Pardon the dust!
This page uses undefined jargon or just isn't quite finished yet. I'll be back to finish this up shortly.

Glossary of Symbols

When reviewing a game, I watch out for certain things that might interest the people playing it. These additional details don't play a role in evaluating the game's content, so instead of lumping them in with the various warnings, I list them in their own section, usually marked "General Notes".

Additionally, to save space and keep things from becoming too jumbled up, I've taken to using small graphics, or icons, to highlight these special features. These icons are designed to be straightforward, but they might not be as obvious as intended.

To make everything as simple as possible, I've put together the lists on this page to explain each of the icons and what they represent.

Features that enhance the quality of a game

There are many ways to improve and polish a game. Some of these involve ways the game can interact with the world outside of the game, such as features that support the gaming community or provide additional material for the fans of the game to enjoy. So, here's a listing of some of these different ways games can become a little more fun.

You can play this game for free!
This is definitely one of the best perks of PC gaming: a lot of software that's available today is given away for free. Or as the Open Source community likes to say, it's "free, as in beer".

Free games are often simple and unpolished, but there are many exceptions. Other games can be played for free, but offer additional features or benefits via in-game purchases. In rarer cases you'll run across games that are sold with a name your own price deal, allowing you to choose how much to pay or if you're even going to pay for the game at all.

Since many gamers (and parents) are on a tight budget, these cheap but enjoyable games deserve a way to stand out from their potentially expensive competitors.
The soundtrack is available!
A lot of today's video games use elaborate and beautiful music, and many of them are making their soundtracks available as a separate purchase or as a free download. These files are CD quality, and are often worth the extra money.

In particular, video game soundtracks are great for providing some background noise for when you're working on something. After all, it's rare for these songs to have lyrics, and the songs need to be able to create atmosphere without distracting the player.
There are achievements to earn!
Achievements are badges or trophies that players can earn as they play a game. A lot of people love to earn them, even if they don't show them to anyone. Depending on the how well the developers use them, achievements can make a game better by providing additional challenges or alternative goals for the player to complete as they play through the game.

For more details about this common feature, see the slang entry for Achievement.

Steam Trading Cards are available!
Steam is a very popular gaming service, and among its many community oriented features is the ability to earn, collect and trade virtual trading cards. Not every game offers them, but the games that do also provide a few perks (such as a unique emoji and profile design) to the players that manage to collect a full set.

On the other hand, you can also sell unwanted cards to other players using Steam's marketplace. The money earned by doing this is placed in your Steam wallet, where it can be used to purchase other cards, virtual items for different games, or even new games.
A Linux version is available!
The majority of computers in the world are running a version of Windows, but many computer enthusiasts may also run an alternative operating system called Linux. There are many reasons for this, ranging from security concerns to personal preference, but it's always nice to see a developer make their products available to the little guy.

The only problem here is that developers usually focus more on the Windows version of their game, so the Linux version isn't always as polished or stable. Some make the transition quite well, but others just don't run at all. Of course, some of the games I review were originally developed for Linux, so those rarely suffer from this sort of problem.

Features that might pose a problem

Unfortunately, not every trend is a welcome addition to the games we play. Whether it's just a feature that not every gamer enjoys or a problem that can cause trouble for parents, it's worth warning everybody about it ahead of time. I'd expect seasoned gamers to already be familar with some of these issues, but parents need to be aware of them before something goes wrong.

This is an App
The main difference between Apps and programs is that Apps are almost always designed to be used on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. They may work well on a desktop or laptop, but they are rarely designed for this and it shows.

More often than not, Apps are simplistic. This is because smartphones and tablets just don't have the resources for complex and detailed games. Their controls are also designed rather differently, as smartphones and tablets don't normally have features like keyboards or controllers, causing them to be limited to the touchscreen. Desktops and laptops are designed the other way around, as they expect you to have a keyboard and mouse.

Granted, there are examples where an App can be easily used on a desktop or a desktop program can be run without issue on a smartphone, but these are relatively uncommon and aren't going to be the examples people think about when they hear that software was ported from a mobile device.
This game is ad-supported
Developers usually expect to be paid for their work, but at the same time, charging money for a game can put them at a disadvantage. The simplest way to offer the game for free and still earn the developers some money is to have the game display advertising. These games are said to be ad-supported, as the advertising revenue supports the development of the game.

Sadly, many games that use this method do so in ways that people consider abusive or extremely annoying. Some games plan around how the ads will be shown, which allows the advertising to be present without impacting the gameplay. However, this approach is fairly rare, and thus ad-supported software has earned a negative reputation.
In game purchases exist
This trend has made the news many times, as it's clearly catching parents completely off-guard. Many games are now allowing the player to purchase virtual goods and benefits using real money. These are known as microtransactions, and while they can be useful or make the game better, there are many games that are designed to exploit the player's short term interests to milk them for money.

This problem is especially bad for younger children. Many young children do not understand time well, have issues with impulse control, and want instant satisfaction. When these combine with limitations in games, they often prefer the quick fix over patience, and may not understand they are using real money to take the shortcut. For example, an adult can probably wait three hours for the virtual construction crew to finish building that new castle, but if you present a little kid with the option to wait three hours or pay $0.25 and have it done now, which would you expect them to choose?

The other issue with microtransactions is a problem for children and adults alike: some games don't make it clear when you're about to spend real money instead of spending virtual money. Fortunately, games that try to trick you like this are rarely worth playing anyway.
Your playtime is limited by the game
This tends to go hand-in-hand with in game purchases, but not always. Sometimes games limit how much you can play in a given period of time. I picked a lightning bolt for this icon because many of the games that do this call this limitation "energy" or "stamina". The idea is simple: every action you take in the game uses up a little "energy", and when you're out of "energy", you can't play anymore.

This isn't permanent though. If you wait a little bit, your "energy" will slowly restore itself over time and you'll be able to play more. The twisted part comes in when you're offered the option to purchase more "energy" using real money. I can understand needing to pay for services that keep the games running, but in many cases this is just exploitation.
You'll need a stronger computer
The vast majority of games will run well on most desktop computers that are available today. In fact, one of the computers I've been using to play the games I review is substandard at this point, meaning that if it can run the game, newer machines shouldn't have any issues. But, this is not always the case.

Since this is a technical issue, let's use an analogy that's easier to picture. Imagine for a moment that your computer is a hired assistant that will do your grocery shopping for you. When you give them a list of things to get, they dutifully leave, acquire the items you listed, pay at the checkout, and return home with them. The catch is that they are obligated to carry everything they purchase; they are contractually forbidden from using shopping carts or using more than one trip to bring things inside. They may use shopping bags however.

Just about every young man can handle a small list of groceries this way, and if the items are small enough, even longer lists wouldn't be much of a problem. Most game developers have been careful to make their games work like these short shopping trips, even taking the time to ensure that the game splits up larger tasks into several smaller ones to keep your computer from being overburdened.

However, sometimes they don't break up the tasks very well. This means that instead of making several short trips, your assistant is tasked with heaving a huge load of things in their arms. Many men can handle several bags, but there aren't many of us that can heft an entire trunk load of things comfortably. Throw in a few large taxables like a big box of detergent or some fresh kitty litter, and it's only a matter of time before their knees buckle.

These severely taxing jobs are only fit for the strongest of strong men, and likewise, some games are only fit for the strongest of strong computers. Don't even bother installing one of these games on a desktop that wasn't designed to be a gaming rig; the game just won't be playable. Laptops won't be able to handle these games well either. Even though some laptops are marketed as gaming devices, they are inherently weaker than their desktop counterparts and just aren't strong enough for taxing games.

The main difference between a normal computer and a strong gaming computer is that the latter will have a more elaborate cooling system and a dedicated graphics card. These two components help delegate the burdens that come with running games, and thus allow the system to handle harder tasks than others.
There is a permadeath mechanic
This issue is more of a personal preference than a serious problem, but it can trigger larger problems in the right situations, such as a family that has two or more children. Allow me to elaborate on this:

Most of the time, when your character dies in a game you can either respawn and try again or restart from your last save. Alternatively, your character's belongings will be there for the next character to retrieve. Getting a Game Over is a setback, but you can bounce back from it.

This is not the case when permadeath is involved. The term is a combination of the words "permanent" and "death", emphasizing that there is no second try, no coming back, no way to continue. Games with this feature will even delete your saves when you lose. Your character's death is permanent, and all of the progress you've made is gone forever.

Surprisingly, this can actually be fun, as it means you can't just blunder your way through the game. This has also been linked to the same thrill you can get from gambling: the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward for succeeding.

Because of the severity of losing the game, this feature isn't going to be for everyone. On the plus side, many games that use a permadeath feature have it as an option rather than a requirement, so you can enjoy the game without risking anything. There is also a "semi-permadeath" concept that has become popular recently. The idea here is that something (usually a type of in game currency or unlockable content) remains after the character's death, allowing the next adventurer to start with better equipment. I'll be sure to mention how permadeath is handled when reviewing the game, so check the review if the icon is present for more specific information.

Lastly, the major problem with permadeath is that since losing carries such a heavy penalty, it can stress people out extremely easily, and that can escalate into anger issues or other problems. It'll escalate even faster if someone else -- intentionally or otherwise -- did something that made the player lose. To be blunt, I can see siblings doing this to each other on a regular basis "for fun", and that's going to be an issue the parents are going to need to deal with.