Alternative title:  See mom, video games weren’t a complete waste of time.

I’ve played video games my entire life. I can remember Christmas break 99′ our family crowded around the Nintendo 64 to watch the final boss fight in Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was a really powerful moment my brother and I had been working towards for weeks and it had finally come to it’s conclusion. By the time I went to college, my pallet for video games had matured. I had scrapped console adventure games for person-vs-person PC games. At 19 I was playing top rated matches with a Korean partner in the arena 2 versus 2 format of a popular online game finishing in the top 0.01% of players on our server. It took me a while to reach my peak, but playing at that level was addictive.

What is meta game?

The highest level of strategy in many complex games, metagame refers to any aspect of strategy that involves thinking about what your opponent is thinking you are thinking. Metagame comes into play in any game where no single strategy is dominant and opposing sides are aware of multiple strategies that can succeed dependent upon opponents’ actions. In order to perform at the highest level, it then becomes necessary to think about what your opponent thinks you will do (which may depend on what he/she thinks you think he/she thinks he will do, etc.) and to make decisions based on clues regarding what level they are thinking on. This term is most commonly used to refer to poker and other complex card games, but is increasingly being used in relation to video games with complicated player vs player elements and even traditional sports.

Source – user:dub-jay (adjusted for gender bias)

Meta Game



Before I was good, I had a friend who was a lot better. He would pull off stuff that I thought was “magical”, it would keep me up at night trying to figure out how I could get that good. I spent a lot of time over the course of months reading strategy on forums, optimizing my character builds, and watching video footage of top rated players from the most competitive servers. I picked up nuggets here and there and added them to my approach when I went into matches. I was slowly building out my own process for working through the fundamentals.

As I’ve grown, I’ve discovered meta game is not unique to video games. The rate of change in competitive environments outside of games or sport may be slower and less scrutinized, but meta game exists wherever competition exists. This includes academia (when grading on a curve), business, dating, and pretty much any system where someone has been employed to govern based on objectives (so everything).  If you develop a process for working through fundamentals quickly you can start to play the meta game to edge people out.

“When you see a champion , you can be sure that you are looking at an individual who pays great attention to the perfection of minor details”

— John Wooden

Reaching the top & entering the meta game:

Before you reach the meta,  you have to learn and master the basic proven guiding principles of your desired pursuit.

Even the arts have fundamentals with a meta game at the top.

Working through fundamentals works like this:
Spend a long time copying people that are better.
Spend time thinking about why little things matter.
Spend time iterating and redoing things.
Start testing things that might work better.
Finally, start changing how other people do things. (Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery)

Here is Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft walking you through his first encounter with Warren Buffet, who went on to teach Bill alot about the fundamentals of business & commerce.

Once you’ve worked through fundamentals, what remains in differentiating yourself from the pack is your ability to discover and introduce unknowns. The pack is chasing expected behaviors, and if you understand these basic behaviors you can find hidden opportunities to bend them by acting in a way the pack doesn’t expect.

Chris McCormack, who is a World champion triathlete walking you through two important minutes at the end of 4 hour race using a mix of fundamentals and meta game to win.

This is one of my favorite topics. I’ve only really scratched the surface here but meta game is an essential driver of innovation and deserves to be covered in greater detail. If you have examples from your lifetime of experiences please share!