to 'shoulder buttons' as epaulets!? Or those who incorrectly infer you have undertaken military service and attained decoration in the form of a medal or badge? 


It's not just playing a game with another person, the word co-op has several uses and here in the UK, I have fallen prey to this misunderstanding recently!

Colleague: What do you mean?
Me: You know, co-operative gaming? 2-player...that sort of thing!
Colleague: (laughing) Oh! I thought you meant the Co-operative supermarket or bank!
Me: (feeling silly), I mean...never mind (shuffles away)


We all know that 'boss' is a term to describe a manager or superior in the workplace. For gamers however, a boss can be any number of things - I guess that can be said for real life bosses except those ones aren't hideous tentacled monsters, giant alien ships or a gorilla that throws barrels...hopefully! Though this does present a problem; imagine you are at work talking about how difficult/ugly/easy a gaming boss is and your real-life boss overhears this...goodbye job and with it, goodbye money to pay for more games!

As ever, if you think I've missed one or you want to add your own misunderstood gaming phrases, please do so in the comments below.

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