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Video Game Tropes

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An article in this index will be about these things:

  • Gameplay mechanics — including mechanics borrowed from Tabletop Games.
  • Characterization and setting tropes specific to game characters and settings.
  • Setting tropes that aren't necessarily specific to games but are used in games to the degree they are pretty much stock elements, or without which many games would be unrecognizable/unplayable.

NOTE: Please do not add tropes to this index if they can instead be put in one of the subcategories below.


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    Subcategories and trope indexes 

    Tropes related to technical aspects of video games 
  • Ambidextrous Sprite: Sprite based games often save data by flipping the character's left and right facing sprites. When this happens with a character that has an asymmetric design it can create odd inconsistencies.
  • Anti Idling: Ways to discourage players from being idle during gameplay.
  • Anti-Rage Quitting: Ways in which developers discourage players from leaving multiplayer games early.
  • Arcade-Perfect Port: Once the golden standard for ported video games when the difference in processing power between arcade and home was substantial.
  • Automatic New Game: If the game can't find a previous save file, it skips the usual choice of "New Game" / "Continue Game" and starts up a new game by default.
  • Autosave: The game saves automatically at points without the player's input.
  • Back That Light Up: Handheld game consoles can be lit in several ways.
  • Cel Shading: A rendering process used to make 3D models look like cartoons and/or comics.
  • Completion Mockery: Get 100% on a game or task in the game, and the game makes fun of you for it.
  • Console Cameo: A replica of the console a game is on (or another console by the same company) appears in the game.
  • Context-Sensitive Button: A control that does different things depending on the current situation.
  • Cut-and-Paste Environments: Repetition of levels/environments, either in part or whole.
  • Digital Avatar: Your custom persona inside the game (and elsewhere in cyberspace).
  • Digitized Sprites: Converting an existing or pre-made image into a sprite.
  • Dynamic Loading: Techniques used to hide Loads and Loads of Loading.
  • Earn Your Bad Ending: If the Downer EndingamongMultiple Endings requires a surprising amount of extra effort to reach.
  • Elaborate Equals Effective: Items and weapons will have a better look as they grow stronger.
  • Emergent Gameplay: In the course of playing a game, players discover new methods and strategies beyond the basic mechanics. Can leads to Not the Way It Is Meant to Be Played.
  • Essence Drop: Dead enemies drop some intangible thing (usually spheres) that refill your health, magic, etc.
  • Event Flag: Something happens that triggers something else (not always related) to occur.
  • Evolutionary Retcon: As graphics technology improves, the appearance of the enemies changes so they are scarier, more detailed, and/or more lifelike.
  • Expository Gameplay Limitation: Temporarily limiting the range of actions the player character can make in a game, to allow for exposition. Doesn't disrupt gameplay as much as an Exposition Break.
  • Expressive Health Bar: Animations, sounds, etc that play when the player is low on health.
  • Faux First-Person 3D: A way to simulate 3-D graphics by arranging 2D elements into a perspectivical picture.
  • First-Person Ghost: In First-Person Shooter games, you can never see any part of your body other than perhaps your gun-toting arms.
  • Fixed Camera: The camera views the level from a specific direction or angle, often for thematic reasons. Either way, you can't change the angle if you wanted to.
  • Flip-Screen Scrolling: A continuous gameworld scrolls only in full-screen intervals, or is otherwise rendered as a series of "screens".
  • Freelook Button: The ability to switch from player control to camera control (when you can't have both), and simply observe all the gameworld's Scenery Porn from the character's perspective.
  • Freeware Games: Games which have either been created for free distribution, or are formerly commercial titles that have been released from their copyright obligations.
  • Game-Favored Gender: In a game where you can pick your character's gender, one gender is considered more useful than the other.
  • Going Through the Motions: 3D games have a recognizable set of animations for each character which are repeated throughout the game.
  • Graphics-Induced Super-Deformed: Video game characters in older games have big heads in-game due to the low pixel count they take up.
  • Head Swap: Same body + different head = different character!
  • Hit Spark: Much like Flash of Pain, it helps you know when one of your attacks hit something.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: A good meal heals injury.
  • Hyperactive Sprite: The sprites weren't given an idle mode, thereby being animated as if moving when it should be standing still.
  • Isometric Projection: A form of graphical projection that fakes a third dimension when only 2D graphics are available.
  • Kill Screen: When an older game gets played so far past expectations that it results in a Game-Breaking Bug.
  • Live-Action Cutscene: A cutscene that uses live-action actors and sets.
  • Loading Screen: Please wait, your trope description is loading...
  • Magnet Hands: Characters in Platform Games will always be holding their weapon/item, no matter what kind of crazy acrobatics they're engaged in.
  • Model Dissonance: Assets in a game are fudged to look right or make the game run better, which looks weird if you peek behind the scenes.
  • Mook Debut Cutscene: A short, usually wordless cutscene that introduces you to a new kind of mook.
  • Moved to the Next Console: In development, a game is moved from one console to the newest hardware, usually due to being a late-release title.
  • Multi-Platform: Any software program, particularly a Video Game, that is simultaneously developed and (usually) simultaneously released for more than one system.
  • New Weapon Target Range: Any non-tutorial area set up in such a way as to showcase the newest addition to a player's arsenal.
  • New Work, Recycled Graphics: Huh, they look familiar, just like their previous game...
  • Point Build System: The opposite type of Game System to the Class and Level System, you spend points to buy stats & skills.
  • Post-Processing Video Effects: Common visual effects that are applied after the scene is rendered by the game engine.
  • Pre-Rendered Graphics: Graphics and cutscenes that are rendered outside the game's own engine, often of a higher-quality.
  • Ratchet Scrolling: The camera follows you in one direction only; it won't let you retrace your steps.
  • Real-Time with Pause: The ability to affect gameplay while it's paused.
  • Repeatable Quest: Quests that can be repeated and completed as many times as you want.
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  • Respawn Point: When you die, there's a designated place where your character pops back out.
  • Save Token: An item in your inventory that allows you to save your game.
  • Scripted Event: Events in video games which are programmed to unfold in the same way each time.
  • Self-Contained Demo: A video game demo that uses original levels instead of reusing levels from the final product.
  • Shareware: A popular form of game distribution, especially during the 1990s.
  • Side View: A video game perspective in which all objects are viewed strictly from the side, with little or no amount of their tops or bottoms visible.
  • Skybox: A graphical representation of the sky that "wraps around" a computer game world, and is used to simulate the "sky" of a game world.
  • Soft Reset: The ability to restart just the game, without having to reboot the system.
  • Sound of No Damage: A sound effect played when something is hit without taking damage.
  • Sprite/Polygon Mix: Fifth-generation systems often used fully 3D backgrounds with sprite characters, or static backgrounds with polygonal characters.
  • Suddenly Blonde: A character's design in earlier works is constrained due to technical limitations.
  • Suspend Save: A Quick Save system that is good for a single use.
  • Tech Demo Game: A game that has such high hardware requirements, it's almost like a tech demo for said hardware requirements. It can also refer to games that make an obvious push to show off power (such as a game for a video game console).
  • Thematic Series: A series of loosely connected games.
  • Three Quarters View: A method of portraying three dimensional space in a two-dimensional plane. Basically, it's a tilted bird's eye view perspective in which both the top and front of an object is seen at the same time, and the vertical axis indicates both height and depth.
  • Top-Down View: A bird's eye view of the action.
  • Unending End Card: The game ends on an inescapable congratulatory screen.
  • Vector Game: Any game that uses a vector graphics display instead of pixels or polygons.
  • Video Game A.I.: Video game sub-systems that govern Non-Player Characterbehaviors.
  • Video Game Geography: The consequences of making maps fit to a game instead of the other way around.
  • Who Forgot the Lights?: They made it dark for atmosphere ... pity you can't see anything because of it.
  • Wrap Around: A mechanic where the edges of the screen are hyperspatially connected: move past the left side, and you appear on the right.
  • Zip Mode: An out-of-story way to quickly get from one area to another, to minimize backtracking.

    Common gameplay tropes 

    Common non-gameplay-related tropes 
  • 30-Day Free Trial: Offering the game free for a limited time so that new players can try it out.
  • Addressing the Player: Once you enter your name, the game brings it back later as part of the plot or gameplay.
  • Adjustable Censorship: An option in the game to change how much mature content the player will encounter.
  • Announcer Chatter: Announcers in video games can be funny, but also annoying.
  • Back from the Brink: The story begins with the enemy about to kill off the players, then you have to fight back.
  • Better as a Let's Play: People prefer to watch other people play and react to a game rather than play it themselves.
  • Canon Identifier: Multiple Player Characters are given different titles to distinguish them from one another.
  • Canon Name: A character which is named by the player is given a "real" name in subsequent adaptations.
  • Catastrophic Countdown: Once a Time Bomb is set, the whole area starts joining in. Even before the boom.
  • Chain Reaction Destruction: Instead of a thing exploding with BOOM, it goes "pow pow pow pow pow!"
  • Character Portrait: Important characters in some RPGs may have pictures of them display during dialogue.
  • Clairvoyant Security Force: Certain guys seem to psychically know when you are trying to steal something and immediately appear from wherever they were to stop you.
  • The Computer Shall Taunt You: A character in the game taunts you.
  • Concealed Customization: Customization such as tattoos and piercings is wasted by costumes that cover the character's face/body.
  • Coup de Grâce Cutscene: After you defeat a boss, a cutscene shows you delivering the final blow.
  • Crate Expectations: Crates are everywhere in video games and serve all kinds of different purposes.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: You have no choice but to be cruel in order to continue playing.
  • Cutscene: Non-interactive sequences inserted into the action of a game.
  • Death Cry Echo: When a character is killed, they give off a dying scream, which is repeated (getting fainter) like an echo.
  • Defeat Means Playable: Once you defeat a character, you can then play as them.
  • Destructible Projectiles: Projectiles can be taken out by hitting them with an attack.
  • Dialog During Gameplay: The character you control has conversations with other characters as you're walking around instead of during a cutscene.
  • Dueling Player Characters: You must fight a character you have previously controlled in a single-player game.
  • Empty Room Psych: What do you mean this room really isempty?
  • Enjoy the Story, Skip the Game: A game which features both gameplay and story, but the gameplay is largely overlooked in favour of the story.
  • Excuse Plot: A bare-bones plot that's only there as a justification for the gameplay.
  • Exposition Break: A break in the gameplay to provide you with exposition.
  • Fackler Scale of FPS Realism: A scale that measures how close First-Person Shooter games are to real-world shooting and combat.
  • Foreboding Architecture: Games which allow you to predict when enemies will appear based on the room or visuals you're seeing.
  • Game Gourmet: All manner of food along the way with which to feed the player character.
  • Gameplay-Guided Amnesia: Because the character knows things the player doesn't, sometimes the character gets amnesia to excuse the explanation to the player.
  • Gay Option: In many games where the player character can engage in an optional romantic relationship, there's the possibility of choosing a homosexual date.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: In an RPG, the main character always uses a sword. Even if the size of the sword is bigger than them.
  • Hide Your Children: In violent video games, there will be no children at all anywhere in the game, or they will be impervious to harm.
  • Hitscan: Since bullets travel really fast, they really travel instantly to their destination in a straight line, right?
  • I Can't Reach It: Characters refuse to do or 'can't' do something that is clearly within their means.
  • I Fought the Law and the Law Won: Whoever or whatever the local law enforcement may be, attempting to fight it is futile. They're either downright invulnerable, or endlessly respawn.
  • Impassable Desert: You can't enter the desert without some important item.
  • Infallible Babble: Whenever you are given information, it is always correct.
  • Informing the Fourth Wall: Main characters will talk to themselves about the items they have if the player tries to examine one, or use them in an invalid manner.
  • In-Game Novel: A full-length novel which can be read inside the game.
  • In-Game TV: An actual TV show which the player can watch inside a game.
  • Interactive Start Up: A playable or otherwise interactive part of a game during a Start Screen, main menu or Loading Screen.
  • Involuntary Group Split: The characters are forced by a suddenly falling pile of rock, to continue their journey alone.
  • Irrelevant Importance: An important object that's already been used and hence irrelevant is still prevented from being destroyed or lost by the game.
  • It's Up to You: It's the main character's job to do absolutely every task of any significance.
  • Journey to Find Oneself: After the end of a game, one character goes off on their own to wander the world.
  • Late Character Syndrome: A character who comes to the party too late in the game for the player to want to go through the effort of using them.
  • Late to the Tragedy: The main character arrives after something horrible has happened, and while they try to escape or investigate, they inevitably learns the whole story.
  • Loot Boxes: A form of microtransactions—pay money to get a box (or something else) filled with Random Loot.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: This is a very elaborate song for such a short screentime.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Ridiculously overemphasized blood and gore.
  • Mad Libs Dialogue: The practice of recording lines with blanks in it, which can be filled in later.
  • Microtransactions: Selling additional game content for real-world money.
  • Misaimed "Realism": An element of the gameplay that is supposed to make the game realistic, but eventually makes it laughably unrealistic.
  • Monsters Everywhere: Going from point A to point B is like carving your way through a thick jungle of flesh.
  • Musical Spoiler: A change in background music is an early indication that something is about to happen.
  • Mythology Upgrade: Mythological monsters get beefed up over their original descriptions.
  • New World Tease: You are given a glimpse of a brand new world, but can't do anything there yet.
  • Nice Day, Deadly Night: Video game levels get more dangerous once it's night.
  • No-Gear Level: A level or piece of the plot where you've been stripped of your weapons and/or equipment.
  • No Item Use for You: You can't use certain or any items in certain situations.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: Forsaking any plot or character development so that the game is purely about the gameplay itself.
  • Now, Where Was I Going Again?: OK, I saved my place three months ago and I'm picking the game up again... so where was I supposed to go?
  • Omnicidal Neutral: Games that let you be neither good or evil, but you can take on everybody.
  • Only Idiots May Pass: The game assumes you've never played it before, and requires you to "find out" about things you may already know.
  • Paused Interrupt: When one character is "interrupted" by another, sometimes there is a pause before the second character actually starts talking.
  • Player and Protagonist Integration: Are you talking to your character, or are you your character?
  • Player Punch: Where the game kills or hurts someone or something that the player has come to feel emotion for.
  • Play the Game, Skip the Story: A well-detailed video game plot... which everybody ignored in favour of gameplay or the metagame.
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo: In a sequel, the Player Character from a previous game in the series shows up.
  • Prolonged Video Game Sequel: In video games, sequels often tend to be longer and more expansive than the previous game.
  • Protagonist Without a Past: Even if, reasonably, their hometown should be on the map, your character might never receive an explicit backstory.
  • Puzzle Pan: Where the game's camera pans across the correct route in a puzzle before you begin.
  • Quick Melee: Melee attacks caused by pressing a button, rather than switching to a melee weapon. Usually seen in shooter games.
  • Racing Ghost: A recording of a previous run that can be raced against in a Time Trialmode.
  • Random Event: Things that can happen, but where, when, or if they will happen are determined purely by chance.
  • Random Power Ranking: The tendency of video games to rank personal/phlebotinum power on a oversimplified, seemingly random/arbitray scale.
  • Real Is Brown: Games that try to be more "realistic" often seem to paint everything in shades of brown or gray.
  • Recurring Element: An item, character, monster etc. that appears in several games which are otherwise disconnected.
  • Right-Handed Left-Handed Guns: A weapon used in the right hand, but which seems to be designed for left-hand use.
  • Save the Princess: Typical early video game plot.
  • Scenery as You Go: As you walk along a bridge or walkway, it creates itself, allowing you to continue.
  • Scenic Tour Level: The game starts with exploration of a small part of the setting while getting a tour of the level.
  • Shoplift and Die: Stealing from a shop can be hazardous to your health.
  • Sidetrack Bonus: It can be a good idea to go the wrong way.
  • Songs in the Key of Panic: Certain events cause a song in video games to speed up.
  • Space-Filling Path: Rooms always have to have stuff in them, or twist or turn or generally make you spend more time in them than necessary.
  • A Space Marine Is You: In sci-fiFirst Person Shooters, starring a member of the military, you will be a muteSpace Marine.
  • Speaking Simlish: A language, generally for NPCs, made up of nonsense sounds strung together like actual words.
  • Stalactite Spite: Inanimate cones of limestone can see players coming and fall appropriately.
  • Stat Death: It is fatal to allow a certain stat besides HP to fall to zero.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: Leaving scraps of information lying around the game world for the lonely player to find and pick up. Also known as environmental storytelling.
  • Story-to-Gameplay Ratio: The ratio of how much story and gameplay are present in a game.
  • Stronger Sibling: In most games, if the Big Bad has a sibling, they will be even stronger than the Big Badthemselves.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: Sometimes the plot makes the main character do idiotic things, even if the player knows not to do them.
  • Subtitles Are Superfluous: Some games do not have any subtitles for fully voiced scenes.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: No matter how much stronger you are than the enemy, they will always attack you without hesitation.
  • Super Move Portrait Attack: Whenever a video game character uses their Limit Break, a portrait of them or close-up of their face is flashed on the screen just before they proceed to beat the crap out of an enemy.
  • The Three Trials: The hero must achieve three goals to advance the plot.
  • This Is the Final Battle: A Stock Phrase spoken just before the battle with the Final Boss.
  • Title Theme Drop: When the Title Screen theme for a game is played in a certain context within the game itself.
  • Training Stage: A stage where the players can train freely the moves they will use in the game.
  • Variable Mix: The running background music has parallel parts that fade in and out with the rising and falling action level, rather than a set track.
  • Victory Pose:YATTA!
  • Victory Quote: In a Fighting Game, the winner gives a badass quote to the loser.
  • Video Games and Fate: Video games tend to be highly linear by their very nature. Some games call attention to this by having fate or destiny be a narrative or thematic element.
  • Video Game Historical Revisionism: The practice of misrepresenting facts in a historical setting, even when it would make no change to gameplay to be true to history.
  • Video Game Tutorial: Complementary to new players that are getting the hang of how the controls work.
  • Villain Shoes: A part of the story where you get to control the villain.
  • Violation of Common Sense: Where the game allows you to do something that would be really stupid in real life.
  • Visible Silence:... ... ...!
  • Voice Grunting: Games that either have audible "beeps" while text is scrolling, or short voice clips rather than full voice acting.
  • The Wandering You: Games that make you walk around a lot just so you'll fight a lot of battles.
  • War Has Never Been So Much Fun: It's a war game, but it stars cute, colorful characters and there's no blood.
  • The War Sequence: Stage of a game where the enemies begin to come out in huge droves, usually near the climax.
  • What the Hell, Player?: When the player does something weird or cruel, another character will call them out on it.
  • A Winner Is You: An ending sequence that's little more than a single line (that is usually filled with grammatical/spelling errors) and a pixelly picture.

Alternative Title(s):Video Game Trope


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