What Exactly Is Meta Gaming?

The ‘meta’ in games such as first-person shooters and MOBAs refers to the best/optimal strategy for a certain weapon, item or character in matches. For example, in the popular MOBA Pokemon Unite, it could refer to a particular build of a Pokemon that is stronger than others. Some players have defined it as an acronym -“most effective tactics available”. If you want to take your play to the next level, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest meta of your chosen game to maximize your performance. Of course, whilst the strongest characters are often the favorites, it’s important to remember to play as what you feel most comfortable as. If you prefer to play a healer over a ranged attacker, you’ll want to check the meta for healer characters.

Meta gaming can also refer to having an in-game character take actions based on a player’s real-life knowledge. This is most common in role-playing games such as Skyrim, Dungeons and Dragons, and Baldur's Gate. For example, if a player wanted to quickly join the Thieves Guild in Skyrim, they could rush straight to the headquarters and join them without naturally encountering them as part of the story. The character would not know how to do this. However, the player has pre-existing knowledge to achieve their goal in the most efficient way possible.

How Do People Pick the Meta?

The overwhelming majority of meta gaming builds are decided on by the community. If you want to stay informed on these choices, engaging with the dedicated communities and listening to others is a great place to start. Fighting games, such as Street Fighter, often use tier lists to rank the characters from strongest to weakest. This is often done with the goal of winning IRL tournaments. Meanwhile, the meta of FPS games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) is currently to ‘run and gun’ with its meta-defining weapons: the AWP, AK-47, and the Desert Eagle.

The meta of a game is always changing, dependent upon creators, fan response and developers. For example, a patch in Overwatch could turn a strong character into a lower-tier choice. This process of weakening a once-strong character is referred to as ‘nerfing’.

What About the Off-Meta?

Of course, the ‘best choice’ to pick when playing a game means opponents must come up with a strategy to defeat it. This often involves taking ‘off-meta’ approaches - using characters and weapons that explicitly aren’t the best strategies to act as counters. There are two popular definitions of ‘off-meta’. The first describes any character, weapon or item that aren’t a part of the top tier strategies. The second definition includes using any character in a way that is uncommon when compared to the most prevalent playstyle. For example, a Top Lane Taric in League is off-meta. This is simply due to the fact it doesn’t play into his support strengths.

Meta Is Worth Knowing

Meta gaming is an important part of an evolving, competitive industry, and is clearly here to stay. Want to excel at your chosen game? It’s important to keep up to date with the tier lists, competitive ladders and player community. Pair that with a gaming PC that helps you perform to the best of your ability, and you’ll be unstoppable. Our high-performance, fully liquid-cooled gaming PCs make it easier to chase the current meta and leave your opponents shaking in their boots.