What does "meta" mean?

The title is self-explanatory. I’d like to know what people mean when they talk about the “meta”, and where that word came from. I gather it’s something related to multiplayer games.

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Meta in competitive gaming refers to the dominant and “optimal” way the game is played that is most likely to achieve victory. This is usually a combination of character choices, map selections, proper weapon and item usage, and the tactics employed during the game itself.

When watching competitive games, you’ll notice a connection between the meta and what is being played out in the game. In League of Legends, this can be a saturation of certain champions that are working well in the current state of the game, and in Street Fighter V, this can be seen in the abundance of characters that give players the most benefit in how the game is currently being played.



Playing meta means playing in the most effective way possible to achieve victory


If you ask a methematician:

Meta is the attempt of the comunity to classify and describe the natural converge of real gameplay in a nearly symmetric game to the nash-equilibrium.


Actually I would rather define it as what most competitive players believe to be the currently strongest way to play the game. Usually people try to copy what the Pro players are doing.

This can change either by updates / balance changes or simply by some players discovering more effective ways of playing the game.

For example:
Incas used to be played as Drush/MAA into archer Civ at the beginning of DE. When people discovered it’s vill fighting potential the “meta” for them also included vill fighting / tower rushes as a viable strategy for them.
→ then a patch nerfed their feudal age villager upgrades and now the meta for the Inca civ is again Drush into archers…


Yes, I believe this is better and more accurate than what I said.

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Meta means ‘Facebook’


And a “troll” is a being in Scandinavian folklore…


And “lighthearted sarcasm” is a thing on Earth :slight_smile:

The answer was already nicely given above by @Nheltarion and others. Not a lot that could be added to the thread at this point. I’ll put my forum record up against yours any day :smiley:


Well actually “meta” is a greek prefix with different meanings.
It is used in words like “Metamorphosis” where it means something like “in between” or “in the middle of”. But also in Words like “Metaphysik” where it displays an abstract substructure or foundation.

In the terms of gaming you could argue both: Meta is what you can call like a “most average” play but at the same time it is an abstract, yet undisputable converge of the mean because of its appearent superiority to off-meta strats.

But I like the creative explanation of @Nheltarion too.


Basically it’s about what players ‘percieve’ as what they consider to be the most optimal play style/micro/composition/tactics/etc for whatever may either push the enemy into a corner the most effectively with the least losses or to react to whatever the opponent is dishing out in the most optimal way perceivable.

Meta fluctuates, it is never stable, and whoever might become the most flexible with the quickest and/or most sensible actions and reactions may become the most able to force a ‘meta’ upon the opponent. Expect nothing of meta, only that it is simply a term to be used for whatever appears to be the best action or reaction at the time as well as to know your options available regardless of civ or opponent’s civ.

Often these days ‘meta’ is used for ‘what’s the best way I can quickly disable/dismantle my opponent and win’;
This is only part of what meta actually is and it would be foolish to think that’s all there is to ‘meta’ strategies.

Often times ‘meta’ by the masses is what they think players better than them are doing; while this isn’t exactly wrong, it is the perception of what’s best that would better define meta.

Your own ‘meta’ or, rather, your own perception is your own ‘meta’ and how you develop it is fully up to you.
Watching others better than you may help you develop it; however, relying too much on other’s perception of meta will dull your own perception of meta as well as your ability to adapt on your own whims.

In contrast ‘off meta’ would be what you perceive would not be the best course of action to win, however it may be still a decent course of action. If might not be the only action available to you, but you should consider the pros and cons of doing the best thing you think you can do vs something that’s what you think is more probable that the opponent won’t expect it and hopefully surprise the opponent enough for you to grasp the victory.

‘Off-meta’ is still a tool to consider, and I would suggest to leave yourself open to everything you personally percieve as useful to you.

It’s not about perception at all. The meta is a result of literally countless time spent testing.

Yes it changes over time with balance changes, map changes etc but oftentimes it stays incredibly stable for long periods of time.


Testing by the individual. The masses don’t experience fully why and how others’ meta/perception in the moment actually ticks and they do not hold memory of every key detail as if they were the ones to carry it out. In the end, it is up to the individual to develop their own meta and perhaps to take certain tips from those above them, but never the less to develop their own.

Often there will be moments where many perceptions overlap and those would be considered the perceived by many official metas for particular moments, but that is never the full story.

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The masses can’t execute well enough for the meta to matter to them anyway.

The Greek prefix means “beyond”. “Metaphysik” literally means “beyond physics” because it deals with the intangible. The prefix used for “In between” or “in the middle of” is “meso”, as in “meso-American” civilizations.

I thought that, in this case, it was actually an acronym for “Most Effective Tactic Available”; I thought he meant it seriously because it fits.

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well the best thing do describe meta is more like: Something deeper you can comprehend, but can’t not really name. It’s just an indicator and gets its real meaning by comprehending the stuff it stands for.
Like in metabolism.

It’s likely meta in the beyond sense, like meta-programming.

Things are getting weird.

or metaphor, i think this is the best example.

The term “meta” is often used in many games, but I don’t know if it is very clearly defined.

The usage I often hear is about the perception of high level players and pros about the best way to play (giving highest chances to win), which in aoe2 refers to:

  • which civs are the best for each map
  • which strategies / build orders / units compositions are the most used for each map and civ matchup

Before and during tournaments:

  • there are often several (potentially overlapping) groups of players training together (“bootcamping”), trying to improve their skill and to figure out the meta, that is civs and strategies per map.
  • We then say that each group comes into the tournament with their own meta, that is their understanding of what is strong and what is weak
  • And we say that the meta evolves during the tournament, because some players discover new strategies (from other players) and need to adapt. I remember in Hidden Cup III, the players “Joan the maid” and “Princess Jodit” were the only players playing the map “cup” using Celts by building a mill instead of a dock and by walling up the dock of the opponent player. Even though it might not be the best strategy to win, it had a lot of success: many players struggled to counter it and needed to adapt and / or take use this strategy. in Hidden Cup IV, without notable changes on the map and on the relevant civ strengths, many players where using this strategy but other players already figured out a good counter.

That’s why I think the word meta is a lot about the perception of what is strong.
But in an ideal world, the meta is just the best way to play on the current game patch.

A returning player may ask what is the current meta, and people may reply something like “on Arabia, Chinese and Mayans still the best civ, Aztecs are weaker now due to nerfs on carry capacity; we do not 3 milicia rush into wall upand Fast castle anymore. Now we 2 milicia rush into scouts rush or archer rush. We do not 3 TCs boom in castle age, but rather rush the siege workshop and balistics if using crossbows.”

For the origin, I think META is an abbreviation of “meta-game”, where “meta” is a greek prefix as people already explained. The word “Most Effective Strategy Available” has been made up afterwards, but fits well with the meaning of the word “META”.

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