What can I say? I’m sorry for my ridiculously, long absence! Studying Law is a little bit of a 10 hours a day job, and I finally sat down, poured myself a beer and decided it was long past due to write something up. That is my understatement for the day.
Meta-Gaming. Just jumping straight into the article with that. Meta-gaming is something that a lot of people are familiar with, certainly veteran gamers of MMO’s, and by now people who have been around Star Citizen’s forums or Reddit enough. It crops up now and
again. Like the meaning of life it has a different explanation for different people; whether it’s behavior unrelated to in-game issues, but between parties invested in the game itself; or if it’s the real life tackling of in-game problems, it all boils down to one thing: this will be handled in the stark reality of…reality, and it may end in tears (children, please.).
This has been the progressive trend with online gaming, especially with social media exploding over the last few years, and I’m sure there’s a social studies paper in all of that somewhere. But recently I have been thinking how much Meta gaming is an indication of the success of a game; if something drives people to take the issues of the game out into real life, is that evidence that the game has real attraction, a fuller ’emuursion’? I’d argue it is, but I have to be careful now, because I’m only interested in a very specific kind of meta gaming.
What am I not freaking interested in, for the very last time, now don’t ask me again?
Development meta. We all know what I mean, and I won’t linger on this long . It’s the trend of griefing/trolling/meta-lolling (I’m coining that) from the rise in alpha/beta/open developments, which makes the whole process of designing the game…very real. Lines are drawn in the sand, and each defends itself from the other. The neutrals are also invested in this form of Meta, despite any guise of being an arbitrator; like any pointless drama, we naturally like to see it unfold. It’s like watching dysfunctional families fight on a $10 sound stage. The passionate arguments enter our lives in a very direct way, if you allow it to, although it is a tad inevitable to experience this form, one way or another. This is poison meta in my book. It serves no greater purpose than the personal, political motives of the individual actors.
“So dos th3 oth3r kind 0f m3ta!!!!, idiot n0 lyf3 Ach3er-thong”
“Yes dear troll, but in-game motives, with generally in-game results. Tut Tut. Back to the cave now”
While interesting to those who enjoy something awful like this, I’m not (and a lot of us aren’t). As a note, I lump ‘career trolls’ into this category.
What is my idea of ‘good’ meta?
Again, ‘good’ is a straining of a definition. Game meta can be just as intense as the one above, and it can also go too far. Peoples personal lives can get involved, attacks are mounted that go beyond the scope of the reasonable – but that is at the extreme. Personally, I see success among the passionate forum rallies, and [preferably] hastily deleted Sub-Reddit threads. The fact that people are so sold and committed on the concept of a game, that they will take significant time outside of actually playing it to help themselves, or their group, is testament to the fundamental concept of the game itself. Especially considering some of the lengths gone to.
What would this involve? The usual back room dealing via PM’s, shady Skype calls, FUD on social spaces, misdirection; a back and forth that would make the major geopolitical leaders wryly smile, while menacingly swirling a whiskey on the rocks. It’s important because it shows an emerging character to the universe of the game; it shows people are settling down to develop and commit to a group, character or ideal (or back stab them for something else).
“I should stress at this point, dear reader, that I see this ‘good’ Meta as the inevitable consequence; the way to manage things – especially if large groups, Corporations, or Organisations are involved. But, there can be too much drama, going beyond the pale, ruining the fun. I don’t enjoy that (aside from the twisted thrill of adrenaline) but…I still think it’s an indicator of success…”
The proof of this has to undoubtedly be Eve; there is little need to explain why to those familiar with the game. Safe to say that the developers created an engaging and complex enough ‘Corporation’ system – filled with all the joys of sector control and economic influence – which kept people acting inside and outside of the game to further their goals, for freaking 13 years. There are some unsavory characters who have spawned from this hotbed of rivalries; but people like this emerge from sandbox-ish scenarios like that, sadly (or happily), the internet is a little more Wild West; no WWW. police to stop T0p gri3f3rs. [Note: The ‘3’ is one of my only troll speak alphabets…]
The interesting part about Star Citizen, on this social/meta side, is that we’ve already seen this development take place. In a game with so few features live to help vocalise the actions in-game, it leaves some scratching their heads and wondering “Why?”.
I’d hazard a guess, and say first that to whom this appeals (because it isn’t everyone) the whole group dynamic in MMO’s is enthralling. It’s the idea of group power, in fact it’s the virtual continuation of Social Contract Theory (here is a link to Thomas Hobbes and Rousseau, great guys). We give up a little bit of personal freedom, dependent on the archetype of organisation, to achieve a greater goal. Whether it’s having the communal strength to conquer, the safety to realise economic dreams, or just the need for that social aspect; we get very, very invested. And the Meta spills out.
We’ve already had Organisation on Organisation ‘banter’, as we English say…tom-foolery…etc. I’ve seen and experienced it first hand, not going to cite examples – none of that today. But, there is a certain rush from the whole experience, inflating the importance of the game, enhancing your day to day with the elements of this political world; where stakes that have NO impact on your life take on a ethereal, but altogether ‘almost-in-your-grasp’ reality. This is all, in my opinion, enhanced by the fact that we have so little of the game at the moment; and I’m not breaking headlines with that sentence. It’s standard knowledge that without a medium to vent tensions, meta-gaming is grounded firmly on the real-3D side of the screen. The side with the fresh air [who am I kidding with ‘fresh air’?].
Not being able to vent is ultimately a bad thing, things get stale and people get antsy. But still, it’s an encouraging indication of the appeal and depth that the Star Citizen world already has, even at this stage. Of course that depth could very much be from our own creation and theory crafting, to an extent. It could be that the final product is not the perfect environment to carry out these complex feuds; whether it’s because of how instancing breaks apart players and groups, or because PvE influence is too limited. Time, as always, will tell.
But, we haven’t heard much lately, Org on Org, mano a mano, keyboard warrior on keyboard warrior. It’s kind of nice. A brief reprise, a neutral zone. Does it belie a greater rumbling among us? I don’t think so, but that sounds far more dramatic…
This has been Acheron,
EDIT: Keeping the following passage in the post, in an attempt to win ‘Cringiest Outro of the Year’ – Enjoy
“Acheron removed his headset, leaning back to rub his tired and screen stained eyes. Getting up from his chair his head hit something hard. Swearing, rubbing his head, bleary eyed he glanced up. A control panel winked at him from above. Swinging round he saw an airlock hatch. Turning slowly he saw the Q-Drive…animation? Was this an animation?”