What is the Meaning of “Meta” in Video Games?
If you play video games regularly and consume related content, whether streamings or videos, I’m sure you’ve come across certain terminologies that are not very clear. On the internet, there is a tendency to create concepts whose definitions are often a bit confusing.
Recently, with the rise of competitive games, we’ve seen how many of these terms have begun to be used by more casual players. When entering any online game, we can come across words like: “Ban”, “Gankear”, “Stun”, or “Meta”. And this last is the one we’re going to talk about. If you still don’t know what “Meta” or “Metagaming” is, continue reading.
What is “meta”?
The “Meta”, “Metagaming” or “Meta-game”, is given by the words “Most Efficient Tactic Available”. In simpler terms, it’s based on the search for strategies and the use of skills in the competitive elements of a game.
The objective of the metagame is that the player achieves the maximum possible performance, implying that real-world knowledge is used to gain an advantage in the game. Because of this, the term is also referred to as the manifestations of the game world outside the game itself, in other words, a game about the game.
Applying it by being aware of the latest updates, flaws and bugs can give you a competitive advantage.
When and why did the term “metagaming” arise?
The idea originated from game theory (the study of mathematical models of strategic interaction between rational decision-makers).
These ideas were first published in “Game Theory and Economic Behavior” by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern in 1944. However, it’s worth mentioning that the term was not originally used in that work. Instead, its first known use was in the book “Paradoxes of Rationality: Theory of Metagames and Political Behavior” by Nigel Howard, published in 1971, where the term was used in an analysis of the political landscape of the Cold War using a variation of the prisoner’s dilemma.
The term gained use in more contemporary times for game design by Richard Garfield, the creator of “Magic: The Gathering” in a column he wrote for “The Duelist” (Card Game Magazine) in 1995.
By 2000, in a talk at the Game Developers Conference, Garfield expanded on this, defining “Metagame” as a game that interacts beyond itself, and stated that this can include “what you bring from a game, what you take away from a game, what happens between games, and what happens during a game.”
Stephanie Boluk and Patrick Lemieux further extend the term to potentially apply to all forms of gaming and video gaming, arguing that video games, in particular, are not “games” but rather “teams to make metagames.”
What is the current meaning of “meta”?
Nowadays, the concept of “metagaming” describes the most recent strategic methods and trends players apply in a given game, especially in multiplayer team games. Each of these games has its own meta.
It is normal for these “metagames” to be influenced by the game developers themselves. This is because, over time, the developers update their games, improving them.
Among these improvements are patches, new character attributes, new equipment and weapons, or new characters with a unique meta.
Is the metagame always legitimate to use?
In highly competitive video games, such as eSports, the metagame represents the possibility of achieving maximum performance. This is how professionals use the latest strategies and equipment to compete.
However, there is a fine line and some interpretations of the metagame lead to negative reactions from players. One of the clearest forms of manipulation of this strategy is “stream sniping”, a practice that involves using another player’s live stream to gain knowledge and use it against them in the game.
Let’s say you want to apply for it. In that case, you could watch your opponent’s live stream on Twitch to gain an advantage over his positions and actions in the game.
Now, keep in mind that stream sniping in competitive gaming environments can lead to the expulsion of this type of player. No one who knows how to stream on Twitch would be very happy with this form of metagaming.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are cases where bugs unintentionally reveal themselves in the game.
We all know that bugs are the bread and butter of video game development. But, there are cases where players discover bugs before developers do and thus take advantage of certain errors.
It should be noted that, in most cases, bugs and errors are discovered by chance. It is not that players usually go out in search of ways to manipulate a game’s code to push its limits. Sure, some gamers train themselves to think like game developers and look for vulnerabilities in the software to add to their metagame.
Conversely, somewhere in the middle of the metagaming spectrum are endless opportunities to abuse game mechanics to gain an advantage.
An example is racing games, where you can use speed boosters. Often, players do “snaking” (exploiting the game’s physics to gain a boost). These mini turbo boosters can be run almost uninterruptedly on the tracks simply by drifting back and forth.
Adventure game players have long used an exploit known as “kiting,” in which they direct their A.I. enemies to positions where they have the most advantage.
And that’s it; you know what metagaming is – are you ready to take the way you play video games to the next level?