Old School Gaming Dictionary


I consider myself an old school gamer… from the era when an Atari 2600 wasn’t a “retro” console but considered “ground breaking” technology… a time when parents honestly believed that “home computers” like the Commodore 64 would help with your education and weren’t just for playing games… back when it was considered the norm for a game to be written by a single person in their bedrooms after school, rather than some freakish development hell.

So… in an effort to demonstrate some of these changes I present an Old School / New School gaming dictionary…


Modern Day: A sad little loser invariably residing in a basement who champions the console that he has decided to swear blind loyalty to, safe in the knowledge that protected by his screen and keyboard the person he’s insulting cannot hurt him because they live hundreds or thousands of miles away, potentially on another continent.

Old School: The bravest of the brave, a man with conviction, because in the 1980’s if you were arguing with another fanboy it was generally face to face in the school playground and if you went too far you’d get a punch in the face.


Modern Day: A hateful little creature who takes pleasure in causing distress, a bully hiding behind the anonymity of the internet, a fanboy of the highest echelon who knows that there is a line between being a fanboy and becoming a troll… but laughed manically as it whooshed past him many, many moons ago.

Old School: A small plastic creature with a Don King haircut the girls would stick on the end of their pencils in class.


Modern Day: The nickel and dime way developers get a little extra cash out of you because you have to have a certain outfit for your hero/cat/dog/ship or because you hate the idea that you’d otherwise have to wait 24 hours before you can swipe sweet around in a vain attempt to match three in a row.

Old School: What you paid for your home computer down the shop… simple as that.

Digital Download

Modern Day: Buying a copy of a game online rather than physical, with the option of pre-installing a game so that rather than go to sleep at midnight like a sane person, you can be playing “Generic War Shooter 17” as soon as the clock ticks to 12.01am on the day of release.

Old School: The 5 to 15 minutes it took to load the game you’d bought off an audio cassette into your home computer before you could play it… back in the 1980’s there was no such thing as a quick 30 minute blast of a game before you went out or to work, because it could easily take that long to get a game to actually load to play it.


Modern Day: An in game Troll, someone who attempts to make your online experience less fun, like the imbeciles in Forza who race like hell into the first corner and make no effort to brake or turn, or the window lickers in shooters who think it’s a great laugh to kill their own team with a grenade over and over and over.

Old School: Generally the term given to the cassette player you were using to load a game, see above, deciding to wait to the very last moment before crashing forcing you to restart the whole tortuous process.


Modern Day: Something you unlock in an Xbox game for performing a set task, such as killing 100 penguins with a shoe, or even something as banal as pressing the Start button for the first time.

Old School: Getting a game to load off tape first time… see Griefer.


Modern Day: Something you’ll find on YouTube, or a website, where any particular area of a game that you’re having trouble with, can be referred to in seconds thanks to the internet to help you past that tricky section… often used by Achievement Hunters to race through a game in a far shorter time than if they had to work things out for themselves.

Old School: Not applicable… if you were lucky a map of your game might appear a month or two after release, but generally speaking you never really got a walkthrough for a game as they often had random elements so you couldn’t say for certain that a particular key would be in one location as it most likely wouldn’t.


Modern Day: A downloadable fix to correct (hopefully) something in a game that is broken that has been discovered between sending the game off for certification or duplication, and the games release day… often referred to as a “day one patch”.

Old School: Something your mother would sew over a hole in your jeans… in the 1980’s if a game was broken at launch it was broken forever, infamously one adventure game written using a programming tool had one location that was impossible to enter as the software used to create the game only allowed 8 objects to be present in each location… there were already so many items there that the presence of the player would take this over the limit.

Copy Protection

Modern Day: An elaborate system that stops duplicate copies of the disc being made that cannot be replicated by a simple disc copier.

Old School: A small, often multi-folded, slip of card in the games packaging with a grid system A-Z on one edge, 1-26 on the other, once a game had loaded you were asked to enter the colour combination of grid position K17 to play the game… often colour based with Red, Yellow, Green and Blue… if you were colour blind you were often screwed, get it wrong enough times and you’d have to reload.

Monochromatic Gaming

Modern Day: Games such as Limbo or Inside which use predominantly black and white to create a mood for the game, often a rather dark and menacing one.

Old School: Playing on an old Black & White TV set rather than a modern Colour one.


Modern Day: Something bought and paid for by a games publisher, whether that be in advertising revenue or allow the site early access to increase their click count and ad revenue, or by a huge wad of cash given to the site editors… at least if you believe half of what is posted in any Reviews comments section.

Old School: Something you bought and paid for in magazine form so you could read them.

Triple A Title

Modern Day: A game with a huge development and marketing budget, something pushed front and centre by the publisher… quality of the game is, apparently, utterly irrelevant to the process.

Old School: A game that got great reviews across the board, whether it be a big title from a well-respected publisher or a game written by a 13 year old after school… the amount of money spent on it was irrelevant.

Expansion Pack

Modern Day: A chunk of DLC to expand the story or online multiplayer experience, varying from map packs of First Person Shooters, to huge new lands to explore such as Blood and Wine for the Witcher 3.

Old School: Something which killed a huge UK software publisher in the 1980’s… rather than work within the limits of the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum (the two biggest UK home computers) software house “Imagine” decided to try something different and started work on two huge titles that would require a hardware expansion to play them, this would come in the box and be custom made.

This would allow a much bigger game to be created, but would also push the price of each game to close to £40 when the average price at the time was around £8.

The adverts appeared for over a year before, rather embarrassingly, the company collapsed under the weight of its debts during the filming of a BBC documentary about the UK video games industry… the cameras caught the moment when the programmers were refused entry to their place of work and the games died at pretty much the same time.

Now I’m sure to have missed a few things here and there, and I’ll admit that part of me looks back at these times with rose-tinted spectacles… but one thing that was never really a thing in those days was the whole “community” thing with games… if you wanted to play with a friend it was done by taking turns on the keyboard, or occasionally a game would be played in split screen but beyond that there was nothing.

No clans to take down huge missions in Destiny, no realms where multiple people work to build something jaw dropping like Minecraft, and certainly no real forums or things like Discord where gamers can chat, share experiences and tips like we have now… and while I don’t really go for online play as a rule, I can’t deny that for those that do modern game gaming crushes the old school set up hands down.

Mark Schutz

Based in the heart of the United Kingdom and old enough to remember when “old school” was just “school”. Multi-console owner who has never understood why some people feel the need to defend one console just because of the name on the box. Former IGN moderator (but much better now thanks) who has come out of that with a much improved outlook on video games. Can be found on Xbox Live or PSN under the name TTDog666