Join Joshua Rotchelle on this journey into the meanings behind some of the more widely used terms in games.
[dropcap size=small]E[/dropcap]arlier this month, a momentous addition was made to the English dictionary: the word “esports”. Aside from this meaning that Exeposé Games now steps on the toes of Sport, the addition of the word to Dictionary.com is a promotion for the term, which was formerly regulated to “e-sports”, but has now been lifted from the unjust banishment of hyphenation. The term “completionist” also made it in, as did “permadeath”.
All three terms were invented by gamers and for gamers who needed new words to explain things concisely, and decided to get mean with Occam’s Razor to do it; after all, why go to the trouble of saying “someone who likes to complete everything in the game” when “completionist” will suffice?
The term “esports” is a classic example of this process: the word stems from the “e” (for “electronic”) prefix, also found in “email” and “eBay”, being mushed together with “sports” — “electronic sports”. Although competitive games have been played professionally and semi-professionally for some time (the practice started with Quake III: Arena and Starcraft in the early ’90s), the new name for them has only recently become popular, coinciding with the also-rising popularity of esports themselves.
Completionist, as previously mentioned, is also a pretty obvious term. Denoting a person who is determined to achieve one hundred per cent completion of a given game (all quests done, everything unlocked, blah blah blah), the term has no clear origins, but one of the first official references to the term is to be found in the ultra-famous MMORPG RuneScape, where persnickety players have been awarded the “Completionist Cape” since 2011.
Any earlier than that, and its roots are anyone’s guess, but I can personally attest to using it since around 2006, when quest behemoth The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion required a new word to describe anyone mad enough to try and complete everything in its monstrous catalogue of things to do. Fun fact: there are more accomplishments to be nabbed in that one game than there are pocket monsters in the entire Pokémon franchise (1080 vs 721).
Permadeath is top trumps for history however: the term probably has the distinction of being the oldest on the list. The concept (and quite possibly the word) was actually invented before video games, pioneered instead by their forefathers: pen-and-paper role-playing games. In examples such as Cyberpunk, the ultra-famous Dungeons & Dragons, and my personal favourite Vampire: the Masquerade, if you died then you died a “permadeath” – no respawns for you, your character is done unless someone else manages to revive them.
The term was later popularised by video game Rogue and the games that followed in its footsteps (the aptly-named “roguelikes”), in which death meant death, no checkpoints or respawns for you. Roguelikes (which are distinguished by other features as well, such as randomly-generated levels) are going through a bit of a renaissance at the moment: the Binding of Isaac series is a very popular example that’s hit the mainstream, as is FTL: Faster Than Light.
Fortunately, permadeath is not a fate that the gaming vocabulary looks to be speeding towards. As games continue to forge onward as a wickedly popular medium, you can be sure that future trends will see more terms added to the dictionary. Whether the gaming masses will care is another question, but those seeking more “legitimacy” for games in the modern world will doubtless be pleased.
Joshua Rotchelle, Lifestyle Editor