The metagame, the META and the optimization of the entertainment in video games

The metagame, the META and the optimization of the entertainment in video games

The metagame

If there is one thing we have learned from the wave of excellent revivals that have swept the gaming world recently, it is that modern digital tools have totally disrupted the way one approaches a virtual experience.

We had the opportunity to return to day zero of true global phenomena such as World of Wacraft, which was reset by the Classic variant, such as Diablo II, which came back to life with Resurrected, or even Demon's Souls, which was refurbished through the work of Bluepoint Games, discovering nostalgic parentheses of a past that is still familiar but observing them through the glasses of the contemporary.

And contemporaneity has revealed to us a change in the methods of use such that today it even exists an audience that is sometimes more interested in watching a walkthrough or analyzing cold statistics than in experiencing the journey firsthand, something unthinkable for anyone who has lived even he only the 2000s. An element that represents only the tip of the iceberg in what is the cumbersome phenomenon of metagaming, which has always been present in online communities and yet has exploded in recent times.

Because it is precisely of " metagame "that we are talking about, a concept that starting from a typical definition of paper RPGs has made its way even into the terminology of competitive communities through the acronym META (Most Effective Tactics Available) and which, on closer inspection, has a strong influence on any game genre. For example, it affects football, when a manager chooses to field a 4-3-3 on match day, or golf, when a passionate player opts for the purchase of a particular set of clubs.

The launch of WoW Classic was exasperated to say the least by the gameplay optimization. According to the definitions of Garfield, Carter, Gibbs and Harrop, the metagame consists of any activity outside the game that has a direct influence on the perception of the game itself, on the game modes and on the choices that are made within a game . Each immersive activity that leads to reflect and discuss a game configures forms of metagame, whether they are simple dialogues between enthusiasts or the study of a min-maxing strategy created by professionals in the sector.

The modern digital culture us taught that networking resulting from the explosion of the internet has exponentially enhanced the impact of metagaming on the world of video games, often irremediably transforming the approach of players to any kind of virtual experience and overstuffing the content bubble produced by the individual titles.

Referring to some data collected by Statista in 2019 (mainly in the orbit of World of Warcraft) it turns out that one in two gamers, when choosing the class in a role-playing video game , uses external tools to inquire about the performance, then proceeds to the selection not of his favorite avatar, but of the one that works me son in the context of reference.

The aforementioned launch of World of Warcraft Classic represents the perfect example to realize the incidence of the phenomenon. When "WoW" Vanilla debuted on store shelves in 2004, the lack of strategies pushed fans to take a personal path in discovering the world of Azeroth, making new acquaintances and allying with other players to face the most difficult challenges.

Diablo 2 Resurrected servers collapse every weekend, but no one finishes the game. Inevitably, WoW's sixteen years of longevity could only produce hundreds of thousands of analyzes resulting from metagaming, as well as the identification of the real META, or the aforementioned Most Effective Strategy Available. The result is that in 2019's World of Warcraft Classic, not only have enthusiasts given up on playing their favorite classes, or building original builds, but they have completely overwhelmed every kind of content available, tending to exclude from the social mechanics the players who did not adapt. to the dominant strategy.

A consequence closely related to this type of behavior lies in the predetermined approach to game mechanics, which constitutes a textbook form of metagaming and which occurs, for example, when in an experience like the remake of Demon's Souls a player decides to allocate the statistics in a certain way in order to replicate a build made by others, or even to modify what would be his personal choices in the narrative phase in order to pursue an outcome that already knows.

The greatest paradox of this phenomenon lies in the fact that the min-maxing dynamics, i.e. those volt and to define the objectively best choice in every situation, they find the apex of their realization in the undergrowth of the GDR. Precisely because most role-playing games are based on statistically quantifiable and easily analyzed mechanics, the universes that by definition should guarantee the greatest possible freedom of action have slowly transformed into the paradise of min-maxing, and not just the technical one. .

How many times do you happen to find yourself in the presence of a narrative crossroads that appear very impactful and you feel the urge to find out what happens in one or the other case? We tell you: it happens all the time, because the contents that answer these kinds of questions are viewed thousands of times on a daily basis, and the production of similar contents on the main video platforms has never been so profitable.

Among the most popular video game searches carried out on Google, the consequences of the choices on The Witcher 3 stand out. The satisfaction that is derived from the awareness of having finished a perfectly optimized "run" becomes for many fans greater than that which can be obtained from experience in and of itself. A striking example of this case can be found in the metrics of Diablo II Resurrected: the servers are so full of characters that they systematically crash every weekend, but the percentage of players who have completed Act V is ridiculously low (5% of the total ). Many are practicing the strategies, almost no one is "playing".

One of the most common META biases is also a major reason behind the growing toxicity in online communities. The player who studies META in competitive contexts such as those of games such as League of Legends or Overwatch, tends to master the theories and performances of professionals to evaluate the work of teammates, without absolutely realizing that it is data. collected beyond astronomical thresholds of pure mechanical skill and game-sense.

Obviously the evolution of META has a huge impact in the world of professionalism and export, in the highest percentile of players as well as in closed ecosystems which presuppose equal skills and competences. But separating the META from these contexts and adapting it to the average match of a competitive video game is like thinking of using Pep Guardiola's Barcelona tactics in a match of a local tournament, perhaps insulting their teammates because they didn't play the ball as Andrés would have done. Iniesta.

One wonders if we really, as aficionados, are cutting the fun out of the relentless video game optimization process. It is clear that the markets for MMORPGs and competitive titles are the perfect fabric to analyze the state of affairs given the easily quantifiable nature and constant need to interact with third parties, and the picture that emerges from titles such as World of Warcraft, New World and MOBA is certainly not the most encouraging; even, the statistics of the main Card Games have taught us that less than 1% of players try to create their own deck from scratch, focusing exclusively on well-established formulas.

The cognitive bias related to the META is one of the main reasons behind toxicity in competitive video games. Most Read Now

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Which it also makes us think of the sphere of personal validation, and of consequences such as FOMO, or the "Fear Of Missing Out", that fear of being cut off from a social context that is so characterizing our age.

What they will think of me if I have not played a title in the best possible way, finding all the secrets? Will I be able to find a group of players if I'm not using the best class or best performing build? Will I be able to win a game without relying on setups designed by professionals?

After all, sharing has always been a fundamental element of the world of video games, and on paper there is nothing more beautiful than exchanging opinions , discoveries, tips and strategies with friends, a bit like it happened in the height of the sixth generation of consoles.

But opinion has become an absolute, the discovery a thing that has been lacking, the advice a rule, the strategy the META, and the result has been the creation of a community of gamers that is more and more careful to constantly judge herself.

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