Are video games too focused on meta rather than enjoyment now?

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pauljeremiah

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I know that enjoyment is super subjective, but in my experience, enjoyment has been about what’s fun. I’ve always tried to do fun stuff in games, but meta has taken over games so much that I’m thinking of taking a break from them.

Obviously, in PvP games, there will always be optimal things and things that won’t, but even in Co-op games and some single-player games, everything is focused on a meta until it gets nerfed and then a new meta arises. One of my favourite games of all time, Destiny, was a victim to meta, and it got so bad that if you didn’t have a particular weapon or armour piece or upgrade, you’d be kicked from the game and sometimes even from the friend group.

For any game, you can look up “most fun characters in whatever game“ or “most fun builds in whatever game“ and get a sea of tier lists for what’s optimal and what is garbage, and maybe three videos on how to have fun. Is anyone else having this problem of pushing away metas and just trying to have some fun?

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Justin258

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Don't look up "most fun character guides" or whatever. Experiment and see what you like.

If your Destiny group kicks you out for not following the meta, look elsewhere for a group.

The only reason you should be looking into "the meta" for any given game is if you want to be involved in absolute top-tier content. Sure, it's probably important there, you're not reaching Champion in Siege if you don't understand what's being nerfed and what is a little too OP right now. But if you don't find that fun, then just play however you want to play, as long as you're not trolling/griefing/making someone else's time worse.

Play some single player games without looking up guides. Just start something up and chill. Or play a co-op game with one or two friends. Your friends don't care if you're not concerned with using "the best" character setup in Borderlands 3 or the most powerful build in Divinity: Original Sin 2.

Or step back from games entirely for a week or two and see how you feel.

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Nodima

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I think games are doing just fine, it’s players that have the meta addiction. Almost every game I’ve played with some kind of optimization strategy, I’m completely aware of until wading into the subreddit where I find some…truly in the weeds dialogue going on. Back when Apex Legends was fresh and new was when I was most closely following a conversation like that but even then my only goals were to complete the daily and weekly challenges for battle pass experience. Understanding the meta didn’t make me any less likely to play a character just because their hit box was a disadvantage or their skills were relatively pointless.

I will say, though, that Gran Turismo 7 does seem specifically designed around a sort of “meta” that undermines what’s so appealing about it, in that most of the content that is “worthwhile” or at least has the most currency return per minute played, all revolve around the same incredibly limited pool of vehicles despite offering so many cool cars from the 60s and 70s that just aren’t viable. And the weirdest part is that their PP grading system is quite arcane; you can enter certain races with older cars tuned to be competitive on paper by the game’s assessment only to realize within half a minute you’re not even gaining on the first car ahead of you. There are literally hundreds of cars in that game that don’t have content to match, constantly either way under or overpowered. It’s weird.

Anyway, got that rant out of my system. Thanks.

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Efesell

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#4  Edited By Efesell

It's fine, to some people the enjoyment is in finding or creating The Best Thing.

It's frustrating when it has to matter, such as in competitive. I think it's a flaw in game design when there's a clear unambiguous meta character or ability in that environment specifically.

But outside of that? Could not care less.

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AV_Gamer

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#5  Edited By AV_Gamer

Personally, I like the meta idea in games like Destiny 2 which is a game I play a lot. It feels good having the best equipment, powers and just destroying enemies. It can be annoying in fighting games, but only if watching it. Because seeing most people use the same 3-5 characters in a tournament can be boring at times, but if you're competing, you best pick a top tier or lose any chance at finishing in place where the money is. Only special players can win big using a low tier character. And truth be told, meta always existed in games. It's just that now with social media, it's more talked about. The good news is, if you don't care about that, then you can still get enjoyment playing most video games.

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FacelessVixen

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#6  Edited By FacelessVixen

People who overly focus on the meta radiate those "I live in my mother's basement" vibes. Like, getting better at a game and overcoming challenges, sure; since that was the point of games before the notion of creating a "cinematic experience". But obsessing over DPS and DOT numbers and unironically telling people to "git gud, scrub"... No, fuck that. Video games are meant for fun and entertainment, not for putting up with people.

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Broshmosh

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#8  Edited By Broshmosh

I played Pokken for about 5 months a few years back. I would still be playing it, but I had to stop because playing online sent my heartrate into the stratosphere whether I was winning or losing. Also my thumbs really couldn't handle the intensity of the button presses.

The meta said I should be playing three or four specific characters, and most others were just bad. For my playstyle, the recommended character was Garchomp.

I ended up playing Machamp, because the combos were the ones I felt best attuned to. Needless to say, Machamp is considered a C-tier character because of the speed of attacking vs their defensive capabilities.

I ended up with something like a 75% winrate, because nobody knew how to deal with Machamp, because the meta said not to play it, so nobody ever really faced it. That and I was actually not terrible at reading the opponent, even whilst reaching dangerous heartrate BPM.

I don't think it's the games (Devs/pubs) that are focused on the meta (except in games that actively need to build on a meta like card games or MMOs), I think it's the players.

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Casse1berry

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Overwatch was definitely a victim of this. Whatever the winning team composition was at the time in competitive mode would bleed into quick play. If you were on a team of people just playing their favorite characters, the other team could just steam roll over you.

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AV_Gamer

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Overwatch was definitely a victim of this. Whatever the winning team composition was at the time in competitive mode would bleed into quick play. If you were on a team of people just playing their favorite characters, the other team could just steam roll over you.

You're correct. It got so bad that this was the issue with the Overwatch League and why Overwatch 2 will have a five man team instead of six to try and correct that issues. Will it work? Time will tell.

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Zelnox

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I think the obsession with the meta being prevalent now is due to the ease with transmitting information on streams, reddit, forums. Not everyone needs to be a try-hard.

I played a bit of Counterstrike not that long ago with some friends to shoot bots and already one guy was saying "don't use that weapon, it's shit, or you need to stand here". I don't know the weapons or care and really don't know the maps. I just wanted to play for fun, like a social thing.

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Pazy

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#12  Edited By Pazy

Personally, I do find that most multiplayer games end up with too much of a focus on meta or otherwise "playing optimally". In a single player game I can just play what I want but a lot of multiplayer games end up forcing you to match up with strangers so you have to play with those people who want to play differently from yourself.

Destiny 2 is a game I had to stop playing because quests would force me to use matchmaking to enter the Strike content and Id generally end up with a negative experience of watching someone else play the content for me or be complained at because Im not contributing as much as they are. FF14 has option for soloing dungeons but I want to play with just 1 or 2 friends in the current expansion so I have to take mandatory matchmaking, which means we were matched up with two other players we didnt need (and they didnt need us) and then we got to be frustrated as a group since our playstyles didnt match up.

Though thats more of an issue with some games forcing people to play together without the option of even trying to play it just yourself or just with your one friend in content with a 3 or 4 player capacity. There often isnt an option to avoid people who are playing drastically different from yourself. It means I find myself being pushed out of games where a large enough group of people have decided to play "meta" or "optimally" for whatever reason.

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csl316

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I focus on enjoyment when I play, and meta thoughts don't ever enter my brain.

I guess it matters if you want to master a game or something, but there's so much out there worth playing that I'm never gonna get that deep into a single game.

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MindBullet

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As mentioned, the ease of sharing information is the key here. "Metagaming" has been around for decades, it's just that now with social media and streaming there's a whole cottage industry of dedicated communities and personalities churning out discussion and propaganda revolving around power gaming. You can try to ignore it, but at this point you almost have to go out of your way to do so depending on the type of game you're looking at.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since figuring out how to master a game has been a part of gaming for as long as gaming has existed, but as more people have grown up in a world where it is so easy to get access to these types of in-depth discussions and guides I do feel like there is a sort of consensus among a large number of players that there isn't really a good excuse not to know/follow the meta.

It's only really a problem when meta discussions turn around and adversely affect the game itself (Overwatch being the biggest example I can think of), but I will admit hearing people talk about games I want to play or re-play and having metagaming talk infiltrate even at a basic level does often dampen my interest. I don't think it's something that can or should be 'solved', since it's up to the Devs to decide how to make their game and the community to police itself. It kind of is just up to you to engage with gaming content and discussions how you choose. You might just have to either cut yourself off or deal with it at a certain point.

It's also possible that meta discussion can be a positive change. Overwatch is only the whipping boy here because the team behind it constantly chose to go down the most meta-heavy path to the detriment of everyone outside of that sphere. It's just as easy for a dev team to look at how people are playing a game and identify issues that are worth fixing or tweaking for the benefit of everyone.

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ll_Exile_ll

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This is such a broad generalization for a topic that is very specific to certain kind of games. Framing this question as a medium wide "problem" is incredibly silly. "Metas" really only exist in multiplayer games, be it co-op or competitive, and even then, is largely a player driven concept that the developers may take into consideration when doing balance updates. This isn't really a new phenomenon. Since the days of playing Street Fighter in arcades, there were strategies that were more effective and thus more popular amongst players.

In single player games, there really isn't such a thing as a meta. There may more optimal ways to tackle challenges in the game than others, but that has always been true. Whether it be Nintendo Power 30 years ago, or reddit today, there have always been ways to seek out the most efficient way to play a game. If you fear optimizing the fun out of a game, don't go looking at guides to find the optimal strategies in the first place.

90% of my gaming time takes place in single player games. I never look at guides or seek out optimal strategies in online discussions. I have never felt that some kind of meta was ruining my experience.

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monkeyking1969

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I think the problem with a game like Destiny, is there is typilly a narrow path to the "one best setup".

That's just a failure of design and production. Also, a failure to plan or design robustly. From the ground-up all abilities in an RPG or in a stats based shooter should be based on strong for this , weak against this. Where many things are checked or balance by other factors. And, its even possible to make such system clear understandable and obvious. The other issue is creating check and balances when you are SELLING things. People will buy things that are WORTH IT, right?. If something you buy is checked & balanced, the value is checked and balanced too....so why buy it? Rarely do rules and commerce see eye to eye.

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TurtleFish

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One thing I do want to point out that it’s HARD to balance and avoid a meta build while keeping things interesting. Not everybody in the game developer space is deliberating trying to create a P2W character, because most developers are trying to build for the long term or something they can be proud of. But any game complicated enough to produce meaningful choices will almost always create a meta build because, if your game is popular enough, there will always be somebody that will ruthlessly optimize their build looking for any advantage, however minute.

And you might not even want this. As an analogy, look at IROC racing. It was as balanced as you can get in Motorsport - same cars, no modifications, tuning locked into extremely narrow windows - it was meant to showcase driver skill over car engineering. For the people who who wanted Motorsport balance, it was the perfect setup. Until you tried watching it and you realized that, at the top levels of Motorsport, skill levels are so close that there was almost no drama unless somebody made a big mistake, and these were top level racers - they very rarely made a mistake. In other words, interesting in concept, but I found it unwatchable in the long term. And given its relative lack of popularity, a lot of people found it hard to watch too.

People wanting perfect balance should be careful what they ask for - they might get it.

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NotSoSneakyGuy

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I think it's not games themselves that "meta" focused, it's the games media.

Just look at SEO/Youtube algorithm when you search a game title. It's filled with strategy guides/walkthroughs/best this or that. I think subtlety pushes people to respond and share from so and so content.

Everyone is fighting for eyeballs, and the meta for that seems to be to talk about the meta.

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innacces14

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I don't have a problem with it, but I hate it when a game pushes you to be in the same room with it. I have close to 550 hours into Forza Horizon 5 and I can't stand it when a weekly challenge requires me to touch the PvP in any capacity. What 4 cars made it to the finish line 10 seconds ahead of everyone else? It's the players that picked Ken. The meta can change, but there is always going to be a Ken. I'm happy that the weekly asks to just play a match, but it is agonizing to have that mirror show me where my skills are at compared to others.

But I played 550 hours though. That's me getting over that PvP weekly challenge and I spend 4 hours every Thursday afternoon nailing whatever PvE "meta" challenge they ask for at the hardest difficulty. There's a ton of ways for that game to explore metas because cars come in different varieties which I'm happy to mess with while listening to Podcasts. It's fascinating because single player games can be meta'd. You know who you are if you said "this run is gonna be different", and now you're 10 hours in sporting Nightingale armor again. Every car is the main character in that game if you stick with it, so I like to main Honda. That's just a meta I like. Lets see how I do with this Honda CRX with a Rally setup because the weekly challenge asks for it, and I'll probably forget to stop playing with it after the challenge is done because it's meditative after a few minutes when I finally get the hang of how it drives.

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noobsauce

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Idk if games are the issue so much as the communities. The real issue is a portion of gamers are too locked into either trying to go pro and/or be streamers. And/or they're watching these people. As such, they try to find the right meta to get optimal results, which then goes through the grapevine until people HAVE to play the meta to just keep thier heads above water.