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To Meta, or Not To Meta, Is That Every Gamers Question?

Okay, I might have lied, I don’t think many gamers truly put a lot of thought into whether they should or should not follow the meta. All games have a meta for a reason; it’s established and it’s grounded in knowledge from other players. Indeed, some games are geared in such a way that the meta is something easily acknowledged. From Pokémon, to Elder Scrolls Online, meta exists and here’s a few thoughts on what following the meta truly means.

What Is Meta?

A team that isn’t following the game’s meta

Before we get into the meat of this article, let’s discuss what the word meta actually means. If something is meta, it is referring to itself. So when gamers call something meta, they’re referring to how the game should be played, at least in terms of optimised gameplay. Does that mean it’s always the most fun? No – At least, not for everyone. You and I may have a completely different solution in an RPG and neither would be wrong.

However with meta, you usually find that the “right way” will push you along further, be it for a higher score, or an easier way to play. This is because when people find  of a video game, or even a board/card game, it’s an established and tested method. As an example, I play RAID: Shadow Legends and you get artifacts to equip on your heroes. The gear you go for does vary from character to character, but typically for an Attack type champion, you may want all speed, or some speed and some lifesteal.

Not Following Meta

Whilst this article isn’t solely about ESO, the meat of this section uses it as an example

I’m a glutton for punishment, I typically hate following meta builds, especially in games like MMORPGs. In Elder Scrolls Online, when I finally understood how the game worked, I realised I happened to pick the lowest damage class/damage source in the game. Magicka Wardens, at least up until now, have consistently underperformed next to the other classes of the game: But I kept playing and I got better.

I was able to keep up with those who were playing to the meta of the game. Indeed, they found they could push the numbers they were looking for, at least in a controlled environment, but the moment they put it to practice, they failed. The reason for this is really simple: Experience and experimentation. Sometimes, not following the meta and instead doing what works for you is genuinely better… But there is a limit to this.

Video games have a set way to be played overall; we’ll call them the rules. Elder Scrolls Online may be my best example at the moment: A magicka damage dealer needs a higher maximum magicka than stamina. The moment you try to split between magicka and stamina, you lose a lot of damage. You can go for more spell damage, sure. You can go for more magicka recovery, no problem, but ultimately damage scales in the game based on your highest resource.

So along with trying to just stack up as much of your stat as possible, there are some meta gear sets you should try to collect. Us magicka damage dealers normally try to get Siroria’s, False God’s and Mother’s Sorrow – Siroria for single target damage, False God’s for Area of Effect damage and Mother’s Sorrow with both. That’s your bread and butter… And with it, people can pull off 60, 70, 80, 90k+ damage. This is absurd… But…

In my time in ESO, I’ve found people love to try and build this way. They don’t try to actually do what works for them (and their group). Games like ESO, an MMORPG, should be filled with rich, unique setups. These setups can be utilised in different ways. I personally run a set called Master Architect, as I know it helps my team. It gives me and two members nearest to me a 15% damage increase for a short amount of time – and I can keep recasting it with my fast ultimate ability.

Is Meta Better?

This setup is definitely not meta.

In short, the obvious and cop-out answer would be “it depends”. However in truth, I think even if you’re looking to go away from a meta setup, you should at least understand how the meta works and why it works. Then, look away from that meta, come up with your own ideas, or perhaps go for a set or even a that others don’t go for. Whatever your reasons, make sure you consider those on the same side as you – You may be the best at pulling numbers, but can you genuinely say you’re doing the right thing in game?

Now over to you – Are you a meta or off-meta player? Do you like to follow established builds, or perhaps you like to mess around with different ideas? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, or on Facebook and Twitter.

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