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Hack and slash or hack and slay (H&S or HnS; also written hyphenated as hack-and-slash, or with a contracted conjunction as in hack 'n' slay) refers to a type of gameplay that emphasizes combat with melee based weapons (such as swords or blades) and a few projectile based weapons as well (such as guns). It is a subgenre of the Beat 'em up genre which focuses on melee combat usually with fists.
The term "hack and slash" was originally used to describe a play style in tabletop role-playing games, carrying over from there to MUDs, MMORPGs, and role-playing video games. In arcade- and console-style action video games, the term has a different usage, specifically implying a focus on real-time combat with hand-to-hand weapons as opposed to guns or fists.
The term "hack and slash" has its roots in "pen and paper" RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons, denoting campaigns of violence with no other plot elements or significant goal. The term itself dates at least as far back as 1980, as shown in a Dragon article by Jean Wells and Kim Mohan which includes the following statement: "There is great potential for more than hacking and slashing in D&D or AD&D; there is the possibility of intrigue, mystery and romance involving both sexes, to the benefit of all characters in a campaign."
Hack and slash made the transition from the tabletop to role-playing video games, usually starting in D&D-like worlds. This form of gameplay influenced a wide range of action role-playing games, including games such as Lineage,Xanadu and Diablo.
Distinct from hack and slash role-playing games, the term "hack and slash" also began being used to refer to weapon-based action games and a subgenre of beat 'em ups, such as the Golden Axe series. Journalists covering the video game industry often use the term "hack and slash" to refer to a distinct genre of 3D third-person, weapon-based, melee action games, including titles such as Sengoku BASARA,Devil May Cry, Dynasty Warriors, Ninja Gaiden, God of War, Genji, No More Heroes, Bayonetta, Darksiders and Dante's Inferno. Action games that utilize hack-and-slash combat may be controlled mostly by frequently pressing a button or two, or with gestures from motion controllers, like the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, or the PlayStation Move controllers, which can simulate the swing of a sword or other melee weapon.