Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What in the F is a Metagame?

The term metagame seems to be either a piece of jargon people throw around to make themselves sound better at whatever game they are discussing (typically cut down to simply “meta”) or a scare word that get people thinking to themselves “Metal-what?”. The truth is, the metagame is an integral consideration when approaching many hobbies, gaming is just one of them, and most of you have likely been “metagaming” your whole life and didn’t even know it. That should make it easier for you to start applying it to your game, right?

The meta game is a huge consideration in everything from football to dating. Think about it this way, do you always run the same play in football or say the same things on all dates? No, right? That is because of the metagame.

For example, the NFL today is a far different league then it was a few decades ago, and that reflects in a lot of the team’s decisions. Remember when the running back was the most important player on the offense? How about when middle linebacker was the highest paid (most important) player on the defense? Today, you will likely see that quarter back, offensive linemen and pass rushers (defensive line) are drafted earlier, paid more, and generally considered an integral part of a competitive franchise.

Why? Simply put, the metagame of the NFL has shifted. Running, while still an important component, is no longer the focus of most offenses. It is instead a passing league, and skilled players who not only help your team to pass better, but also to disrupt your opponent from passing as well, are the most important. Teams have fundamentally shifted their strategies over time to weaken the expected opponent’s strategy. That is the concept of metagaming.

Now, let’s apply this to gaming:

Warhammer 40k: This is an important concept you should be thinking about when you build an army list. Some weapons/choices favor some matchups over others. While being a dick in a game where you know your opponent only has one army going into it and choosing stuff to hose him is not recommended; on the bigger scale, you are foolish not consider whether most of the guys at your local game store play foot slogging armies, favoring templates and high ROF weapons than lascannons and meltas.
Magic the Gathering: Important concept, especially when it comes to tournament preparation and sideboard building. Often times seemingly weak or non-competitive options are essential purely because of the meta. Also, if you are using or modifying an existing deck strategy, consider what cards people might have to use against you in their metagame preparation.

Also consider, what constitutes your “local” metagame might vary. It might just be your group of friends, or the guys down at the local store. But it can also be the general skill level of player you think you might face, which is important when going to larger regional tournaments.

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