Long-time fans of role-playing games, or RPGs for short, should be familiar with a tactic called metagaming. Many players use this tactic to gain an unfair advantage. That’s why metagaming is frowned upon by many players, and strict actions are taken against players in serious RPG lobbies. But what is meta gaming?
To that end, we’ll take a look at this nefarious phenomenon that can effectively ruin the game for other players. We’ll discuss some examples of metagaming and see what could be done to put an end to this enemy.
What Is Meta Gaming?
To put it simply, metagaming is the act of obtaining information about certain mechanics, characters, locations, mathematical statistics, or any other kind of knowledge from an external source.
The purpose of metagaming is to gain an edge in the game. This information fills in gaps in the player’s knowledge and the knowledge of the character they’re in control of, making them behave out of character.
The most basic example of this is when a new D&D player uses a guide to learn about Medusa’s petrifying gaze. Ideally, a new player shouldn’t know about this mechanic, leading to interesting outcomes. However, if a player goes out of their way to learn about a certain mechanic, such as Medusa’s gaze, they will be metagaming.
Metagaming ruins the experience of any RPG for new players, as well as veterans. While some hand-holding of new players is generally appreciated in the community, rookies are advised to gain knowledge about the game by experiencing it first-hand.
Not only does this preserve the spirit of the game, but also opens up the gates of opportunities in what can happen in a game. A veteran will know how to get past Medusa, but having a rookie on the team who doesn’t know about this can pave the way for a more intriguing narrative.
Apart from its common occurrence in RPG games like D&D, metagaming has also been seen in more modern games like GTA, Among Us, and even in some esports. Let’s take a look at more specific examples of metagaming in different games.
Brief History of Metagaming in Video Games
Metagaming has been present in the video game industry since the early days of gaming. As games evolved and became more complex, players started to develop strategies that went beyond simple in-game mechanics, and the concept of metagaming began to take shape.
Is Meta Gaming Only Limited to Video Games?
You might not have thought of this before, but metagaming has been a prevalent aspect of tabletop games — players have used their knowledge of game mechanics, strategies, and other players’ tendencies to gain an advantage.
So no, it isn’t just limited to video games.
So the roots of metagaming in tabletop games can be traced back to the rise of strategy board games, such as Chess and Go — which have been played for centuries. These games involve deep strategic thinking, and players often employ metagaming concepts by considering their opponent’s playstyle and the broader strategy landscape.
Late 90s Era
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the popularity of arcade games like Pac-Man and Space Invaders led to the first instances of metagaming in video games.
Players would share tips and strategies to achieve high scores, and thus the metagame began to form around these titles. These early metagames were relatively simple and focused on understanding the patterns and behaviors of in-game elements.
The rise of home consoles in the 1980s and 1990s — with titles like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Street Fighter II — introduced more complex games with intricate mechanics. Players began to share strategies and tactics through magazines, online forums, and gaming communities.
Meta Gaming in Multiplayer Games
In the early 2000s, the emergence of competitive multiplayer games, such as StarCraft, Counter-Strike, and Dota, took metagaming to a new level. These games featured deep and complex mechanics that allowed for a wide range of strategies and tactics.
The rise of streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube in the 2010s further accelerated the growth of metagaming in video games. Players could now watch and learn from the strategies of top players in real time, leading to even faster dissemination of information and a constantly evolving metagame.
Examples of Metagaming
The applications of metagaming are far and wide. Every day, new instances of this method are popping up. It’s a more covert form of cheating, and detecting it by normal means is nearly impossible. Often, new players don’t even realize they’re metagaming and that their actions can spoil the gameplay experience for other players.
That’s why it’s important to know some examples where a player uses metagaming to gain an unfair advantage.
GTA Online RP
With GTA Online, Rockstar created a huge open-world multiplayer game, where people from all over the world could play together within servers. Eventually, people created RP, or role-playing mods for GTA Online, which added another layer of immersion to this already huge game.
In GTA Online RP, people create unique characters and roleplay their life, everything from what jobs they do, to their names and personalities. Nothing is scripted, and people can interact with others in the same world, which can lead to unexpected moments.
In such a game, metagaming is particularly destructive. The best example of this in GTA Online RP is if a player watches the Twitch live stream of another player on the same server. Once they know what the streamer is doing, they might work with other players to disrupt them.
Had the player gotten to know about the streamer’s intentions from within the game, it would have been perfectly fine and within the rules. However, because they got the info from an external source — in this case, a Twitch live stream — it’s metagaming and can affect everyone’s gameplay experience.
Among Us was a worldwide phenomenon with unique gameplay mechanics, but simple visuals, which could be run on any device. This led to an influx of players — professionals, YouTubers, and older and even younger people who hadn’t played many games before.
In Among Us, the players are supposed to figure out who the imposter is by using deduction and basic reasoning. The only way players can communicate with each other is through the in-game chat, which the imposter is a part of.
By changing the game settings, there can be more than one imposter in a single game. Ideally, both imposters should work together to eliminate all the crewmates. However, metagamers always want to have an advantage or more control over the game.
In some cases, you may have a friend on the Imposter team. If your friend tells you who the other imposter is outside of the game, that’s metagaming. This will allow you to kick out the other imposter, allowing your friend to be the sole imposter.
Many players fail to realize or just don’t care that their actions are ruining the gameplay experience for other players.
Alternatively, you can still metagame if your friend is a crewmate with you. Once a player is taken out by the imposter, they turn into a ghost. Ghosts cannot communicate on the in-game chat, nor can they be seen by living crewmates. However, other ghosts can see and talk to each other and can complete any remaining tasks they had left.
After dying, the player will know who the imposter is but have no means of telling the other crewmates. That’s where metagamers come in to ruin the game for others.
If a dead player talks to any of the living crewmates through Discord or any other platform, and tells them who the imposter is, that’s metagaming. It’s hard to ignore the fact that metagaming has become an integral part of the experience for many gamers today.
How to Navigate the Meta Game Experience for Maximum Entertainment
Navigating metagaming can be both challenging and rewarding. While it can be just fun for some, it’s also unpleasant for others who lack the skill or tactic to counter this underhanded strategy. This behavior, however, does compel most players to delve deeper into the strategies and mechanics of their favorite games.
To effectively navigate the metagame, it’s crucial to first have a thorough understanding of a game’s mechanics, rules, and strategies. This knowledge will provide a strong foundation for understanding the metagame and recognizing trends and shifts within it.
Remember, It’s Just a Game
While understanding and adapting to the metagame can lead to a competitive advantage, it’s important not to let it overshadow the fun and enjoyment of playing the game itself.
Try to strike a balance between mastering the metagame and playing in a way that brings you personal satisfaction and enjoyment. This balance will help ensure that the game remains engaging and entertaining, even as you delve deeper into its strategic nuances.
Secondly, it’s an ever-evolving mechanic now, with new strategies and tactics emerging and old ones falling out of favor. So if you want to successfully navigate and see through your opponents’ sneaky tactics, it’s essential to be adaptable and willing to adjust your strategies and playstyle as needed.
How to Steer Clear of Frustration If You’re a Professional
Being a professional and a die-hard, try-hard gaming enthusiast, it can be frustrating to tackle the sneaky tactics people use to win the games. Cheats and hacking software tools are also other ways to affect the outcome of video games.
So if you’re somebody who wants to go down the e-Sports route, you’re going to have to start playing in communities — communities that respect each other’s play styles and have rules in place against people who try to cheat.
We’re referring to games like Valorant, Apex Legends, Dota, Counter-Strike, and League of Legends. You can start playing competitively with players looking for a similar and fair gaming experience as you do.
Pros and Cons of Meta Gaming
The concept of metagaming influences how players approach and engage with their favorite games. Since it can provide strategic advantages and deepen game knowledge, it’s essential to consider both its positive and negative aspects:
Pros of Meta Gaming
- Metagaming enables players to gain a better grasp of game mechanics and strategies, fostering a more immersive gaming experience.
- Being aware of the meta game allows players to anticipate and counter their opponents’ strategies effectively, giving them a competitive edge.
- Metagaming encourages players to connect with gaming communities, share strategies, and learn from one another, fostering a sense of camaraderie.
Cons of Meta Gaming
- A strong focus on the metagame can limit players’ creativity and experimentation with unconventional strategies and playstyles.
- Excessive emphasis on metagaming can lead to an overly competitive atmosphere, potentially diminishing the fun and enjoyment of the game itself.
- The complexity of the metagame can create a barrier to entry for casual players, who may feel overwhelmed or alienated by the depth of knowledge required to participate effectively.
- Meta tactics can turn the odds of winning in your favor, and that takes away the basic spirit of gaming — being fair.
Summing It Up
So, what is meta gaming? As stated above, it is the act of obtaining information about certain mechanics, characters, locations, mathematical statistics, or any other kind of knowledge from an external source.
Ultimately, players need to strike a balance between mastering the metagame and enjoying the gaming experience. By fostering a healthy gaming environment, being open to new strategies, and maintaining adaptability, players can successfully navigate the world of metagaming. Remember, no cheats or hacks! Good luck!