If it sometimes seems as if you're speaking a different language than the video game fans in your household, that's because you are. As with any hobby, gaming has its own vernacular, including an Oxford dictionary's worth of esoteric slang and shorthand references for everything from game systems and genres to the types of people who enjoy them.
Thankfully for parents who've never touched a joystick (or, more accurately these days, gamepad or motion controller), learning to speak gamer doesn't require years of study in front of the PS3, Wii or Xbox 360.
But the good news is that, despite the hobby's sprawling growth into new areas like digital, cloud and social games, once you've mastered the basics, grasping more offbeat turns of phrase quickly becomes second-nature. (Or you could do what even the best of us are often forced to do in a pinch: Google the darn term.) Consider the following gaming dictionary a crash course in all things interactive entertainment -- memorize it, and who knows? You may even become proficient enough to talk with your kids about the latest games without making them burst into tears of laughter.
Achievement – Although it began as a specific term for special goals that can be completed on Xbox Live-enabled games in exchange for virtual badges, achievements now can be earned in many different types of games. Players earn special call-outs (e.g. virtual trophies), and in some cases points, for reaching certain goals in a game. In Xbox Live games, Achievement Points count toward a player's Gamerscore.
Avatar – The character a player controls in a game, or the personification of the player in a game's world.
Backward Compatible – When a game system can run games or use accessories created for an older system, the new system is considered to be backward compatible with the old system. Note that backward compatibility can apply to a system's software, hardware, or both. A system may be considered backward compatible even if some older software will not run on the newer system. For example, even though some Xbox titles will not work on the Xbox 360, the 360 is still generally backward compatible with Xbox software.
Beta – A pre-release, nearly feature-complete version of a video game that's more advanced, from a development standpoint, than an alpha version. In many cases, a developer releases a beta version of a game to identify bugs before a game's final release. This can apply to other forms of software as well. Beta tests can be public (open to everyone) or private (open to a select group of invited testers). Anyone taking part in a public or private beta test is a beta tester.
Boss – A notable enemy, usually one possessing much greater power than other foes in the game. A boss is typically found at the end of a game level.
Casual gamer – Someone who plays casual games and/or someone who plays games only occasionally.
Console – Typically refers to a home video game system that hooks up to a television, such as the Nintendo Wii and Wii U, Microsoft's Xbox 360 or Sony's PlayStation 3. Portable systems including the Nintendo DS or 3DS and PlayStation Portable or Vita are also sometimes referred to as consoles as well.
Cooperative – Adjective for a game, mode or quest that allows or requires two or more players to work together towards the same goal.