Stop using these buzzwords to describe games!

I’m not too particular, but there are a handful of words that people toss around frequently to describe games that irritates me to no end. It’s fine to use any word for descriptive purposes, but only if it’s the proper word for the situation. Far too often forum members, game reviewers, and the general member of the public just picks up on a term and runs with it in the description of just about every game they enjoy. Here are some of the ones that need to be scaled back or abandoned completely.

Sleek – Lately, just about any time a game has a nice, unobtrusive interface, reviewers use the word ‘sleek’ to describe it. The word has lost all its original meaning with the gaming public, and now is just a substitute for ‘simple and easy to navigate’. Go read an IGN review by any high quality title, you’ll find this word in probably 3/4 of the reviews.

Epic – This might the most widely abused term as of late, and it’s still on the rise. As every major game release nears, fans are claiming that the experience is going to be epic. As first impressions of games come in, everybody claims that the opening was epic. As the final impressions start to make their way to message boards, we all get to hear just how epic that last boss fight was. Enough already!

Mixed Bag – People say mixed bag when they don’t want to get into the details of their criticism or they don’t know how to express their thoughts. Instead of putting forth the effort to describe what was good and what was less than admirable, reviewers often toss out the “well, graphics are sort of a mixed bag” comment. The term has been used countless times in the past couple of years, I think we can safely let it die now.

System Seller – Games do exist that will sell systems, but no single title is usually justification enough to drop anywhere from $250-$600 on a console each generation. Yes, there are some extreme cases of it happening, such as Wii Sports, but normally a console is sold by the strength of its library and upcoming lineups. This is especially true now that there are fewer exclusive titles than there were in the past. Gears of War isn’t a system seller. GTA IV isn’t a system seller. Ninja Gaiden II isn’t a system seller. All three games together, well yeah, they’ll sell systems.

Paradigm Shift – Much like mixed bag, this is a lazy term that reviewers will use when they don’t know how to say something in simple and easy to understand terms. If a game is great, they should tell us why it’s great, not simply say “it’s a paradigm shift in gaming” to sum things up. This term is also used in conjunction with “a new pinnacle”, “raised the bar”, “precedent setting”, or “…of the likes we’ve never seen before”. Call me cynical, but it’s very rare that these terms need to be used, let alone several times per year from the same reviewer.

Hardcore/Casual – Ok, I’m guilty of using these terms from time to time, but only because were not smart enough to come up with better terms. I agree in saying that there are hardcore gamers and casual gamers, but I don’t like labeling games as “a hardcore/casual experience”. If I’m a hardcore gamer, I’ll be open to playing any type of game to see for myself whether or not I’ll enjoy it. I don’t need somebody differentiating between what games are fit for the hardcore and what is better left to the casual crowd.

Mature/Kiddie – This one really drives me crazy. There’s nothing truly mature about any video game. Yes, a game might contain mature content, but the experience itself shouldn’t be identified as being any more mature than a game with a colorful scheme and a more lighthearted feel. Games are games. If you’re so insecure with your level of manliness that you need to brush aside games for being “kiddie” in favor of the next head-blasting shooter, you need to re-evaluate why you play games in the first place. I’ll say it again, games are games.

There are plenty more terms out there, but these are the ones that have been making their way under my skin most often as of late. I’m sure I’ll be back here in five minutes editing something I forgot into this list, so feel free to check back once in a while to see how the list grows and evolves along with new trends. Of course, it’s entirely possible that I’ll forget all about this post and never revisit it after it falls off the front page. It’s a total mixed bag of results, but either way, it should be epic.

James Tillman

I think the problem with both hardcore/casual and mature/kiddie is that they mean different things to each person. For me, a game like Grim Fandango, cartoony as it is, has much more mature writing, comedy, and character development than a darker but shallower title like Gears of War or Twilight Princess.


This sleek article requesting an paradigm shift, should speak to the Hardcore or Casual gamer alike, whether they be a mature, or kiddie player. This post is truly a system seller, or moreso a site seller, and it would epic if the advice given were taken into account by the industry, unfortunately I think they will see it more of a mixed bag.


I don’t know Brandon, but I like his style.

I bought a 360 right after I played Gears… so I think Gears sold me on buying a 360. I didn’t see the purpose of buying a new system, I was going to wait and buy a PS3, since I had been a PS guy since highschool. I don’t think Ninja Gaydeen is a system seller, or GTA… but Gears, Halo, Metal Gear, I think you can really use the term in their cases. I think it should only be used for games that are exclusive to a certain platform. Thoughts?

(ps I only let you win the cross bar chalenge because I felt bad for you)

James Tillman

Also, how about the word ‘gameplay’? I’d be curious to see how that one is defined, as most reviewers seem to regard it as the nebulous X-factor that excuses a game from having poor visuals, sound, or writing. I can’t help but feel like if more reviewers paid attention to the specifics of a game’s interactivity, developers would be pressured to have excellent controls, or art direction, or some other feature that sets it apart, rather than simply being a ‘solid’ example of what its genre has to offer.