If you’re a gamer or a computer user, you’ve probably seen the letters “FPS” pop up once or twice. But, what do these three letters stand for?

As it turns out, FPS actually stands for two separate but important aspects of gaming and video use. Both are important and, in the case of gaming, one of the definitions is considered one of the most important genres of gaming.

Dual Meanings

It’s completely understandable if you don’t know what FPS stands for or if you only know one meaning and not the other. Sometimes, a little bit of context helps so you can track whether we are talking about a display measurement or if it’s a type of game genre.

The first FPS meaning is “frames per second,” and the other is the popular gaming genre, “first-person shooter.” While the acronym might be the same, you can quickly determine they mean two entirely different things. 

What are First-Person Shooter Games?

In the most simple of terms, a first-person shooter game is one in which gameplay is shown from the player’s perspective on the screen. Basically, whatever you see is what your character is seeing. Shooting is often thought of as some type of weapon but these weapon types can and will vary. One game might have someone using a giant rocket launcher and another a bow and arrow. 

First-person shooter games are undoubtedly one of the most known and most played types of video game genres. Games like Doom or Wolfenstein 3D were among the first to be played from the first-person player perspective and would create a genre that has spawned massively popular titles like Call of Duty and Halo

Duck Hunt, released in 1984 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) remains the best-selling first-person shooter of all time. Using the NES Zapper to shoot ducks and move up to different levels has sold more than 28 million copies. 

Third-Person Differences

Traditionally, video games where you play as a specific character or different characters are played from a first-person or third-person perspective. In the first-person perspective, you will see the hands, arms, and likely the lower part of their body as you play. This perspective feels more interactive as you can see a greater share of the environment around you.  

As you control a player from over their shoulder or from behind their back, seeing more of what’s around you is going to help you be more successful during gameplay. It’s easier to navigate terrain and look for prizes and health, solve puzzles, or locate other mission-critical elements. 

What is “Frames Per Second?”

In the gaming world, frames per second is often considered one of the most critical aspects of understanding how strong your gameplay experience will be. The lower the FPS, the more likely it is that gameplay will stutter and be less enjoyable to play. The higher the FPS, the more likely you are to see smoother gameplay. 

On a computer or gaming console, frames per second denotes how many frames per second your graphics card or game engine can display each second. Often referred to as a “frame rate,” it’s essentially the number of successive images that will appear on your TV screen, monitor, iPad, etc. at each second. 

You might think that when you play a game, you are watching some animation, but the reality is that you are seeing still images rapidly moving so as to trick your mind into thinking it’s seeing something animated.

Frames per second is a term that is also used regularly in the TV and film worlds, especially around animation. Imagine if you saw a movie at one frame per second, instead of looking animated, it would look more like a flip book or slide show than the movies you are used to.

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FPS refers to both “first-person shooter” games and “frames per second,” which refers to how quickly the frames of your monitor change.

Types of Frames Per Second

How many frames per second your device will put out is very much device-dependent. In many cases, the more expensive the computer and the better the graphics card, the more likely you are to see a higher number of frames per second. The same goes for newer video game consoles like the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 when compared to the Super Nintendo. 

  • 30 FPS: A very common frame rate, 30 FPS is the global standard for seeing movies in a theater (not you, IMAX). Low(er)-end PCs will also deliver around 30 FPS, but we’ve reached a point in gaming where 30 FPS is often too slow for gameplay. 
  • 60 FPS: The most common framerate in gaming right now, it’s been around for decades as far back as the original NES and it’s the number you will see for software titles that have been well-optimized by their developers. Many lower-priced TVs (even 4K) have a maximum refresh rate of 60 FPS, so it’s a number that is still widely available. 
  • 120 FPS: This is the number that starts to really show you just how much FPS can impact video and computer games. This is especially true with higher-end PCs with RTX graphics cards. 120 FPS is smoother and more enjoyable to game on than 60 FPS, but also comes with a higher barrier to entry due to its bigger price tag. You will need a more expensive graphics card or a top-end video game console to experience a solid 120 FPS with a AAA game. 
  • 240 FPS: This is the highest number of frames per second you can find available today. Most TVs and monitors still focus on the most cost-effective 120 FPS, but 240 FPS is still broadly available, just at a higher cost. Given the higher barrier to entry, those looking to pick up a TV or monitor that can display at 240 FPS are individuals at the forefront of changing technology and who demand the most from their gameplay. 

When is a Higher Frame Per Second Better? 

For better or worse, if you have a higher frame rate, you likely have an advantage over your opponents during gameplay. The higher the FPS on your end, the more likely you are to see things in real-time. During gameplay where seconds, if not milliseconds, count, you want a higher frame rate on your side so you can react faster to any type of movement from your opponents. 

When is a Lower Frame Per Second Better? 

So, this is a bit of a conundrum as you might think, how could a lower frame per second or FPS be better? Well, if you have hardware that cannot support it or an internet connection that isn’t stable, trying to run at a higher FPS will lead to poor gameplay. 

Instead, drop the frame rate from 60 to 30 FPS or 120 to 60 FPS and you will see a major improvement in the stability of the game, albeit at the cost of reaction time. Dropping down to a lower frame rate is a quick way to try and smoothen out what you are seeing on screen.

What Does FPS Stand For? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What does FPS stand for?

FPS has two meanings that most gamers, movie watchers, and computer owners should be aware of. The first is frames per second, which is how many frames are displayed on the screen over the course of one second. The other definition is first-person shooter, which is a game type where you play as the character from their point of view. 

Can FPS also stand for something else?

Yes, it can also stand for feet per second which is the distance in feet something travels or is displaced by time in seconds. You’re now ready for your next trivia night! 

What FPS are animated movies drawn at compared to video games?

Unlike video games which can play at 120 FPS, animated movies are traditionally drawn at 24 frames per second. At this speed, animated movies play fast enough to create fluid motion to the human eye while still keeping animation costs down. 

Is there a gaming advantage with a higher frame rate?

In many cases, a gamer playing at a 120 FPS will have an advantage over someone gaming at 60 FPS. The more fluidity you see on screen, the quicker you will be able to react and beat your opponents. 

How do I know which setting for frames per second is right for me?

Ultimately, it’s going to come down to testing and learning. Play around with settings as you play a game and find the best FPS that works for you. Whether that is the maximum number or something more in the middle, you’ll know which looks and plays best.

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