Competitive gamers want to win. In other news the sky is blue and biscuits are delicious. But it’s not like in normal sports, where the pitch is the same size and the ball moves the same way. Video games are constantly evolving, being updated and adapted, and players need to keep up with this. Established conventions often go out the window in esports as players establish different tactics to counter what is commonly thought of as the best way to play, and game updates nerf or buff certain characters or playstyles. This is what is referred to as the ‘Metagame’; the currently established best way to increase your likelihood of a victory.
Let’s look at a basic example like League of Legends. Say you play as a Mid Laner, with your team built around you, and your team are top of the league. Success follows success, you’re sat on top of the league using your favourite champions, and the money is rolling in. Then one day, Riot updates the game to increase the value of Dragons, meaning focus shifts towards Bot Laners, rendering your current style of play obsolete and your value to the team diminished. The Meta has changed. Suddenly your team have got to change their entire play style to fit with the new meta. For some this will work perfectly for them, as their Bot Laner is their strongest player, and they can use the changes to their advantage. For others, it can be critical, and ultimately the difference between winning a tournament, and missing out on Playoffs altogether.
The most curious thing about the meta is that it isn’t really, well, meta. Forgive me while I go all philosophical for a moment.
The word ‘meta’ comes from the term ‘metaphysical’, the concept that considers the first fundamental principle of things, or the most abstract of concepts. In real terms this means the stuff that encompasses everything, everyone, everywhere. But the meta of an esport is actually different depending on what region you play in. Europe and Asia often play regional tournaments based on differing metas, which then clash during international competitions. Only then do they influence one another, further changing their respective metas. The evolve separately and as a result of each other. Either way, the meta is vital for Esports teams and players to understand in order to gain that crucial advantage in competitive play. Going with the current trend is a strategy that helps many teams compete, but to stand out and be the best, you have to find the strategy to counter it. That’s the basics of the meta. Understanding it in your favourite esport can be the difference between tasting victory, or defeat.