This post introduces Japanese slang words that come from video gaming terms. Note that most of them are often used on the internet, and hence recognised among young ~ middle-aged people only (but they have been used for more than a decade or two, so they are likely to exist for a while longer).
無理ゲー (murigē) means “a (video) game that is too hard and almost impossible to clear”, where 無理 (むり) means “impossible” and ゲー is short for ゲーム (game). Figuratively, it is also used to describe a task or situation that is extremely hard and apparently impossible to overcome. For instance, if you just started learning Japanese and have a look at some JLPT N1 questions out of curiosity, you might feel it’s “a game impossible to clear” (at this stage).
It is impossible/too hard to memorise all of these kanjis in two days.
In contrast to 無理ゲー, ヌルゲー (nurugē) means “(too) easy game”, where ヌル is short for ぬるい meaning “easy, mild, lax” (also “lukewarm”) and ゲー is short for “game”. Figuratively, it is also used to describe a task or situation that is as easy as pie and doesn’t require much effort.
I can graduate by just earning 10 more units (at uni) this year. Too easy.
クソゲー means “a shi*ty game”, like an incredibly boring game, horrendously buggy game, or a ridiculously hard game that nobody can clear without foresight. This word is more of a gaming term and not commonly used for other things. One of the most legendary Japanese クソゲー is たけしの挑戦状 (Takeshi no Chōsenjō; “The Ultimate Challenge from Beat Takeshi*“), a Famicom game released in 1986. In this game, a player is asked to meet a number of unreasonable conditions with no hint, and one of the most notorious ones is that a player has to wait for literally one hour to clear a task in the game (well, without any hint). However, because of its unprecedented difficulty and absurdity, it rather collected much attention and popularity, to the extent that it was revived as a smartphone app in 2017.
* Beat Takeshi is an alias for Kitano Takeshi, a famous Japanese filmmaker and comedian, starring in the TV show “Takeshi’s Castle”. By the way, my name, Takashi, is often confused with his, Takeshi, by non-Japanese people.
It is too sh*tty a game because you’ve gotta mash a button in every single battle.
運ゲー literally means “luck game”, and figuratively “game of chance; a game based on luck rather than skills”. It is also used to describe a task or situation that seems to require lots of luck to be successful.
It requires lots of luck to succeed in university juken (university entrance exams).
ガチャ (gacha) is short for ガチャポン (gachapon) and means “a vending machine that gives you a random (capsule) toy”. This is also implemented in mobile apps and called “gacha system”, where a user spends in-game currencies and receives a “random” virtual item (usually based on a skewed probability distribution). Interestingly, this term is also used to describe other things in life that seem to be largely affected by luck rather than your own will. For instance, some people say “上司(じょうし)ガチャ (boss gacha)” to describe the fact that you can’t choose your boss by yourself and whether he/she is a good person or not largely depends on sheer luck. Similarly, although this is academic jargon, lots of researchers say “査読ガチャ (review gacha)” to lament the fact that the quality of paper reviews (and whether the papers are accepted or rejected) largely depends on anonymous reviewers who are (more or less) randomly chosen from a large reviewer pool.
As I’m scared of drawing a bad “neighbour gacha” (= unluckily having bad neighbours), I’m hesitant to purchase a house.
ハードモード (hard mode)
ハードモード literally means “hard mode (in a video game)”. Figuratively, it is often used in a self-deprecating way to describe one’s hard life or situation with too many challenges/bad lucks. Its antonym is イージーモード (“easy mode”).
My life is too hard.
縛りプレイ (shibari play)
縛りプレイ literally means “bound/tied play” and figuratively “to play a game with some self-imposed restrictions to create a higher level of difficulty, e.g. using certain items only”. One famous example would be “Nuzlocke” in Pokémon. This term can also describe the act of doing some tasks in real life with lots of restrictions that you opt to place by yourself.
Those who like “self-restricted play” must be masochists.
(M is short for “masochist” and used casually in Japanese to describe people who enjoy something rather painful, hard or challenging. See “Confusing English Loan Words Used in Japanese with Different Meanings”)
舐めプ is short for “舐(な)めたプレイ” and means “do not play seriously in a PvP game (in a way to mock the opponent)”. Figuratively, it is also used to describe a non-serious attitude in other types of games or activities, which is typically caused by arrogance. For instance, the American snowboarding Olympian Lindsey Jacobellis is infamous for her audacious 舐めプ that she did in the 2006 Winter Olympics, which, in fact, cost her a gold medal: when she was taking a massive lead in the race, she attempted a celebratory and unnecessary aerial trick (known as a “method grab”) on the penultimate jump, failed and fell, and ended up being overtaken by the second player at the last minute. Fortunately, 16 years after the historic blunder, she managed to grab a gold medal in the 2022 Winter Olympics, her fifth Olympics, rewriting her story as an inspirational comeback and redemption.
If you’re not playing the main players and underestimating the opponent team, you might lose.
ガチ勢 originally describes people who are very serious and competitive in particular video games. For instance, extremely serious/professional players of Super Smash Bros are called スマブラガチ勢, i.e. “Smash-Bros ガチ勢”. Other than video games, it is also used to describe people who are overly serious and passionate about something. For instance, when you’re playing soccer casually with your friends for fun, you probably don’t welcome サッカーガチ勢 (“very serious and enthusiastic soccer players”) to join you, as they can be a massive wet blanket.
I had a match of Super Smash Bros with adept players and got thrashed.
* The word ガチ勢 consists of two terms: ガチ is a Japanese slang word meaning “serious”, and 勢 means “a group/team of people”. See the post below to learn more about ガチ: