#173: The new style

Some suggested new year's resolutions for the way we talk about games.

Hello! And a very happy New Year to you all. I hope you had an excellent, restful break.

I would like to kick off 2023 by talking about words — something about which Hit Points, you will surely understand, thinks rather too much. I need not patronise you, dear enlightened, thoughtful reader, by waffling on about how language evolves over time. But it seems to me that, since we are discussing a medium so dynamic as videogames, our little corner of the lexicon must evolve even faster. So! As we take our first bleary-eyed, doughy steps into the new year, I thought I might suggest a few commonly used words and phrases that, to my mind, are no longer fit for purpose. It’s the Hit Points 2023 Style Guide! Please enjoy.


We have used this word for years to talk about how simple a game is to pick up and play — how easy it is for a relative or outright beginner to understand. I am quite sure I have deployed it dozens of times in my career when writing previews of fighting games, because of how bad the genre has always been at laying out a welcome mat and graceful on-ramp for curious novices. ‘Accessible’ was useful shorthand for describing a game that seemed to want to put that right.

Not anymore. Accessibility is no longer about how newbie-friendly a game is, but about the steps the developers have taken to make the game playable by people with disabilities. This is, needless to say, a far more important cause than whether my next-door neighbour (hi Will!) will be able to get his head around Street Fighter 6 without watching 500 hours of elite-level match footage and spending three months experimenting in Training Mode. We can no longer describe a game as ‘accessible’ for having a good tutorial, just as we cannot call a building ‘accessible’ because it has prominent signage outside and a helpful receptionist at the front desk. This is right and proper; it is progress, and it should be celebrated. (It also means we get to avoid a repeat of that thing where a FromSoft game comes out, someone laments its lack of accessibility options, it is swiftly misinterpreted and everyone spends a week arguing about difficulty settings. Something for us all here, I’m sure you’ll agree.)

Happily, we are blessed with potential alternatives. I have found myself drawn to ‘approachable’, but rather liked Hit Points chum Matthew Castle’s use of ‘graspable’ on a recent edition of The Back Page. There is no need for a consensus here; you may allow your brains, fingers and thesauruses (thesauri? thesaurae? dunno, I don’t use them) to run wild. Have at it.

Artificial Intelligence vs Machine Learning

I follow a number of venture-capital types on Twitter, because I have a professional curiosity about which way the game industry’s investment winds are blowing, and also because I hate myself and crave irritation. These guys — and they are almost all guys, obviously — are all about generative AI at the moment, trumpeting how the tech behind language models like ChatGPT, and image generators such as Lensa, are going to transform the creative industries, and particularly game development. Virtual worlds will get bigger without increased team sizes, as asset-creation speeds increase exponentially; game engines will create NPC character models on the fly; stories, item descriptions and marketing copy will write themselves. This is being carefully framed as helping existing teams to do more, though the obvious unspoken implication is that it could also help companies meet today’s workloads with a fraction of their current team sizes.

It is important at times like these to consider where a word or phrase has come from; about who wants you to use it, and why. Back in the Edge days we had a moratorium on the term ‘triple-A’ because it implies a level of quality, when all it really means is that a game has a big budget, or high profile, neither of which are guaranteed to birth a banger. We tried to avoid biz-speak for much the same reason; I still cringe myself inside out when I see a forum post in which someone talks about ‘leveraging IP’ or whatever. The biz guys would love for you to talk their language, because you are helping spread their message and their worldview, establishing a consensus on their behalf.

So it proves here. The VC set likes this stuff because, obviously, they think they can make money out of it. They would prefer us to think of machine learning as ‘artificial intelligence’ because it implies that the words or images it produces is an act of spontaneous creation; art that has been magicked from the ether by a computer, rather than being based on the combined input of millions of pieces of human creativity. In doing so, they can handwave away the very real negative implications that this sort of machine learning could have for the creative industries. Andreesen Horowitz gaming partner Jon Lai had his ass handed to him for this when he tried some classic VC #thoughtleader stuff on Twitter last month, culminating in a modest climbdown after 2,500 rapid-fire quote tweets showed him the error of his ways.

Chances are this stuff is coming whether we like it or not, and I expect Hit Points is going to be writing about it a fair bit. And hey, I’ve dabbled with it myself: all of Hit Points’ year-end posts were led with images created by OpenAI’s DALL-E, and I used Lensa to knock up some avatars and it’s honestly bloody brilliant. But it’s important we go into this stuff with our eyes open, fully aware that for all machine learning’s magic it is almost inevitable that some nobber in an expensive suit is going to use it as a pretext for layoffs. Let’s call it what it is, rather than what the late-stage capitalists that run the show would prefer us to.


In my brief time as a music journalist, there was no greater source of fame or recognition than being the person who came up with the name for a new genre of sound. For instance, it was Dom Phillips — the then-editor of Mixmag who later became an author and activist and whose murder in the Brazilian jungle last year made global headlines — who first coined the term ‘progressive house’. Dance music in the 1990s was a lot like videogames today: highly dynamic, always changing and evolving, new stuff emerging all the time. Whenever some sonic innovation came along, you had to put a new and exciting label on it.

The music journos of my era were terrific at that. In games we are fucking terrible at it. We come up with some form of descriptive shorthand that boils a game down to its essence in a highly unflattering way, and then we are stuck with it. May I submit, by way of evidence: ‘walking simulator’. My god. We are better than this, surely.

A new style of game should be exciting. We should be attracted by its descriptor, rather than repulsed by it. I spent 2022 consciously avoiding anything described as a ‘boomer shooter’ because a) I did not have a PC in the 1990s and have very little affinity with the Dooms and Quakes of the world, and b) even I am not old enough to be a boomer, thank you very much. Then I played a little Prodeus over the break and was furious to have ignored it for so long because its novel subgenre label was so off-putting. Proper banger, that one. Anyway, yes, let’s try a little harder with this stuff in 2023 and beyond, shall we? Thanking you kindly.

Addictive / Compulsive

Long overdue, this, but worth mentioning because I still see them used from time to time. The days when these words were a compliment are, or should be, a distant memory in an era where games are actively designed to be psychologically compulsive in order to more efficiently separate players from their wallets. Gaming disorder’s a thing, too, so let’s consign this one to the dustbin of history. (The American variant ‘addicting’ has, of course, been unacceptable since the nanosecond it was first committed to print, and its usage should be punishable by a Hague-style global court.)

That’ll do, I think; we have a fair bit of news to catch up on, after all. If there’s anything you think should be added to the 2023 style guide, please use your nearest Hit Points suggestion box (the comments, the Discord, or a reply to this very email). MAILBAG is still snoozing fatly on the sofa, and it’s high time we woke it up.


  • Happy Games Done Quick week! The biannual speedrun celebration kicked off on Sunday, and while I was saddened (and honestly a little puzzled) to discover it’s not an in-person event it’s still a rollicking good time. Here’s the livestream; the schedule, adjusted to your timezone; and a Reddit thread of timestamped VODs. Off you pop.
  • Hit Points had hoped to write less about Acquisition Blizzard in 2023, but it failed to account for Microsoft slipping very publicly on its own banana skin. The company has withdrawn a filing in which it made the eye-catching claim that the Federal Trade Commission and its court system were unconstitutional. A Microsoft spokesperson sobbed: “The FTC has an important mission to protect competition and consumers, and we quickly updated our response to omit language suggesting otherwise based on the constitution.” The year is about five minutes old and we already have our first entry for Said & Done 2023.
  • Deathverse: Let It Die, a battle-royale sequel to Grasshopper Manufacture’s swiftly forgotten 2016 brawler Let It Die, is being taken offline just four months after launch so its developers can fix a host of issues plaguing the game, including matchmaking and lag. “We believe that re-releasing the game with significant improvements will allow it to be enjoyed by a wider audience as well as our current players,” the team said, rather optimistically I must say, in a blog post.
  • It was CES last week, which means that once again Hit Points gets to marvel at the idea of anyone being up for a trip to Las Vegas in the first week of January. Absolute insanity. I can barely get out of bed! Anyway, among the highlights were Sony’s better-late-than-never accessibility controller, Project Leonardo; news that PS5 has passed 30m sales; Nvidia’s still-too-expensive RTX 4070 Ti graphics card and 40-series laptop line; and HTC’s new premium VR headset, the £1,299 XR Elite. And since it wouldn’t be CES without some newly announced solution in search of a problem, Nvidia’s cloud-gaming service GeForce Now is coming to… cars? Right. Of course.
  • Around 20 former staff at The Callisto Protocol developer Striking Distance have hit out at the studio after being omitted from the game’s credits because they left before it shipped. This is just so silly. It’s such petty, small-time behaviour and I honestly don’t understand why it keeps happening. You work on the thing, you get a credit, surely? Admittedly, I recently found out I got a consulting credit on a fairly high-profile game that has, shall we say, rather divided opinion, and I’d quite happily have my contribution to it stricken from the record. But still, we really need an industry-standard set of rules for this sort of thing. We’ll need a union for that, you say? What a shame. The executive class, when industry-wide organisation comes, will only have themselves to blame.
  • Apple will launch its long-in-the-making mixed-reality headset-doodah before the year is out, Bloomberg reckons.
  • NetEase has acquired SkyBox Labs, a Canadian studio that has assisted in the development of Halo Infinite and Minecraft.
  • Game Freak’s cult 3DS classic (and Hit Points Discord favourite) Pocket Card Jockey is coming to Apple Arcade next week. Cor.
  • UK games-mag legend Roger Kean has passed away. Kean co-founded Newsfield Publishing, the firm behind such seminal tomes as Crash and Zzap!64. I enjoyed Eurogamer’s lovely tribute, by Hit Points pal Graeme Mason.

There we go! Gosh, what a pleasure to be back at the coalface. Paid subs, I shall see you later in the week; if the rest of you would like to join us for the princely sum of £4 a month, kindly hit the button below. (If you’d prefer to pay in a different currency to avoid exchange rate fluctuations and transaction fees, drop me a line and we’ll work something out.) See you soon!