The Dead Lexicon Of Classic Video Games (Ver. 1.1)

by fultonbot-Version 1.1

At the beginning of of the video game era, gaming nomenclature was yet to be coined.   This is our first look into the fascinating world of  “The Dead Lexicon Of Classic Video Games.

The editors and writers of magazines like Electronic Games created much of the nomenclature of modern video games.  Terms like “easter-egg” “playfield” and “shoot-em-up” were all coined within the pages of the first ever video and computer game columns and magazines.  However, many of the terms they created did not stand the test of time.   Some were used regularly, but have lost their meaning (see “burn-in” as technology has changed).  With this list we are trying to note as many of these lost phrases as possible.

For most of the entries below, we have identified a source.  This is not necessarily the first use, or the source of the definition, however, it was provided to give some contextual reference to where and when these terms were used.

Action Button: “The Stud on a home arcade hand controller.  In action games it is frequently used to initiate firing” (E.G. Jul. 82)

Arcade Ace: Name given to a start coin-op video game player. (E.G. Oct. 82)

Arcaders : A participant in the hobby of electronic gaming.  Used before the word “gamers” was popularized. (E.G. Winter ’81, P. 6, E.G. Jun. 82)

Arcading: Refers to the past-times pf playing video games. (E.G. winter ’81)

Arcade Quality: A term frequently used to describe home video game graphics in terms of their arcade counterparts. (E.G. Nov. ’82, ColeccoVision advertisements, pg. 2)

A-B Switch: See Difficulty Switch.

Arkies: Awards given by Electronic Games Magazine for the best games of the year (Multiple issues of E.G. including Dec. ’82)

Atari System X:  Code name (in the press)  for the Atari 5200 console.  (E.G. Sep. 82)

Augmented Text Adventures: Text adventures with minimal sound and graphics.  (E.G. Mar. 82).

Auxiliary Storage: Another name for disk drive ans cassette recorders used to store files for a computer (E.G. Mar. 1982)

Ball And Paddle Contest: Name given to Pong and  Breakout style games. (Arcade Alley, Aug. 81)

Bank Switching: The use of  separately addressable areas of memory so game system could access more data on a cartridge. (E.G. Jul 84)

Big Shake-Out:  Another name for the golden age video game “Crash” (E.G.  Mar, 1984)

Bird’s Eye View : Another name for a top-down scrolling game. (E.G. Oct. 82)

Burn-In: Early hard-wired video game systems did not not rotate their on-screen colors, resulting in images permanently ghosted on a TV screen.  Atari solved this problem with the VCS using color-cycling routines.

Climbing Games:   Original name for “platform” games. (E.G. Jan. 83)

Coin-Op :  Short-hand for Coin operated games (E.G. Winter 81)

Coinoppers: A term used to describe people who played arcade games.

Computer Gaming Age, The: Roughly 1984-1987:  Refers specifically to the “home computer age” that overtook golden age video game consoles: Specifically the Commodore 64, Apple IIe and Atari 8-bit computers.

Contest: Synonym for “game”, usually used with arcade or action games. (E.G. Oct. ’82)

Control Disc: Flat, disc style replacement for a joystick.  Used on the Mattel Intellivision. (arcade Alley Jul. 80)

Controller Overlays : plastic cards for keypad controllers to guide players to the button assignments for a particular game.  Used with Intellivision, Atari 5200, and ColecoVision consoles (see Screen Overlay) (E.G. Oct. 1982)

Control Units: Another term for controllers.  (E.G. Winter ’81 p. 11)

Conversion Kit:  A kit that allows an owner of a coin-operated game to turn it into a different game. (E.G. Aug. ’83)

Dexterity Games: A reference to action-oriented and arcade games. (E.G. winter ’81)

Difficulty Switch: A toggle switch on a console to set the difficulty per player of any single game. (Also: A-B Switch)

Electronic Gaming/Games: Term used to describe the hobby of playing  home video games, computer games, arcade games and hand-held electronic games. (E.G. Winter ’81, P. 6)

Electronic Gamesmanship: A term used to describe the professional field of video games (E.G. winter ’81, p. 6)

Electronic Amusement Center: Name given to upscale arcades that tried to clean the image  of of the “pinball parlors” of old. (E.G. Mar. 82)

First Law Of Coin-Ops: “Easy To Play, Difficult To Master” (E.G. Sep. 82)

Flipper Games: Another name for pinball machines.  (E.G. Dec. ’82)

Frank Laney Jr.: Pen Name of Arnie Katz, co-editor of Arcade Alley and Electronic Games Magazine. Name was used so that Katz’s work with video games did not interfere with his other journalism.  He dropped the name in 1982.  (Arcade Alley, Nov. ’79)

Free In-Pack Cartridge : Free game that comes with console (alternative to “pack-in”) (E.G. nov. ’82)

Game Library: A term referring to an arcader’s game collection or the collection of game available for a particular console. (Arcade Alley Nov. 81)

Gobble Game: A Pac-Man inspired game or clone. (E.G. Mar. 82)

Gobble Gaming: The act of playing Pac-Man and Pac-Man like games. (E.G. Jul. ’83)

Gobbler: Slang for Pac-Man (E.G. Mar. 82)

Gobblins : Slang term for the ghosts in Pac-Man. (E.G. Sep. 82)

Gourmet Stick/Controllers: Name given to expensive, premium joystick controllers (i. Wico Joysticks) (E.G. Dec. ’84,E.G. Jan. ’83)

Hard-Wired Systems:  Early  video game systems with embedded games and controllers permanently connected with wires. (E.G. Winter ’81)

Head-To-Head (Contest): A game requiring two or more player game. (Arcade Alley, Jul. 80)

Home Arcades: Another name for video game consoles (Arcade Alley, Jan. ’80)

Home (Electronic) Version:  A name given to the translation of an arcade game to a console. (E.G. Winter ’81, p. 15) (Video Magazine Arcade Alley Jan ’80)

Hi-Res Graphics:  A term used to described graphics that looked better than “low-res” graphics, but the actual technical details were fuzzy.  Could have been more pixels, more colors, or both. (E.G. Jul. 84)

Illustrated Text Adventures: Text adventures with static images. (E.G. Mar. 82)

Invasion Game : A single screen game where invaders attacked and the player had to shoot them all (i.e Space Invaders, Galaga, Demon Attack). (EG Jan .83, pg, 22)

Interactive Programs: Any program that the user made choices or modified using input devices.  As opposed to “Batch” programs that ran on timed intervals and did not require user interaction. (E.G. Jul. 84)

Joystickers: Name given to people who plays console games (E.G. Aug. ’83)

Knockoffs : A term used to describe games that copied the play style (and sometimes the graphics) of other games to cash in on their success. ( E.G. Oct ’82, E.F. Jan. 83)

Lady Arcaders: Term refering to women video game players. (E.G. May. 82)

Master Component : A term used to describe a video game console in the context of an add-on peripheral (i.e a keyboard) (E.G. winter ’81, p. 36)

Maze Game: Any game that uses an on-screen play field of winding passages that for mazes of maze-like elements.  (Arcade Alley Jun 81).

Me Too Game:  A game that is very similar to another already existing game. (E.G. Jul. ’83)

Microcomputer: Usually referred to an 8-bit home computer, but the IBM PC was sometimes referred to by this moniker as well.  In reality, it was any computer that was smaller than a mini-computer and usually could fit on a desk.

Modular System: Coined by Mattel for the Intellivision.  The system was designed to add easily add additional components (i.e. computer keyboard, voice synthesizer). (E.G. Winter ’81)

Multi-Playfield Invasion Game : Used to describe a scrolling shooter like (i.e Defender). (EG Jan .83, pg, 23)

Multiplexer: A device that allowed a computer or game system to access multiple ROM cartridges and select one to use. (EG. Jul. 84).

Multi-Screen Adventures: A term used to describe the advent of complex video games that went beyond a single screen.  (examples: Adventure, Pitfall!, Smurf Rescue)  (E.G. May 1983)

Overlays : this plastic card used for augmenting games.  Used for screens and cotnrollers.    (see Screen Overlay, Controller Overlay) (E.G. Oct. 1982)

Packy: A nick-name for Pac-Man

Pinball Parlor: Name for arcades in the age of pinball and electro mechanical games.  Usually connoted dens of danger,  teengers, smoking, drugs, etc.

Play-Action: A noun that represented the intersection on-screen elements with user interaction in a video game. (E.G. Jan. ’83)

Pong Variant: Any game that used some combination of balls and paddles. (E.G. Mar. 82)

Pre-Programmed/Prepared Game Software: Games that could be commercially bought for and used by a home computer as aopposed to wriring your own software.  (Arcade alley, Jul 81, Aug. 81)

Programmable Game System/Machine: Name given to to the first generation of game systems that would accept cartridges instead only playing built-in games.  (E.G. Winter ’81 p. 16)

Programmable Videogame Rights:  Used to describe a licenses acquired by a video game publisher to create a translation of a game for a home console.  (E.G. Winter ’81, p.32)

Programmability : Used to describe the most important attribute of console video game system, the ability to use swappable cartridges (E.G. winter ’81, p. 31)

Quadrascan : Atari’s trademarked name for their vector monitor, used as an adjective. Named because Atari’s technology broke the vector screen into 4 parts for faster processing (E.G. Winter ’81, p. 14, E.G. Mar. 82)

Quarter Snatcher: Slang term for an arcade coin-op video game. (E.G. Mar. 82)

Rack: A synonym for “level”, stems from it’s use in the game of Pool. (See also: “Scenario”)  (E.G. Oct. ’82)

Rasterscan: Term used to describe the the way a standard television monitor creates a pixel-based display. (Arcade alley, Dec. 81)

Resident (Game): A game included in the ROM of console that plays by default if no other game cartridge is inserted. (E.G. Nov. 82, In reference to MineStorm for Vectrex, p. 26)

R.F. Modulator:  A device attached to the antenna input of a TV to display the output of a video game system.   Converts signals from a video game system into a format that can be used by television (E.G. Winter ’81)

Roller Controller: Another name for a Trac-Ball style controller.  Specifically introduced by Coleco for ColecoVision (E.G. May ’83)

Rollover: When  the score of a video game returned to zero because the memory allocated for the score reached it’s maximum value.

ROM Cartridge: Another name for a game cartridge.   Contained a game program burned into Read-Only-Memory tha twas read by game console (Arcade Alley, Sep. 81)

Scenario: Early name for what would become “level”. See also “Rack” (E.g. Aug. ’83)

Screen Overlays: Clear plastic screen placed over a video game screen to add color, design and static images to game play experience. (Use in with Vectrex console)  (E.G. Oct. 82)

Scrolling Shoot-Out: Name given to games like “Defender” of which it was (possibly) the first in the genre. (E.G. Oct. ’82)

Senior Game System:  Name given the the Atari 5200 and Colecovision in 1982. (E.G. Jul. 84)

Sequence Game : A memory game (i.e Simon) (E,G. Winter ’81 p. 19)

Shoot ‘Em Up: A game genre where the object was to shoot at as many targets as possible before your player (or players) was (were) destroyed.

Solitaire Videogame/Game : Used to describe a single player game.   The lack of single player or “solitaire” games is what hampered many game systems in the early 80’s.  Readers complained that the Intellivision and Odyssey were difficult to play alone.  The Atari VCS on the other hand, had a line-up of games that could be played “solitaire” or by multiple people.  (EG Jan. 83, p. 24. E.G. Mar, 82)

Stand-Alone : A term used to describe a table-top video game system that with neither hand-held nor a console (i.e. Vectrex, Cosmos) (E.G. winter ’81, p. 15)

Stand Alone Programmable: A Stand alone video game system with swappable games. (see Stand Alone) (E.G. Winter ’81 p. 16)

Standard Programmables: See Programmable Game System

Standard Videogame System: Name given to a videogame system with less than 4K of memory and low resolution graphics. (E.G. Jul. 84)

Table-Top Game System: Name given to a stand-alone game system that is too big to hold (E.G. Vectrex) (E.G. Jul. 84)

“The Play’s The Thing”: Arcade Alley and Electronic Game’s informal motto for game design.  They believed that when all was said and done, the way a game played was the most important aspect. Cribbed from Hamlet. (Arcade Alley Sep. 81, E.G. Sep. ’82)

Third Wave Videogaming:  A term used to to describe the act of playing games on a  3rd generation of video game consoles such as the ColecoVision and Atari 5200. (E.G. Jan. 83)

Three Quarter Overview: Another name for isometric view

Translation: A version of game created for another system other than the original.  Sometimes with a different name or look, but not a “knock-off” (See: The Incredible Wizard re: Wizard Of Wor in Sep. 82 issue of E.G. page 88).

Trek-Type : Term used to describe strategic/tactical space-battle simulation games (E.G. Star Raider, Star Masters).  Named after the mainframe games “Trek” and “Star Trek”) (E.G. Oct. ’82)

Turnover: see Rollover.

Vanity Board: Printed national high score chart chart for coin-op video games. (E.G. Dec. 82)

Variations:  Different versions of a game on a single cartridge that changed up the variables and offered different styles of play and increasing difficulty.   Mostly used in early Atari VCS games played in short play sessions.   Variations fell out of favor when the the concept of game “levels” was created. Levels allowed  players play much longer in a single session  of game as the difficulty and options increased dynamically.    (Arcade Alley Jan. 81)

Vector Monitor: Display system that displayed graphics as lines drawn between two points as opposed to the bit-mapped pixels of a rasterscan display.  (E.G. Mar. 82)

Vectorbeam: Vector-based monitor system developed by Cinemtronics. (E.G. Mar. 82)

Videogame: Used interchangeably with “video game” (EG. Jan, 83, p 24)

Videogaming Era: Roughly 1977-1983.  When golden age video games were at the height of their popularity. Followed by The Computer Age. (E.G. Oct. 84)

Wrap-Around: A technique in ag me that allowed a player to exit on side of the screen and appear on the opposite side. (EG. Jul. 84)

 

 

 

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  • Gonzo

    You include the term “Burn-In” in your list of “terms that never caught on”, and your definition is somewhat accurate, but how you conclude the term never “caught on” is beyond this reader. Ever heard of a screen saver? After Dark? Flying Toasters? I know everyone else here does. Read any article ever written that remotely mentions screen savers and you will invariably find this ubiquitous term that never “caught on”. Try consulting Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burn-in), or Google, which returns 12,000,000+ results to the query “burn in”.

    Even more ironic, this is a so-called “retro” computing site, and the term burn-in and screen savers as a whole are nothing if not that.

    My patience turned before finishing, but a 10 second precursory scan of this list turns up numerous other, perhaps even more blatant, examples of mis-inclusions on this list, such as: “Shoot ‘Em Up”, “ROM Cartridge” and countless others to obvious to itemize here. Even more incredibly, I’m the last person you would call a “gamer”.

    Try a one second Google search before your next enlightening glimpse into the history of technology, lest people get the idea you type in your sleep.

    First and last visit to this momentous historical resource.

    Sincerely,
    Gonzo

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  • 8bitadmin

    Gonzo,

    I’m still trying to figure out your complaint. The whole point of this list is that the words ARE “retro”. they were once in the vernacular, but have faded away. The point is, games had rich life long before the current crop on Twitter and internet wars. In a way, you proved it.

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