Hack and slash or hack and slay, abbreviated H&S or HnS, refers to a type of gameplay that emphasizes combat. "Hack and slash" was originally used to describe a play style in tabletop role-playing games, carrying over from there to MUDs, MMORPGs, and video games in general. In console- and arcade-style video games, the usage specifically implies a focus on combat with hand-to-hand weapons as opposed to guns. In other contexts it is more general, and an archer or unarmed martial artist may participate as fully in a hack and slash game, or be as hack-and-slash oriented as an individual or as an armed melee fighter. Both variations of the term are often written in hyphenated form and with the conjunction contracted, e.g. hack-and-slash, hack 'n' slay.
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 magazine 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." The article goes on to report the experience of one D&D player who claimed that "when she plays in tournaments, she does run into the "hack and slash" type of player, but most of them are adolescent males. These types of players not only aggravate her, but other, more mature players as well."