The term "adaptation" has several different meanings in various contexts. In psychology, for instance, the term refers to the ability of an individual to react positively to novel situations. Video games often use this definition when a protagonist is forced to leave home, or is faced with an unforeseen challenge. The other definition, and the one that has become very popular in games, is the biological one. In biology, adaptation is one of the basic tenets of evolutionary theory. A biological adaptation is a heritable trait that increases the ability of an individual to survive and reproduce. Many games, especially those in the Resident Evil and Metroid Prime franchises, appropriate this concept as a plot device to explain radical physiological changes, though any resemblance to the real-world science is usually lost in the transfer.
Boss Fights and Acclimation
Adaptation is a popular trope in sci-fi settings, particularly when a multi-phase boss appears. While a fantasy game can explain a shape-shifting boss simply as magic, sci-fi games must often find a more credible-sounding reason for the boss' new set of tentacles, giant claw, etc. However, since it is not hereditary like real-world adaptation, the phenomenon being described is more accurately called acclimation. Acclimation is the process by which an individual changes within its own lifetime to better fit its surroundings.