1A Presents…Game Mode

Attendees play at UNLCKD Gaming during the BET Experience Fan Fest.

Attendees play at UNLCKD Gaming during the BET Experience Fan Fest.

When we decided to create a series on the world (or worlds) of video gaming, we did so with the elite, sophisticated, refined demographic that is the NPR audience in mind.  Yeah, that’s you.

But if you think people who listen to public radio also don’t play video games, you’re as hopeless as anyone in 1985 trying to beat Ghosts ‘n Goblins. Sixty-seven percent of Americans are gamers.

That stat includes host Joshua Johnson and some of our show producers, namely Paige Osburn, who masterminded the Game Mode series like the evil Ganon from The Legend of Zelda.

These are the conversations that are a part of the series.

And here, you’ll find a list of terms that you might hear us talk about during this series.  Study up. That way, you won’t find yourself a level behind.


Single-player: A game where you’re the only player; all other characters are controlled by the game AI.

Multiplayer: A game where you and other human beings all have your own avatars that you control; enemies might be run by the game AI, along with some NPCs, but many of the avatars are controlled by real people, who run around and shoot and/or talk to each other.

NPC: Non-player-controlled character. A character who is controlled by the game AI, with lines of dialogue that were written by people making the game

Avatar: The in-game representation of you. This can either be a person (or alien, or whatever) you design and name yourself, or a person (or alien, or whatever) the game has already created and you are playing as.

MMO: Massively multiplayer online game. A big game where hundreds if not thousands of players from around the world long on and play together. (examples: World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Fortnite, etc)

Shooter: A game that revolves around you playing a character shooting either other players or enemies.

First-person shooter: A shooter game where the camera is the player; the screen view is as if you’re looking out at the landscape through your own eyes, a first-person view.

RPG: Role-playing game. A game where you play as a character, and the emphasis is on assuming the role of that character in a fictional setting.

MMORPG: An RPG (role-playing game) set in an MMO (massively multiplayer online game). You assume the role of a character, in a fictional setting where many other players are doing the same thing.

PvP: Player-versus-player. A game where the goal is to play against other players.

PvE: Player-versus-enemy. A game where the goal is to play against enemies controlled by the game AI (sometimes with help from other players).

Point-and-click: A game you control using your mouse – you point and click your way across the screen, or to interact with objects and characters.

Respawn: What happens when your avatar “dies” in a game and then “comes back to life.” Players can sometimes respawn right where they died, and sometimes respawn at the beginning of a level or in another area.

Permadeath: What happens when your avatar “dies”… and stays dead. In some games, there are no second chances. RIP.

Quest or mission: A storyline in a game that involves an objective your avatar needs to complete, usually in order to advance in the game.

Sidequest: A storyline in a game with an objective your avatar needs to complete that is NOT necessary to advance the game, but can be completed for loot, or XP, or fun.

Loot: Your reward, usually for finishing a quest, mission or level. Usually comes in the form of in-game equipment (weapons, armor, items) that give your character various buffs.

 XP: Experience points. In some games, the number of experience points you have contributes to what level your character is. You need more experience points in order to “level up” – which makes your character more powerful.

Buff: A “boost” for your character/avatar. Some buffs are temporary; some are permanent; some are tied to specific items, weapons or armor.

Level (game design): A “level” of a game can mean a particular area, or a particular questline, or a particular amount of time in the game. Essentially, it’s a way to divide the game into “sections” – which usually increase in difficulty as the game progresses.

Level (character): The “level” of a character refers to how powerful that character is. Characters typically start at Level 1; you increase your level by playing the game, gaining experience points and “leveling up.” As you level up, your character gains attributes, hit points, powers, status effects… and generally just gets more powerful.

HP: Hit points. The amount of health your character has. More hit points = more health = a character who lasts longer in combat.