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Video Game Tropes
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 sub-categories.

Tropes related to technical aspects of video games:

  • 2½D
    A sidescrolling platform game in a three-dimensional world.
  • Ambidextrous Sprite
    An asymmetric sprite will be perfectly mirrored—meaning it will "switch sides" depending on what way it's facing.
  • 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.
  • Camera Centering
    Quickly focusing the camera behind the player so you can see the same direction they are.
  • Camera Perspective Switch
    When the camera switches between first and third person perspective, or vice versa, either manually or dynamically.
  • Cel Shading
    A kind of rendering process that makes 3D models look like cartoons.
  • Combat and Support
    A pair of combat roles players can select between based on their respective play-styles.
  • 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.
  • Dialogue Tree
    Dialogue which proceeds by selecting options from a list.
    • Shall I Repeat That?
      When, at the end of a long set of text or dialogue tree, the person with whom you are speaking asks to start the entire conversation over.
  • 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 Ending among Multiple 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.
  • Essence Drop
    Dead enemies drop some intangible thing (usually spheres) that refill your health, magic, etc.
  • Event Flag
    Something that 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 and 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.
  • 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
    When gender differences lead to one gender being 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 have big heads in-game due to the low pixel count they take up.
  • Head Swap
    Same body + different head = different character!
  • Hyperactive Sprite
    Sprites which will not have 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.
  • Loading Screen
    Please wait, your trope description is loading...
  • Magnet Hands
    Characters in Platform Games will always be holding their weapon, no matter what kind of crazy acrobatics they're engaged in.
  • Mook Debut Cutscene
    A short, usually wordless cutscene introduces you to a new kind of mook.
  • Multi-Platform
    Any software program, particularly a Video Game, that is simultaneously developed and (usually) simultaneously released for more than one system.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Respawn Point
    When you die, there's a designated place your new body pops 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.
  • 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 must be 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.
  • Vector Game
    Any game that uses a vector graphics display instead of pixels or polygons.
  • 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.
  • Ability Required to Proceed
    Once you receive a particular item that lets you enter a previously inaccessible area, you will need it all over the place to simply continue on your journey.
  • Addressing the Player
    Once you enter your name, the game brings it back later as part of the plot or gameplay.
  • Alchemic Elementals
    Four specific monsters (variations are rare) are often used to represent an element.
  • Already Done for You
    Another character in the story has already accomplished one of your objectives.
  • Already Undone for You
    How did those NPCs get through the dungeon ahead of you without being required to Solve the Soup Cans like you were?
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different
    After getting used to one hero, you suddenly find yourself controlling a different character.
  • Announcer Chatter
    Announcers in video games can be funny, but also annoying.
  • Another Side, Another Story
    After beating the game, you get to play a parallel storyline with another character or plotline.
  • Back from the Brink
    The story begins with the enemy about to kill off the players, then you have to fight back.
  • Backtracking
    Having to return to an area you've already been to.
  • Bag of Spilling
    Wait, didn't I have a rocket launcher at the end of the last level?
  • Camera Screw
    The camera in a 3D game can be more of a hindrance than a help.
  • Canon Name
    A character which is named by the player is given a "real" name in subsequent adaptations.
  • Catastrophic Countdown
    One a Time Bomb is set, the whole area starts joining in. Even before the boom.
  • Chain Reaction Destruction
    Instead of thing exploding with BOOM, it goes "pow pow pow pow pow" etc.!
  • Character Portrait
    Important characters in some RPGs may have pictures of them display during dialogue.
  • Character Roster Global Warming
    50 light guys, 2 heavy guys.
  • 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.
  • Com Mons
    The monster (in monster battlers) or card (in card battlers) for beginners, which quickly becomes useless.
  • The Computer Shall Taunt You
    A character in the game taunts you.
  • 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 said character.
  • 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 is empty?
  • 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.
  • 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
    A game that allows the character to pursue romantic ties with a same-sex character.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords
    In an RPG, the main character always uses a sword.
  • 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.
  • Hit Scan
    Since bullets travel really fast, they really travel instantly to their destination in a straight line, right?
  • I Can't Use These Things Together
    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.
  • 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 item.
  • Infallible Babble
    Whenever you are given information, it is always correct.
  • 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.
  • 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 his 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 he escapes or investigates, he inevitably learns the whole story.
  • 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 new world, but can't do anything there yet.
  • 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.
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo
    In a sequel, the Player Character from a previous game in the series shows up.
  • 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 Trial mode.
  • 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-fi First Person Shooters, starring a member of the military, you will be a mute Space 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.
  • Stronger Sibling
    In most games, if the Big Bad has a sibling, they will be even stronger than the Big Bad themselves.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option
    Sometimes the plot makes the main character do stupid 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.
  • 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
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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 the real world.
  • 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 and a pixelly picture.


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alternative title(s): Video Game Trope
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