Ten Common Mistakes In Video Game Terminology; or, I Am a Pedantic Lout

Jake Spencer
27 June 2012

1. Sonic the Hedgehog's "Coins"

I get it. By the time Sonic the Hedgehog was released, we'd already had three Super Mario Bros. games, and they set the standard that all side-scrolling action platformers would follow. If Mario didn't have coins, Sonic probably wouldn't have rings. (Sonic probably wouldn't exist at all, but I digress.) By 1991, kids were so used to collecting coins that that's just what they round, yellow, collectable things.

Kids were WRONG.

A ring is not a coin. If he likes it, he shouldn't put a coin on it. That would be dumb. A coin wouldn't even go on it.

2. Bumpers

Back in my day, we called these "L" and "R," because those were their names. If you wanted to be formal, you'd say "L Button." If you wanted a more general term, you'd call them "shoulder buttons."

I guess "bumpers" are officially a part of the Xbox 360 controller. Great, but that doesn't give anyone the right to revise history. This ain't some kiddie-bowling whatsit. There aren't no bumpers on no Super Intendo!

3. Super Intendo Tapes

I may be an ogrish pedagogue, but my heart's not made of stone. People who refer to all video games as "Nintendo" are friggin' adorable. People who can't pronounce "Nintendo" are more charming, still.

One of my young cousins got an NES the other day. Not only was he unable to wrap his head around the name of the console ("What's it called? NKS?"), he was simply baffled when referring to the games you put in it. He showed me his Tetris "disc." I tried to explain to him that we call those "game paks" or "cartridges," and he responded by showing me his "Zelda ink cartridge." Adorable!

4. Deus Ex

Latin may be a dead language, but the phrase deus ex machina isn't some made-up brand name like "Nintendo." It's been employed in critical discussions of art and entertainment for centuries.

Granted, it's a tricky word, phonetically, but if you want to act like you're cool and sophisticated for playing a thinking person's shooting game, please don't call it, "Doozix."

5. Mêlée

Another foreign word, and one that doesn't enter many conversations amongst the general population. Hand-to-hand combat tends to play a bigger role in video games than it does in the lives of people I know.

If you are a nerd, and you're going to insist on using this word frequently, the least you could do is learn the correct pronunciation. Unless your Lvl. 45 Paladin is equipped with a +2 Sword of Stale Beef, he's probably not using a "mealy" weapon.

6. Cuccos

What separates a Cucco from a chicken? The name.

They have exactly one defining trait, and you would take that away from them because you're too lazy to remember the proper nomenclature. Shame on anyone who's ever called a Cucco a "chicken," and double-shame if you would reduce Koopa Troopas to mere "turtles."

7. Super Mare-ee-oh

I like to say his name like that. It's way funnier, and it drives people crazy.

Still completely wrong, though.

8. Pokeymen

Same deal as #7.

If you'll excuse me, I'd to get off this topic. In my search for the picture above, I accidentally came across an alarming number of "sexy" Lapras drawings, and now I don't want to think about Pokémon for at least the next month.

Seriously, Lapras?!

I don't want to think about this.

9. Games

Speaking of things I'd rather forget, I've spent a few years in retail, where I'd frequently have exchanges like the following.

Customer: I'm looking for a PlayStation game.
Me: Okay, which one are you trying to find?
Customer: No, I just want the game.
Me: Sure, which game?
Customer: The game! The PlayStation game!
Me: Wait, do you mean the system?
Customer: What system? I just want the regular game. Does someone else work over here?
Me, pointing at a PlayStation 3 console: Is this what you want?
Customer: Yeah, that's what I said. I want the PlayStation game.
Me: I'm so sorry about the confusion. Can I help you with anything else?
Customer: Yeah, where's the PlayStation Mary-oh?

10. Stylus

What do you call more than one of these things? Styluses? Styli? Stylees?

Nothing sounds right!