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"And while other players are watching game tapes, he's watching game tapes of those other players watching game tapes."
ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Commercial - Carlos Beltran

The game outside the game, the metagame is a concept that exists for all competitive games, which in a simplistic explanation, is the question of how everyone else is playing. If you know the answer, you can then tailor your own play to take advantage of their weakpoints.

For example, you've been watching your buddy play Street Fighter II in the arcade. You notice he uses the same moves and Combos over and over. Therefore, when you later decide to play against him yourself, you use a character and moves that you know can beat him. Instead of going in blind, your foreknowledge of his favorite strategies gives you an advantage.

Knowing the metagame is vital for gamers who are much into Tournament Play. Many a tournament has been won by a player who cannily predicted which way the pendulum would swing, and many, many players have scrubbed out as a result of a miscalculation of the metagame.

In extreme cases, the metagame may develop a "beat almost anything" strategy, a strategy built specifically to counter the first one, and another to counter the second one, essentially turning the game into Rock–Paper–Scissors.

A common Metagame term is the Mirror Match, where you play against someone using the same thing as you are; the same video game character, or card deck, or whatever. A Mirror Match often requires special strategies, metagaming the metagame.

The metagame usually evolves in this manner:

  • Phase 1: Where the players will test out the game, mostly using the game's genre's basic conventions and methods from other similar games (including previous games in the series).
  • Phase 2: Where the game's obvious resources and strategies are well-known and the players will start to get creative, usually leading to something that was not intended by the developers, including bugs (both good and bad).
  • Phase 3: Where the metagame has evolved so much that the tournament level playing of the game is more or less completely different from what the developers had in mind. After this, the metagame evolves through the patches, expansions, or just the lucky discovery of some unusual application of the existing tools or bugs, after which the cycle starts anew.

It should probably be noted that the term "metagame" is also used pejoratively when it comes to Tabletop Games and other roleplaying games that expect players not to jump In and Out of Character. Here, using The metagame is often considered somewhat akin to cheating, since it's information that the player's character couldn't possibly know (since the character shouldn't know that he's in a game), and shouldn't be making use of. See also Fourth Wall Myopia.

The "Stop Having Fun" Guy attempts to enforce his own metagame on the other players.

Naturally, this can cause problems for new players, even going so far as to become a Guide Dang It!. In some cases, the metagame can further confuse new players, particularly for adaptations: what should be good, based on the source material, isn't in the game itself. (We have a trope for this, CCG Importance Dissonance, but it doesn't just happen in card games.)

A.I. Breaker is a subtrope. Compare with Meta Plot. Contrast with Achievements in Ignorance. See also Talking through Technique, when the metagame is used to communicate without words; and how knowing the metagame can lead to Gameplay Derailment in video games. Not to be confused with the novel of the same name.

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Stardust Crusaders has an Absurdly High-Stakes Game of poker (with souls on the line) between Daniel J. D'Arby and Jotaro Kujo. Because of the Psychic Powers in the series, plus the fact D'Arby considers cheating a valid tactic, the game is less about the cards, or even the betting, and more who can psychologically pressure the other into giving up. D'Arby relies on cheating and cons to ensure he has good cards, to the point he secretly hired everyone in the vicinity to deal him winning hands in case he can't himself, and tries to pressure Jotaro into folding by raising the pot. Jotaro, however, has an even better poker face, and begins running mind games on D'Arby, making the latter fear that Jotaro used his ability to switch his cards. This reintroduces an unknown factor that forces D'Arby to seriously consider whether to call or fold. Nothing encapsulates "metagame" better than D'Arby's tactical considerations being based not on what Jotaro's hand is, but whether he can switch cards without being seen.
  • Lycoris Recoil has the protagonist Takina learn that the reason her partner Chisato never loses at Rock, Paper, Scissors isn't due to bad luck, but because she has mastered its metagame. By carefully observing the opponent's hand, she can tell if they're going to default to keeping it clenched as "Rock" or if they're about to move their fingers in any way. If it's the former case, she'll use Paper, if it's the latter, she'll always use Scissors because it doesn't matter which of the two gestures her opponent throws as her Scissors will either tie (with another Scissors) or win (against Paper). Topping it off, thanks to having Super-Reflexes, Chisato is immune to this very same tactic or wild, random throws. Takina ultimately manages to beat her by performing a metagame tactic of her own, suddenly shouting loudly during the pre-game chant, which startles Chisato and shakes her focus, and allows Takina to hijack the moment the chant ends and they throw their hands.
    Board Games 
  • Chess has a metagame, evolved over eons of play. One might say that the metagame is the game. If you have ever played in any organizationally-sanctioned tournament, held anywhere at all, at some point in your life, it is guaranteed that every move you made was dutifully logged via algebraic notation, and then almost certainly dissected down to numbingly exhaustive detail, so as to understand every available nuance of both how you played then, and potentially will now.
    • The castling rule, where the King & Rook can 'swap' positions in certain situations evolved due to the early metagame, creating the only move in Chess involving two pieces on the same side. In ancient chess variants the King had a "leap" move where they could either move like a knight once per game, or move two squares on their first move. It was very obvious that moving the King to the corner of the board was extremely beneficial to keeping the King alive, and so players came up with various ways in the openings to move it that way. It was so common that eventually the special castling rule was added to speed the game up.
      • En Passant also came about in a similar fashion, where the "double pawn move" was added to speed up the game, it meant that a player could avoid being captured by an enemy pawn if it had done a normal one square move, so en passant was added to block this loophole, as well as stop chess from becoming even more defensive, which is what happens if the double move exists but en pasant does not.
    • Gary Kasparovs' famous rematch versus Deep Blue in 1997 involved a curious metagame factor. In the first game, Deep Blue made a puzzling play that was really just a hole in its heuristics - it is only as good as its program. This threw Kasparov for a loop. In the second game, Deep Blue made a second error, which Kasparov did not see and cost him the game. Some of the reports basically amounted to Gary being unable to believe the machine could screw up so badly. He attributed the moves to deep insight and thought himself out of a draw, turning it to a loss.
    • When the game evolved from the romantic style to the modern, highly calculated and very well studied era it is now, top level Chess games became incredibly draw heavy. Thus high level tournaments like the World Chess Championship began to see an increase in metagaming, with Bobby Fisher in 1972 attempting to psychologically disrupt his opponent Boris Spassky by demanding additional money, not arriving on time to Iceland causing a two day postponement, after losing the first game he forfeited the second, before demanding Spassky agree to playing matches outside spectator view. Fisher also metagamed on the board as well, deviating heavily from his previously narrow repertoire of openings, helping him eventually win the championship 12.5 to 8.5.
    • With the introduction of low time control tiebreak matches in tournaments, Magnus Carlsen, the strongest player in the history of chess, has played the meta-game by forcing draws in the long form matches to bring matches to the tiebreak time controls where his strength of play compared to his opponents is even higher than in the long form matches. Carlsen has also adjusted his playing style in high level one on one tournament matches. In addition to being the best player in the world mentally, he is also generally better prepared physically. To take advantage of this, he will keep playing matches long past the point where it is a theoretical draw, hoping to exhaust his opponent, a tactic which might not pay off until further into the tournament. His win against Ian Nepomniachtchi in Game 6 of the 2021 World Chess Championship lasted 7 hours & 45 minutes as Carlsen probed for a weakness, eventually forcing Nepo into an inaccuracy on turn 130 and winning the match on turn 136. Nepo's play collapsed in the following matches, blundering in 3 matches and losing the tie 7.5 to 3.5.
    • In online games with low time controls such as Bullet where players get none or very little extra time per move (such as 3 minutes per player with 1 second extra per move) it's common for players to pre-move in the opening to save time. Carlsen once lost an online bullet game because he pre-moved castling, which his opponent guessed he would do allowing him to setup a queen + bishop attack on the A7 pawn, checkmating the king in a way that looks like they've thrown the match deliberately.
  • Go, having existed for thousands of years with one of the simplest rulesets in the board-game world, is even more purely metagame. The rules of Go can be described in full in a few sentences: one player places black stones and one player places white stones on a board. When a group of stones is surrounded, it disappears. The player who surrounds the largest amount of board area at the end wins. Naively, one might assume that Go play consists of mostly of surrounding stones, but in fact this almost never happens. Because it is possible to arrange stones in a "living" shape, one that cannot be captured, advanced players tend not to waste their time actually surrounding each other's shapes. So do Go players spend the game trying to build living shapes? Not exactly. Because both players know how to build living shapes, advanced players don't waste precious time expanding shapes that they know are potentially alive... Go strategy becomes so complex and high-level that the basic mechanics of the game are unrecognizable. Professional games without time-limits are known to go on for months (playing about 6 hours a day, once per week) before their completion.
  • In Rock–Paper–Scissors, most people throw Rock, unless they expect that you expect them to throw Rock. Also, players tend to throw the same move repeatedly, because they believe that's not a "typical" thing to do.
    • Professional RPS actually moves out of the Metagame realm and into the pure skill of trying to remain random (which is hard for humans to do). The first player to suffer a psychological breakdown after hours of RPS play and become predictable loses.
  • There have been rumors of discovery of a board game with simple rules under the countless metagame layers of Diplomacy, but it might just be the Russians trying to double-cross us again.
    • Diplomacy has a biannual zine. which discusses the new strategies and ideas, amazingly still developing after 56 years. As often as not, an article or two in each issue is about ways to counter a strategy described in the previous issue.
  • The metagame of Tic-Tac-Toe means that it is virtually unplayable for any two people with even casual experience of it (or, to put it another way, the only winning move is not to play).
    • In an example of meta-metagaming, Tic-tac-toe is a perfect example of a Solved Game because the entire game can be understood by a reasonably intelligent adult and the absolute best strategy discovered. Any game with zero random element and a finite set of moves could be solved, though we humans are unlikely to be able to get it and it would be up to a computer to run the strategy. Connect 4 and Checkers have been solved; Go and Chess are far too complex for 2015 technology. More can be found at the Game-Breaker page.
  • Anyone who's played Ticket to Ride knows how important the little two-train and three-train routes into Las Vegas can become, and experienced players will often fight over who nabs those routes on turns two and three.
  • Kingsburg, being a game about building up a small village using different tiered tech trees, has spawned a number of favoured meta-strategies. A favourite is ignoring military gains in favour of economy, then purchasing high point value religious and cultural holdings in the end game knowing that the highest-tiered one will inevitably be destroyed.
  • Clue / Cluedo is unlikely to be won by a player making guesses at random as the basic rules might suggest. The trick is to try to force the other players to show you the information you want whilst otherwise impeding their own progress. This often involves making guesses that should be illogical, for example suggesting rooms and murder weapons whose cards you hold to narrow down the field of suspects only or accusing the avatars of your fellow players to reposition them and stop them from getting where they want to go. (Of course, if you keep including the cards in your own hand in your guesses, other players might get wise to your strategy and safely eliminate those cards from consideration.)
  • Any experienced Risk player knows that while not precisely key to winning the game, taking and maintaining control of Australia is virtually always a highly beneficial move regardless of the rest of one's strategy. The continent's tiny size and few access routes means that it is, on the one hand, very easy to initially capture, but also extremely easy to fortify into virtual invulnerability later on. The first player to get a meaningful foothold in Australia, therefore, can count on the continent's small (but far from meaningless) army bonus for the rest of the game, and there are few things others can do to change that.
  • For Agricola, it is key to know which action cards are likely to come out in the upcoming round (some action cards like the plow and sow field in a single action and grow family without available space give tremendous advantages) and therefore, savvy players will attempt to secure the "first player" position in the current round to nab them quickly, also seasoned players can guess the strategies of other players and will attempt to block them, and one way to really harm a player's strategy is to make the player right after him get the "first player" position, since he will then be pushed to the bottom of the turns, severely harming his chances of performing good actions in the next round.

    Card Games 
  • A combination of psychology and statistics go into the metagame behind Poker, especially in the popular variation of Texas Hold 'Em. Metagame is why poker theorists will often divide the game of Texas Hold'em into "limit" and "no-limit", despite the only rule change being the size of bets. Since limit games have a fixed betting structure, the game is much more mechanical; players with a hand can't be scared out of pots by the threat of going all-in. The majority of hands in limit Hold'em go to a showdown, only a few hands do in no-limit. Very few players can succeed at both.
  • Bridge is one of the most complex of standard-deck strategy games.
  • The entire point of Spades is the ability to accurately predict the number of books and bags each person at the table will take. You can win every single hand and still lose if your prediction was off. And winning any single trick is gonna be costly if you bid null — which happens because null, if made, is worth more than a positive number.
  • The metagame is critically important in the card game Magic: The Gathering. Just walking in with a good deck won't do it; you need a deck that can handle the decks you expect other players to have. Dave Price famously won Pro Tour: Los Angeles based largely on a smart metagame call — in a field where the overpowered Sligh deck ran rampant, Price included the obscure (and in most metagames, very bad) card Giant Strength in his Sligh deck, which gave him an advantage both in the mirror match and against life-gaining decks which were the bane of the traditional, untuned Sligh deck.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: The metagame, taken too far, leads to the "Toolbox" deck, a deck with no central theme but with every metagame-abusing card off the current Forbidden/Limited list. As with other card games, its metagame is susceptible to cookie-cutters and netdecking (a form of deck creation that pretty much mooches whatever the top decks in the last tournament were in an attempt to garner an easy win, the typical mindset that "if I use what the pros use, I'll play like the pros"). Also like the other games, it can be grossly mishandled by Executive Meddling or a lack of beta testing before releasing new cards (as with the notorious Invasion of Chaos Envoy monsters). In fact, the Forbidden/Limited lists exist solely because of this.
  • A female player in one of the very first Illuminati: New World Order tournaments took third place using in part a strategy of distracting the other (mostly adolescent male) players with her slinky black dress. Reportedly, the game's creator congratulated her on a creative yet thematically correct strategy.
  • The card game 1000 Blank White Cards relies on metagames. Due to the nature of the game, the metagame changes indefinitely and there is a different metagame for every deck. The tendency to play with the same people and therefore familiar cards also produces the interesting effect that no strategy will (well, if your fellows are on the ball) be effective more than once, even if there are no cards in the current deck that shut down that strategy. Blanks are delicious.
  • The game of Fluxx is based on repeatedly changing the winning strategy; the best metagame strategy is to play your objective after you've finished setting it up.
  • Winning a game of Munchkin in any other than completely inexperienced company requires a lot of meta-gaming. The rules of the game themselves encourage backstabbing fellow players, making deals with them, deceiving them to swindle them out of valuable/dangerous cards, and cheating as much as you can without getting caught.
  • Counting cards at blackjack — that is, counting cards without getting caught — is two levels of metagame for the price of one. note 
  • Even something as simple as Apples to Apples has a metagame. It's vital to know your opponents, what kind of sense of humor they have, and what kind of matches that they like in order to win.
  • Cards Against Humanity: Does the judge for this round tend to pick the combination that's the funniest, the one that makes the most literal sense, or the one that's most offensive? Certain cards are commonly known as "trump" cards for being near-surefire winners in many situations: do you use your trump card now, or take a chance on a "lesser" card and save it for a better situation? And then there's the fact that most players don't go out of their way to maintain much of a poker face: if you see an opponent confidently slap down their card while barely holding back the giggles, you might be better off "burning" a less-useful card.
  • Tanto Cuore seems to be designed with a constantly-shifting metagame in mind. It's functionally a very simple game about managing card draw, resources, and deckbuilding strategies to gain victory points. But even the basic set has sixteen general maids, and you choose ten from that pool to play with. Potentially, you can play with seven different arms races involving various maids, even before adding in cards from the expansion.
  • Similarly to the abovenote , Dominion has many cards, including attacks, reactions, etc. What's more, there are several expansion packs, you can play with as many of them as you have, and each expansion has a different feel - and they synergize strangely. Sometimes a card might be the most useful thing in the game (and get picked up in seconds), or it might be effectively useless. (A card that blocks attacks isn't much help when there aren't any attacks to block, after all.)
  • Go Fish (or in the UK, with a special pack, Happy Families) has a metagame. The basic game is that you're supposed to be asking for the cards you want. The metagame comes in when you start working out what cards your opponents want, and trying to stall them by taking them yourself. This gets analysed by the character Solomon in the Terry Pratchett novel Dodger who concludes that Happy Families teaches kids the skills of deceit and bluff that could lead to them growing up to be professional gamblers or worse yet, politicians.
  • The Pokémon Trading Card Game, like many other such card games, soon focused on sheer speed, as its mechanics use an Unstable Equilibrium system that can cause an early advantage to easily become insurmountable later on. The earliest way of speeding things up was filling your deck with as many Trainer (later called Item, Supporter, Tool, and Stadium) cards as possible, with minimal Energy cards and Pokémon cards, in contrary to the game's original intent and the pre-constructed decks that people are encouraged to begin with. Particularly valued are cards that let you draw more cards and cards that let you search for other cards, regardless of their downsides—an early such example is Professor Oak, in which you discard your entire hand and draw 7 cards, which was considered worth it to get to the cards you needed. This emphasis on Trainer cards also meant that Pokémon with low Energy requirements were valued, even over Pokémon that could deal more damage but with more Energy. Starting around Generation III were Energy accelerators, Pokémon that could search for and attach Energy cards, which caused a trend toward more Energy cards and higher-Energy attacks. Generation IV then introduced Pokémon-SP, none of whom needed to evolve (and thus could function as a single card in the deck, as opposed to Pokémon that evolve, who need at least 1 card for each stage of evolution) and could power up using Trainer cards, which shifted it back toward low-Pokémon, very high-Trainer decks. The card designers are aware of this, however, and have successfully made popular not only Energy-intensive decks via Energy accelerators, but Pokémon-intensive decks through mechanics introduced in later generations like Pokémon Lv. X, Pokémon-EX, and Pokémon BREAK cards that use up more Pokémon cards in a deck but are incredibly powerful.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of Have I Got News for You, Reginald D. Hunter was not only metagaming, but meta-metagaming, saying he should get points for fostering disharmony in the opposing team.
  • In the first episode of Sleuth 101 — an Australian comedy wherein a comedian enters a scripted whodunnit, and must improvise the role of detective and solve the mystery — guest detective Dave O'Neil utterly failed to piece together any of the clues presented in the story. Instead he broke completely out of character and began weighing the relative fame of the actors involved, finally choosing a culprit on the principal of Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize. He turned out to be correct.
  • Never actually shown in the series, but Captain Kirk of Star Trek beat the unwinnable Kobayashi Maru test by stepping outside of the scenario and adjusting the parameters (hacking) of the game. Many criticised him for cheating, but the Academy considered it "original thinking". He was then ordered never to tell anyone about it.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, an alien who is a master of a strategy game challenges Data to a game. Data starts off playing to win and loses quickly. In his second attempt, instead of taking avenues for advancement he makes every move with the goal of keeping the game in balance. His opponent gets so frustrated by the endless game that he quits, effectively conceding defeat. Data considers the match a draw, but his friends assure him that he won.
  • Jeopardy!, as of 2014, has experienced a shift in its metagame, due to the work of Arthur Chu. Arthur has perfected a way of playing the game that involves hunting for the Daily Doubles by clearing out the bottom three rows (the ones which are usually the hardest and where the Daily Doubles usually are). When he does find them, he always attempts to answer them even if he doesn't know the answer to block other contestants from answering that Daily Double.
  • BattleBots
    • Starting with the early precedent of Biohazard, which was only 4 inches tall in its default state, bots were often built to be as flat as possible to avoid the weapons of opponents and have a low center of gravity. This encouraged the bots to be built with weapons that can strike as low to the ground as possible. However, this trend got capitalized on by the makers of HUGE, a bot two enormous and flexible wheels that lifted its body high up into the air, out of range for most bots.
    • Due to the popularity of flipper bots, many bots started to get made that can still drive and attack while upside down, while others had self-righting mechanisms added to their designs. These countermeasures add weight, which means a sacrifice to the bot's speed, power, or defense, but getting overturned is so common that most consider it worth installing.

  • The metagame of The Unbelievable Truth is as complex as you would expect for a game based on deception and bluff. To give just one example, a popular early tactic was to bury your truth in a Long List. This naturally meant that as soon as panellists heard a long list, they assumed there was a truth in their somewhere, resulting in the strategies of "everybody picks one", and "waiting for someone else to pick one first, thereby reducing the options". The next step was, since everyone assumes there's a truth buried in the list, not to do that, so that everyone loses a point for an incorrect challenge. As a result, many panellists are now cautious about long lists, so it's probably time to start hiding truths in them again. Another tactic favoured by Susan Calman and some others is making the lecture more of an utterly surreal narrative, so that nobody is even sure what it is they've asserted, never mind whether it's true or not.

    Reality TV 
  • The metagame on The Amazing Race has evolved over time. Traces of it developing can be seen in Seasons 1-7, though the full metagame does not come into effect until Season 10. It had two major effects on the game, first, shifting it from a game dominated by young, fit teams (especially "alpha male" teams) and those with extensive travel experience, to a game dominated by intelligent teams. Second, it gave teams who would have had no shot on early seasons (like Ronald & Christina, who were weak at physical tasks) a legitimate chance to win.
    • The courses themselves have evolved with the metagame, with the course designers lessening the occurrence of “place holder” tasks that no longer caused teams problems (like physical thrill tasks) and those that relied on luck (like the ever popular Needle in a Haystack tasks), and increased the number of tricks, and deceptive and vague clues that they threw at the racers. On Season 19, it became very apparent that the producers were well aware of the metagame, as they included several twists that were specifically designed to take advantage of the current metagame.
    • A long term trend in the show has been for teams to take a more risk averse, Slow and Steady Wins the Race strategy. They’ve figured out over the years that the goal of each leg isn’t so much to win it as it is to not lose it and all that matters is making it to the top three. Earlier in the show, contestants were a lot more willing to take tight connecting flights or go for the high risk, high reward Fast Forward (where you’re almost guaranteed a win if you get it but equally as almost guaranteed to lose if you don’t) than they are now. Especially after the top team in season 21 made such a gamble on a flight and spent three legs half a day behind everyone else before getting eliminated.
  • The Mole has a pretty strong metagame, to go along with the challenges the team competes in (and the Mole tries to sabotage). Naturally, part of the metagame is to sabotage a little yourself, to make everyone else suspicious of you. But also important is tracking everyone else's suspects so that if someone gets booted, you can figure that whoever he/she was suspecting is probably innocent. Finally, gathering as much information as you can on the other players - even the ones you don't originally think is the Mole - will help you in case you do need to move to a new suspect.
  • Survivor
    • Richard Hatch all but defined the metagame in the first season when he convinced his tribemates to coordinate their votes to target the opposing tribe. Alliances have been the top strategy ever since.
    • Another common strategy is to keep a weaker player around as your sidekick; he's easy to win against in the finals. Later seasons seem to take this to a larger scale, in that there seems to be an unspoken agreement not to vote out the Jerkass that nobody likes. True to metagaming principles, some players have made themselves look weak in order to get other players to simply not target them, and then try to pull a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass. (Brett, Fabio, Ashley) Others even knew they weren't going to be good at challenges or would just get overshadowed by awesome, so they tried to up their weakness so they would assume they're nothing.
    • Then there is the strategy of taking out weak players because other players are going to want to keep them over you later in the game. To make this happen, Cirie and Danielle pretended to be aligned with Courtney and Terry to vote out Aras, while Courtney and Cirie pretended to be aligned with Shane and Aras to vote out Danielle. In reality, Cirie was aligned with Danielle and Aras to vote out Courtney on a 3-2-1 vote. Basically, Cirie got Courtney to pretend to be in an alliance while the actual purpose of the fake alliance was to prevent the people who could save Courtney from working together.
    • The Hidden Immunity Idol is another element that has had enormous metagame implications, and has been prominently featured in two seasons:
      • In Samoa, Russell Hantz decided on this as his strategy (find all idols as soon as possible to save himself), to the point that he ends up finding one without a clue by searching visible landmarks in and around the tribe's camp. This would go on to be an integral part of later seasons, as players realized that they could do the same thing incredibly early (like Kristina discovering the idol in the first three days during Redemption Island). Russell himself also notes this in the first episode of Heroes Vs. Villains. Since the season was shot after filming for Samoa had finished, but before the live results were read, he had the advantage of coming into the game knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the other players, but they didn't know anything about him.
      • In Cagayan (which is often referred to as borderline-subversive for how much it plays with the established tropes present in the series), the contestants routinely talk about their awareness of both possible Idol and clue locations. During the first episode, when one person from each tribe is sent on ahead to their camp area, nearly everyone assumes that said players had a chance to look for the Idol. When Spencer finds an idol clue, Woo and Tony correctly deduce afterwards that he likely would have found a clue because they're hidden in napkins during relaxed moments when a team has won a reward challenge and is having lunch. Tony and Woo play on the rival tribe's awareness by using an idol clue for their own tribe to blindside the other by giving it to someone and marking him as a target. Woo later steals a clue from Spencer and causes chaos in the camp, leading everyone to get up and start searching for it.
  • History's Top Shot is starting to develop one, notably in Season 2 it came out that four contestants decided at the beginning of the season who would win AND WERE RIGHT. While remaining totally within the rules. Jake in Season three tries to DQ a teammate he considers a long-term threat by trying to provoke him into a fight, thus instantly DQing him.
  • Big Brother US:
    • First few weeks, nobody has any clear targets, but showing that you can win competitions or are obnoxious often gets you targeted. Hiding behind groups and not talking to anyone typically puts you at the bottom of the totem pole. Don't massively shift stuff or the whole house will come after you.
    • In later seasons, it's trying to become America's Favourite, especially if it's a showmance, because people who the viewers like seem to get lucky twists thrown their way.
  • Big Brother UK: Anyone who actively behaves as if they're competing against the other housemates will lose sympathy with the voting public, therefore the way to win is not do so. As one commentator put it, this is a competition where you can win a huge amount of cash, but only if you pretend that hadn't actually occurred to you. Accusing other contestents of "wanting to win" is fine, as long as you appear to be genuinely concerned that this is spoiling things, and not that they might do so.

  • A common instance of the meta game in sport is knowing the current standings in the competition. At best this influences how many risks are taken trying to win a game; at worst, as in the Badminton at the 2012 Olympics, players may deliberately lose matches to try to avoid strong opponents in later rounds.
    • In fact, this tactic resulted in the "Disgrace of Gijon" at the 1982 World Cup, when, after getting a result that assured both teams would progress to the next round (as the only other team that could have advanced at that point had already played), Austria and West Germany basically just kicked the ball around for 80 minutes. FIFA closed this hole in the metagame by mandating that all final matches in group play in the World Cup and qualifying be played at the same time; most leagues and tournaments around the world mandate likewise for their final days.
    • Something similar happened in the English first division in 1977. Coventry, Bristol and Sunderland were all at the bottom of the table. Coventry and Bristol were playing each other. A win would mean safety, a loss relegation, and a draw would depend on what happened in the simultaneous Sunderland-Everton game. However, the game was delayed, and so there were still fifteen minutes to go in a 2-all game when the word arrived that Sunderland had lost. The result has been compared to the Prisoner's Dilemma; both teams were content to leave the score where it was, as long as they believed the other team was equally happy to do so.
  • For professional leagues, there are also amateur drafts, transactions and salary concerns. Even in leagues without a salary cap or any other sort of enforced parity, no one can afford to hire the best in everything.
  • Baseball
    • A critical element is Pitcher/Batter psychology, as well as the game of chicken base runners play with the pitcher and catcher.
    • There's also the fact that baseball leagues play many, many more games in a season than any other sport. No pitcher can play every game in a season, and very few position players can while staying productive. Most leagues have a "designated hitter" who does not field a position, and can be used to keep strong batters effective by keeping them out of the field; even then, teams almost always have to call up bench players and pinch hitters for later innings. Also, games are played in a series, rather than single match-ups. A team, may, for example, keep an ineffective starting pitcher in the game for many innings in the first game for a loss, and then clean up the next two with better starters and a fresh bullpen.
  • American football has this as well. The 2008 Miami Dolphins implemented an uncommon offensive formation: the "Wildcat" formation, in which the ball is directly snapped to the running back. This surprised most of their opponents, who had no idea how to defend against it, and as a result the Dolphins went from a league-worst 1-15 record to 11-5 and the AFC East title. Since then, however, opposing teams have devised effective countermeasures to the Wildcat offense - specifically by lining up the defensive tackles on the same side that the offense has put their extra blockers - and the Wildcat has since faded in popularity.
    • The difference in meta-game between College and NFL football is one of the reasons why certain star college players flounder once they go pro: they are overwhelmed by the difference in both skill and strategy and get injured or make bad decisions.
    • Same goes for coaches, too. After he retired from coaching for the University of Florida, Steve Spurrier tried to use his "Fun and Gun" offense (one that revolves around long passing plays) in the NFL and found out that most professional defensive linemen can out-think and out-run all but the best quarterbacks and wide receivers.
    • Signal stealing — reading opponent's hand signals and such from coaches to players on the field and using their plans against them. Signal stealing became particularly controversial in the National Football League in 2007, when the New England Patriots lost a draft pick for stealing signals by video tape in the 2006 season. (The Patriots' near-perfect 2007 season, stopped only in the Super Bowl, was seen by some as Bill Belichick's revenge for being ratted out.)
    • Signals from the sideline are an escalating arms race between coaches and observers on the other side. Every few seasons there's some new strategy to keep the calls hidden, from holding up a clipboard to stop lip reading, to hand signals, to fake signals, and lately placards with seemingly random pictures and memes on them.
    • Play-calling in general constitutes a large part of football's metagame - play-callers on both sides of the ball must factor in available personnel, game situation, opposing formation and tells, and the other play-caller's own tendencies. As an example: a defense likes to play man coverage, i.e. each coverage defender is assigned a man to stop. The offense, knowing this, sends out a pass play that works very well against man coverage. However, after the snap the defense shifts into a zone coverage, meaning the original call won't work. Either the play collapses, or the offense either goes to a backup plan or improvises a new play. This happens all the time at the NFL level.
    • Team-building constitutes a metagame, too, with savvy teams exploiting market inefficiencies. One example that's held true for decades now: the draft is a crapshoot, so get as many draft picks as you can.
  • In Cricket, the three main ways a batsman can get out, Bowled, LBW or Caught, and the desire to actually score runs to win the game, are what drive the metagame. A batsman can avoid being caught by not trying to hit the ball, but this leaves them open to the other two. Which means he has to try and hit the ball, which means he might get caught, while missing can mean he gets out to being bowled or LBW anyway. Because of this trio of dismissals, bowlers will generally aim the ball in a position called the "corridor of uncertainty". This is a location where a batter will have trouble deciding if they should move forward to meet the ball closer to the bounce, or back to give them more time to decide what to do, while it also makes it hard to decide if the batter should actually hit the ball, or leave it to bounce. The ball will also move once bowled, either from landing on the seam and moving randomly, or from swinging in or out, which can render the batter's choice a fatal decision.
    • The LBW rule, introduced as early as 1774, was introduced to stop a batsman defending his wicket with his leg, rather than his bat. Modern bowlers, particularly spin bowlers, often exploit the rule to get a batsman out LBW without him ever intending to get his leg in the way, and batting practice has responded similarly.
    • In 1932 the English team got sick of Don Bradman destroying their bowling attack, and exploited loopholes in the laws and spirit of cricket to implement a meta-game based strategy against him called "leg theory", or "Bodyline". Instead of the typical "corridor of uncertainty" style they instead had their fast bowlers aim so that the bounce of the ball would rise up and hit the Australian players in the body or head, forcing them to play awkward defensive shots that could pop up for their players to catch. There were no helmets or protection for the chest & neck, and the tactic was therefore quite dangerous, and physically threatening in what was otherwise considered a sport of gentlemen. It created a storm of controversy, accusations of poor sportsmanship and the potential of diplomatic issues between the two countries that was only avoided by the intervention of the Australian Prime Minister. England won the test series 4 to 1, but soured on the tactic when the West Indies team used it against them in 1933, the next tour against Australia had an agreement in place to not use the tactic and the laws of the game were repeatedly changed from 1935 onwards to limit the style.
    • There is also a metagame in place because bowlers can't bowl all day, and in the quicker versions of the game, they get restricted to a certain amount of overs. This results in a metagame of teams trying to decide how many specialist bowlers to pick, if they should pick some players who can do both to a decent level, and then the Captain has to decide in which order they bowl during the innings so the best players can both start, and finish each innings. This has generally resulted in teams picking 5 batsman, 1 wicketkeeper and 4 bowlers, with a swing choice of a 6th batsman, a 5th bowler or a dual-threat "all rounder".
    • Wicketkeeper was a position determined by which player had the best ability to do the job of catching balls delivered by the bowlers, with minor consideration given to their ability to bat. Then in the mid 90's an Australian wicketkeeper named Adam Gilchrist came onto the scene, and once he was elevated to the national team, transformed the position entirely, posting stats that would see him considered one of the best batters to ever play, let alone play as a wicketkeeper.
  • Mixed Martial Arts:
    • MMA, as begun in the UFC, first demonstrated the necessity of grappling, particularly Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Practitioners of any other style that had little to no understanding of submission holds inevitably lost to those who did. After a few events, fighters began to cross-train in grappling to stay competitive. Cross-training wrestlers replaced grappling specialists as the dominant force in MMA by using their wrestling to get takedowns and their grappling training to avoid submissions while "ground and pounding" their opponents into victory. This led to the emergence of sprawl-and-brawl fighters who focused on takedown defense and striking to evade the groundgame of ground-and-pounders and box them up on the feet. While "wrestle-boxers" are still common, the MMA scene has progressed to the point that top MMA fighters need to be highly skilled in all facets of the game: striking, wrestling and grappling.
    • The metagame of each individual fight is dictated by the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent in each face of the sport. Fighters spend the fight trying to move their opponent into a zone where they are less comfortable while preventing their opponent from doing the same. Thus, the strengths of a fighter can scult how a fight plays out even when they're not using those strengths. For example. a wrestler can out-strike a striking specialist by capitalizing on the threat of their takedown. They can move forward and let their strikes fly, while the striking specialist will be forced to fight off the back foot to maintain distance and be reluctant to plant their feet because it would make them vulnerable to a takedown.
    • During the "TRT era," particularly during the reign of heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, the metagame was all about using medical science to get as strong as possible and overpower your opponent. The heavyweight title picture was filled with enormous brutes, and Frank Mir famously touted his focus on increased muscle mass leading up to his title fight with Lesnar. Then Cain Velasquez came onto the scene, a smaller heavyweight who focused on speed and cardio. His defeat of Lesnar, and the outlawing of TRT itself, caused the metagame to move on.
    • Some fighters are experts at playing the "metagame" of earning money through their fighting. Using a crowd-pleasing style, calling out the right fighters at the right time, talking trash online, building up your name recognition, and generally making yourself more marketable will have a great influence on who and how you fight as well as how much money you make over the course of your career.
  • The late kickboxing legend Andy Hug was famous for his axe kicks and using them for metagaming his opponents. Since axe kick comes down vertically from above, traditional boxing guard is useless against it. Opponents who tried to adjust their defense left massive openings elsewhere, which let Hug get a lot of knockouts with basic strikes.
  • Association Football's metagame has evolved massively, so much that even a cursory examination of the changes can result in long essays and even longer discussions.
    • The "formation" is the basic element of how a football team plays, with the numbering system based on how many defenders, midfielders/wingers (which are often combined should they rest on the same 'level', or split if they are 'defensive' or 'attacking' midfielders) or forwards a team has (the goalkeeper is often excluded). The only rule governing where players are allowed to be on the pitch is the offside rule, and that only applies to a team in possession of the ball. Other than that, any team can have any amount of players at any position on the field. But defensive and offensive formations have shifted as certain tactics became popular or unpopular.
    • The offside rule and the evolution of it, is a kickstarter for shifting the tactical metagame.
    • Early formations were about all out attack or all out defence, such as 1-1-8, 1-2-7 or 2-2-6, with little midfield play.
    • The first true 'formation' where a balance between attack and defence was achieved was the 2-3-5 in the 1880s, with 5 forwards, 3 'halfbacks' (which would be called midfielders in modern times) and two fullbacks (who would be central defenders). The 3 halfbacks would watch the middle three forwards of the opposition, and the two fullbacks would watch the two wide forwards. The central halfback was responsible for organising the defence and attack for his team.
    • The "WM" formation (described as a 3-2-2-3) of the 1920s was a reaction to a change in the offside rule, which meant it was less effective to have 5 forwards at the top of the attack.
    • The introduction of the 4-2-4 in the 1950s was the catalyst for the almost complete domination of football formations since by a defensive block comprising the goalkeeper, two fullbacks and two central defenders, called playing "four at the back". The few alternative defences are those that included a very deep "sweeper" behind the four defenders (which has long since gone out of fashion, although many modern goalkeepers play like these sweepers did), or "five at the back" where an additional central defender is used, with the fullbacks playing higher up the pitch, sometimes as the only wide players, a position termed "wingback".
    • The 4-4-2 formation was dominant during the 90s and early 2000s, with three flat lines comprising four defenders, four midfielders (two of which being wingers who roam the flanks) and two strikers (often a big man and short man combination) this became the default for many teams and became synonymous with English football, becoming the title of a popular magazine, as well as being referenced in the film Mike Bassett: England Manager, who after trying & failing to come to grips with deliberately exaggerated modern formations, simply says that "England will be playing four four fucking two" and storms out of a press conference.
    • The death of the 4-4-2 as the standard football formation was complete by the early 2000s after inventive teams began to play formations with one striker removed in favour of another central midfielder. With supply choked by a defensive midfielder being protected by two other central defenders or a single attacking midfielder exploiting the space between the central defenders & central midfielders, teams were finding it very hard to retain the ball and thus found it hard to score.
    • These changes to formations have also evolved what players are required to do positionally.
      • The introduction of the backpass rule (penalising a team for a goalkeeper picking up the ball after being it is passed by one of their team-mates) in 1992 killed the then-current metagame tactic where a team in possession would work the ball back to their goalkeeper, who would pick it up then launch it right down the field towards the opposition goal. This happened after the staid 1990 World Cup. Prior to this, goalkeepers were required to do little more than save shots, pick up the ball & boot it all the way up to the other side of the field. This rule change was the start of goalkeepers actually using their feet to pass to their defenders instead of just firing it up field.
      • The sweeper was a central defensive role (often with two other central defenders in front of him) meant to cover situations where the opposition would fire the ball over the head of the defense to chase. Changes to the offside rule and the introduction of single forward formations rendered this position effectively obsolete. It was eventually replaced by the idea of a "sweeper keeper". With teams using the offside trap to push opposition forwards well up the pitch, the goalkeeper can be required to use their speed to run well outside of his penalty area to "sweep" balls over the top like the old central defensive sweeper did, while also being a traditional shot saving goalkeeper.
      • The central defender role evolved from chasing opposition wingers, to man-marking one of a pair of attacking forwards, to zonally marking a space to cover the movements of a single lone striker as well as midfielders entering the penalty box, as well as adding the "ball playing" role in teams who want to keep possession and build their attacks instead of just launching the ball forward.
      • The popularity of formations with a fullback and a winger on the edge of the playing space have destroyed formations that only have one wide player on each side, the flamboyant "wingback" of South America is dead in modern football, as allowing a team to overload one defender with two wide attackers is suicidal.
      • Attacking fullbacks working with their winger is a relatively new invention. Improved athleticism meant that fullbacks can run the length of the field to attack the opposition, then "track back" to do their defensive duty. Where previously fullbacks did little more than track the opposition wingers and stuck to their own half of the field to defend, it was realised that should they push up in attack, their opponent in attack would be the often defensively deficient opposition winger. The introduction of 'overlapping', where the fullback would run past their winger to provide options for a cross was also another revelation.
      • The defensive or holding midfielder evolved with the change from the 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1 or other three man central midfield formations, as a player intended not simply to destroy the opposition and win the ball back, but to hold the ball and help to keep possession and build his teams attack from deep within his own half. On the other side of the pitch, a team may have two central midfielders that feed an attacking midfielder such as a "trequartista" or "false 9" who has the job of directing the attack of his team and carving out opportunities for his striker and wingers.
      • Teams playing a single forward require a striker who can do everything. The 'lone striker' or 'target man' is required to hold the ball for his team to arrive from defence to support, to play in other attackers, while also getting into positions to shoot at goal.
    • Penalty shootouts are their own little metagame. Modern teams and supporters now track what players do when taking or saving penalties.
    • In addition to formations and players, a team may have a 'philosophy' in terms of how they choose to attack. Example of this in the modern sport are a team deciding to play defensive and then counter-attack with fast players, or to hold the ball at all costs in order to give them the best chance of creating a shooting chance.
    • Where to position players for corner kicks. For a century teams put a defender on each goal post and then man-marked everyone inside the box. Some teams take a modern approach and use defenders to zonally mark like in basketball. Other teams use a combination of man-marking and zonal marking. There is also the question of having a defender on each post, or only one post, or both posts but with one defender moving to 'close down' a player who moves to the corner to take receipt of a 'short corner'.
    • The "Golden Goal" rule was intended to shake the metagame of extra time by giving teams a better incentive to score a goal (with instant victory should a team score a goal in extra-time), ostensibly to avoid penalty shootouts. It had the opposite effect, because teams knew that allowing the other team to score would mean certain defeat. So they played even more defensive that before. It was removed very soon after it was introduced.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In general, "metagaming" in Tabletop RPGs is when a player uses knowledge that he possesses that is not possessed by his character in order to get an advantage within the game. It's generally frowned upon as bad role-playing, though games placing low emphasis on role-playing might accept or encourage it. Types of metagaming include:
    • Using personal expertise or knowledge of the real world that your character would have no way to know, such as a chemist deciding that his dim-witted barbarian is going to suddenly invent gunpowder.
    • Using knowledge of the rules or playbooks that are outside of the character's experience. For example, a novice adventurer immediately using fire during his first troll attack because the player has read the Monster Manual, not because the character knows their weaknesses. Properly, the player must make some sort of knowledge-based role for information that he hasn't experienced and isn't common knowledge.
    • Acting based on knowing the GM's habits, such as treating a nobleman like a villain because the nobleman always does a Face–Heel Turn at some point. Of course, this can be just as much the fault of the GM, who could also use this against players to surprise them.
    • Acting in a blatantly suicidal manner because the player is aware that it's "just a game" and the worst-case scenario (his or her character's death) isn't really a big deal. Since it's reasonable to assume that the character actually values their life, it's unlikely that they would treat their life like a game.
      • Sometimes, acting like you know you're playing a game ("I'm going to assume there's a way out of this Death Trap, because the GM wouldn't stick me in an impossible situation") can be hard to avoid, but it's considered bad form to be obvious about it.
    • A good kind of metagaming is simply knowing what kind of game the players want to have and acting accordingly. Is the GM is a Killer DM, a serious roleplayer, or a relaxed Monty Haul enthusiast? Do the players want to be part of an epic saga of Good vs. Evil, or do they simply want to have fun by killing monsters and taking their stuff? Knowing the style of play ahead of time will guide your actions in-game and make the game more enjoyable for everyone. Of course, one could argue that the GM is either incapable of metagaming (since he's effectively the "god" of his game world) or is required to metagame (for the same reason).
  • Paranoia games are generally not taken seriously, and consequently, it has a lot of fun with metagaming.
    • The rulebook tells the GM to deny players access to the rules so that they cannot metagame. At the same time, it tells players to read the rules and lie about it. (Openly metagaming, e.g. saying "I get a bonus for cover", is punished by the GM.)
    • Players who have any experience with the game will know that everyone in their party is a mutant traitor who will be trying to kill them, that R&D equipment is dangerous, the Computer is insane, and everything is working against them. They will of course play with this knowledge in mind from the get-go, and this is generally expected.
  • The Warhammer 40,000 metagame varies depending on which edition is being played and which books have been published within that edition.
    • One constant of the 40k meta-game generally revolves around what the most powerful codex is against the Space Marines. Space Marine armies comprise the majority of tournament armies because they are the most common army type and are never too far away from the top tier armies, the basic meta-game revolves around either making the strongest possible Space Marine army, making the strongest possible anti-Space Marine army, or Taking The Third Option and building the strongest army against whatever is the major anti-Space Marine army, and hoping you get more of the anti-Space Marine armies, giving you the advantage because you are built to fight them, and they are built to fight Space Marines. Tournaments have been won by the taking of the third option simply by luck of the draw.
      • The Marine-centric meta has resulted in the plasmagun being the special weapon of choise to augment basic infantry weapons. It has a medium range, medium strength and high enough armour penetration combined with multi-shot capability to enable it to reliably kill space marine infantry. The other types like flamers, sniper rifles & grenade launchers are too low strength or too low penetration or both, while the high powered meltagun is single shot at a very short range making it ineffective for squads designed to fight other infantry. Even though the gun has always had a downside that it can blow up and kill the user, it has never been out of favour. 8th edition made it even more well liked by introducing the ability to power down the shot reducing the strength but removing the explosive potential. It feels like the designers simply gave up trying to balance it with other guns, and gave it the downgrade option to allow them to increase the points cost while giving the player an option to avoid blowing up their expensive gun.
      • 40k has always favoured squads being designed for one of the three major types of combat (melee, anti-vehicle shooting or anti-infantry shooting). This means that out of the major heavy weapon archetypes (mortars, heavy flamers, plasma cannons, multi-meltas, heavy bolters, missile launchers & lascannons) the multi-shot low strength heavy bolter and the high strength single shot long range lascannon are the two preferred heavy weapons as the heavy bolter chews up light infantry & the lascannon is the most reliable anti-tank weapon. Plasmacannons are often limited to lists tailored against Space Marine or Necron opponents while the mortar, multi-melta & heavy flamer are rarely seen outside of certain armies that have a fluff attachment to them. The missile launcher is avoided due to GW's odd habit of pointing them the same as a lascannon because it can also fire frag rouds for versatility.
    • The 4th Edition metagame was, for a while, dominated by the Tau instead due to the infamous Fish of Fury tactic.note  Breaking the Fish of Fury chevrons required either massed artillery fire or being able to jump in close-combat heavies, abilities that were limited to a few armies, and even those armies often had to build their lists around being able to counter the Fish. The nerfbat got rid of this tactic, however, and now Tau are seen as a far more balanced faction.
    • 5th Edition:
      • In general, 5th Edition is dominated by fully mechanised lists using small units in transports for two major reasons, vehicles were very durable, and infantry units could hold objects while being inside the vehicles.
      • Prior to Matt Ward's controversial rewrite of Grey Knights had a meta-game of Dark Eldar beat Space Wolves, Space Wolves beat Imperial Guard, Imperial Guard beat Dark Eldar. These 3 armies were the top tier in terms of effectiveness. Space Marines easily countered by any of the above three. After the Grey Knights re-write this rock-paper-scissors scenario has remained but with the GK looming over the triad as it has access to almost all of the Space Wolves tricks and some of the IG's elements along with their own. Necrons got in on the act towards the end of 5th edition as well.
    • 6th Edition:
      • Infantry could no longer hold objective inside transports. Vehicles were more vulnerable. This caused a shift towards combined arms and infantry lists.
      • In early 6th Edition flyers were dominating, if only because almost no one had access to anti-air, with Necrons and IG taking advantage because they could field huge amounts of flyers compared to most armies. The introduction of a new Tau codex saw them given easy access to anti-air weapons, serving as a hard counter to all-flyer lists and causing their popularity to drop.
      • When the Chaos Space Marine codex was released at the beginning of 6th edition, the Heldrake jumped back and forth in the meta, with many considering it a poor flyer. The basic weapon it used, the Baleflamer, was considered to be a powerful-looking weapon in theory but not in practice. While the flamer could wipe out whole squads of Space Marines, it was not effective against either the vehicles the Marines were likely to sit inside, or other fliers. That is, until it was discovered how amazing the Vector Strike rule was, allowing Heldrakes to one-two punch by cracking open vehicles and THEN using the Baleflamer. As the metagame rolled on the Heldrake is considered one of the most powerful units in the game, combining the advantages of being a flyer with durability and ability to destroy nearly any infantry unit without a 2+ save, and is probably single-handedly keeping the mediocre Chaos army competitive.
      • 6th Edition weakened assault armies by making charge distance random and thus less reliable (not to mention making charging through cover almost impossible), while giving the charged unit the ability to fire overwatch shots at the attacker. The assault metagame would have survived this (dedicated assault units usually have "Fleet", which actually helped them charge further than 5th edition) if it weren't for the gutting of the ENTIRE Games Workshop catalog to nerf every unit with the ability to assault "out of reserve". This had made the metagame shooting-focused, with armies dedicated to shooting being more effective than they had in previous editions.
    • The massively reworked 8th edition turned the metagame towards so called "soup" forces where instead of singular army types (ie, Space Mariners or Imperial Guard or Sisters of Battle), players could mix them all into separate detachments for maximum effectiveness. An example is that you could take multiple special characters (from different sub-factions) for buffs & re-rolls, and mix them with Imperial Guard units for board control and sheer numbers, while also taking the most effective combat units from heavier forces like Space Marines. Changes to turn order, weapon wounding & armour piercing effects as well as vehicles being changed to just have a regular statline instead of unique armour facings also heavily damaged the viability of strategies for certain factions like Orks, who now have "vehicles" that get blown off the board by first turn alpha strikes forcing them into infantry heavy armies that are boring to play with and against.
  • Virtually any wargame - particularly miniatures game - where a) each players' force is chosen using "points" and b)the effectiveness of various weapons varies based on the targets' characteristics (and c) where the effectiveness of troops varies by terrain and the map layout is not known until after the forces are selected) the troop selection itself can be more important than the strategy and tactics used in the game itself.

    Video Games 
  • A short lived but amusing example could be found in Fallout: New Vegas. The story of the game's first DLC Dead Money had a poignant moral about the dangers of obsession and recognizing the point at which trying to "win" has become needlessly self-destructive, and integrated this moral into the climax of the campaign, with a hefty reward that is equal parts enticing and impossible to get without killing yourselfnote . Gamers in the player base being who they are, understood the moral of the story but took it more as a challenge than anything else, and began finding exploits to escape with the whole prize anyway. A brief arms race then ensued between the players and developers, with players finding a succession of ways to exploit Loophole Abuse and the devs subsequently patching those methods out.
  • The StarCraft metagame is about as evolved as a metagame can get. The metagame has gotten so intricate that good players can tell exactly where the other player's base is simply by how long it takes for an enemy scouting unit to find them. The presence or absence of gas production buildings at certain points in the game can reveal volumes about a player's strategy. And of course, feigning one tactic and going for another can have devastating metagame consequences.
    • To give an example, one common Terran strategy vs Protoss was to put down two factories and produce lots of units to make an attack. Then the Terran metagame evolved to incorporate acting like you're putting down two factories and making a little attack to put the opponent on the defensive but you're actually only making one factory and saving for an expansion to gain an economic advantage - the fake double. This became so popular that it is normal and Protoss players anticipate it, so now Terrans can now also try to give the appearance that they are doing the fake double but meanwhile they actually really are putting down two factories to make a serious attack. Which is known as the fake fake double. Mindbending.
    • This becomes much more prevalent in Starcraft II where Scouts are crucial in knowing what you are dealing with. For Zerg it is fairly straightforward, early expansion or just go for the safer spawning pool? Do you produce a slew of zerglings to prep yourself for tier 2 or go for roaches to buff up your defenses? Did your opponent research burrow? Or did he go for the ventral sacs? All these questions are never answered unless you know what your opponent is doing. Because of how fast the games get (due to the bases getting mined out earlier) it makes it all the more important to scout because everything moves quickly. Ironically it also makes the Terran much more difficult to predict because of the ease that they build and swap attachments. Since buildings can swap, it means that when you thought they were going for Marauders when they built that Barracks for the tech lab, they can just fake you out and swap it for a factory to build siege tanks and thors.
  • In Company of Heroes, the online meta-game is constantly shifting. Certain moves are considered "correct", with little variation. When you encounter high level players, building an Observation Post early in the game will elicit cries of "NOOOOOB!!!!". One tactic developed for the American faction involves pumping out 4 of the pathetically weak "engineer" units and building an early game OP or two. It is shockingly effective, and it is completely hilarious to have the guy who just spent 2 minutes shouting about how noobish you are get brought to his knees by a combined arms symphony he has never seen before.
    • This is a common theme among every single online game with a strong metagame: most players who know about the latest metagame will assume you are a complete idiot if you're not following it, even if what you're doing is so effective that everyone else will jump on board by next week.
  • Dawn of War 2's multiplayer is a game that has a decent amount of shifting with subsequent patches and lots of the game's inner workings not being stated inside it, requiring players to go to forums and ask more experienced players to better understand how to play the multiplayer.
  • Extensive knowledge of the metagame is essential in World of Warcraft and many other MMOs. Particularly in "raids" where large groups of players must work together to defeat a boss or complete a task, the group leader must know exactly how many players of each class to have, what equipment they should be wearing, and where and what they should be doing at each stage of the battle. This is less necessary in games where the classes are more flexible, such as City of Heroes.
    • This has become less true for WoW PvE, as in Wrath of the Lich King, classes' abilities have a good deal more overlap, but in PvP, the metagame still changes with every patch.
    • And then there's the forum metagaming, where classes and specs underplay their effectiveness to ridiculous levels in order to obtain buffs in the next patch. Whether or not this is actually effective is a topic for much debate.
  • League of Legends. It changes all the time from new patches and characters being released. If you have never played the game before (or in a long while), you will need to ask for help from other players to figure it out and do extensive research.
    • In Season 1, players picked whatever (or perhaps the overpowered champions) and went wherever.
    • In Season 2, players settled on five fixed roles: an ADC (ranged attack damage carry) farming bottom lane protected by a support who doesn't farm, an APC (mage) goes mid, a bruiser (bulky fighter) goes top, and there is a jungler who is usually a tough controller or fighter. There are good reasons for this, but they don't matter much in low-mid level gameplay and most players don't even know them. It's just something people do because the pros do it.
    • In Season 3, the community settled on a list of acceptable champions for each role, and picking any other champion/role combination will result in a barrage of insults followed by several reports.
      • Much of this has to do with the fact that the developers, despite claiming the contrary, do in fact balance the game for this metagame to a fairly obvious degree, setting each role in stone by providing them with the items they need to function well in their role.
      • The current five roles replaced the old strategy of putting the AD carry in the mid lane (considered the safest solo lane) and just putting whoever in bottom lane once the playerbase realised that a support COULD be played with no gold, allowing the carry to farm a solo lane while being more protected than if they'd actually been solo. Sometimes teams will "lane swap" and put their ADC and support lane in top and their solo laner in bottom to try and pressure the enemy solo laner down for an early turret, but they always eventually come back to bottom lane for Dragon control. Not even the most radical and experimental pro teams have been able to successfully break this meta yet.
      • Only if you actually want to play a meta-game. What becomes more and more obvious for old-timers is that not playing a metagame is the best way to win and utterly crush your enemy. The reason is plain simple - metaplayers will expect anyone else use one of few meta tactics. If you won't use any of them, then their own strategy is in ruins, because they are expecting everyone mindlessly following meta, not an original tactics or crazy, but well-executed stunts. Leads directly to the point when you crush your enemy with little trouble and he call you a noob for not playing meta.
      • This doesn't work against decent players though. They can always fall back on simply turtling until your bruiser based kill lane loses its advantage, then win the late game.
      • SivHD is a player well-known for playing the game in entirely INSANE way from the point of view of metagaming,... yet he beats the crap out of anyone, anytime. At least at low or medium elo levels of play, that is.
      • One popular tactic for breaking meta game is/was to run the entire team with teleport summoner spells and all push mid lane at once to quickly overwhelm the enemy mid laner (which is where previously Joke Characters like Heimerdinger who excelled at pushing became very useful). Typically, even if they lost a tower at mid and or top, they could get the enemy's second mid tower by then which provides huge early map control while putting the other team dangerously off balance (and if they could manage to get the enemy's inhibitor it would force their entire team to defend mid to avoid losing).
    • A more subtle case is the fact that call order (whoever says "mid" first gets mid) is a thing in unranked games with no specific pick order. This does frequently lead to flame wars, but may god have mercy on you if you disregard this "rule" and just pick a role without calling it first.
    • Players frequently try to report people they perceive as not following the currently accepted metagame, under the delusion that it qualifies as some sort of bannable Terms of Service violation, like using a hacked client. note  Riot Games' complaints forum has a standing warning not to report this.
  • In the original Guild Wars campaign, the player had to fight his own twin in a 'mirror match'. What made this battle especially difficult was that the 'mirror' was a true 'mirror', including possessing whatever skills the player had equipped at time. One novel metagame strategy was to load the character down with health-sacrifcing and 'damage reflection'-type skills, and make a 'suicide run' on the mirror boss. Since the mirror-double could only use the player's currently-equipped skills, it would literally 'attack itself to death' within seconds of the battle commencing.
    • Or, if you were a ranger, make a beastmaster build completely loaded with pet skills - none of which your doppelganger can use because it doesn't get a pet.
    • PvP in Guild Wars is heavily metagamed, since each player can only bring eight skills into the match, and players are almost always on the same level in terms of overall power. Over the years, this has seen the rise and fall of many solo and team-based strategies, as new ideas blaze ahead, then die off as everybody else tries to counter it.
  • EVE Online
    • From the PvP to the economy, EVE has a metagame that would make a hardcore Starcraft gamer weep. Considering that what's on the line is often worth thousands of real-world dollars, and legitimately epic heists and scams are not only allowed, but one of the main selling points, this is to be expected. How serious is it? The developers hired a real-world economist to study the in-game economy, and there is at least one recorded instance of players causing a blackout in order to knock a rival player offline at a critical moment. While Blizzard and the various tournament sponsors attempt to keep the Starcraft metagame confined to game mechanics, CCP practically encourages social engineering between players.
    • Backstabbing a friend in Eve can and has ended years long friendships... of course, some people have made said friends just so they can backstab them in Eve months or years later. The game has kind of a scary metagame at times.
    • A particularly good writeup about EVE's metagaming in practice detailing how HYDRA/Outbreak won the 2011 Alliance Tournament, including spying on the other odds-on favourites (especially the winner of the last three tournaments, Pandemic Legion) and successfully feeding intelligence to other teams in order to knock out Pandemic Legion's second team in the pre-qualifying round.
      • Even more amusingly, the entire complex metagame has basically been thrown out the door and replaced by a new one, as the coming new expansion pack caused players to fight over certain resources. This triggered total war, with the entire game transforming into a binary conflict between two factions, all others either being allied or destroyed. More news as it arrives.
    • The war for Tribute was won (on the military side) by Goonswarm's superior ability to leverage the time zones in which battles took place. Fighting on European time, Goonswarm and their allies (the Clusterfuck Coalition) were preeminent, and they later regained that advantage in US time (after they got their asses kicked to hell and back a few times), but NCDot fleets were unassailable in Australia's peak hours... so Goonswarm avoided fighting on AU time and fought exclusively on EU and US time. Incidentally, the whole war is rumored to have started because the CEO of NCDot US was sleeping with an enemy of the CFC, and ended in part because the EU CEO hadn't been particularly interested in joining a messy and unprofitable war with the CFC in the first place, leading to the collapse of the alliance.
  • One of the issues that "higher-level" Defense of the Ancients players in clans have with "pub" players (those that wander into spontaneous Battle.Net sessions) is that, while each player may have a certain theoretical knowledge of the strategies meant for each Hero, in practice these players rarely will coordinate to choose a lineup of Heroes that synergise well, lowering the effectiveness of the team. In addition, a certain amount of psychology and "mindgaming" is a tool that enables some players to outfight their enemies even when the odds are against them.
  • Urban Dead has a very extensive metagame, with the game's Wiki serving as its central hub. User-created barricade plans determine which buildings can be used as entry points and where dead survivors can be revived (among other things). Add in coordinated activities (such as raids) and intergroup diplomacy, and you have a level of depth that can keep you occupied for much longer than playing the actual game.
    • Its cousin Nexus War is this even further. Raids on enemy factions are approximately 95% coordinating with your factionmates on IRC and 5% raiding.
      • And there was politics. Honest to god politics. The meta game was very very complicated, which was a big part of its decline and eventual demise until it was revived as Nexus Clash, which has been re-growing the same level of meta game complexity ever since.
  • There's an amusing lampshade hung on this one by the indie game World of Goo. The signs that pop up in every level with cryptic sayings also pop up in the free-play Corporation mode, where the player uses all of their collected goo-balls to build a massive tower. The game looks online and picks out other player's Corporation towers and floats the statistics of said tower on your screen as a small cloud. The sign's rather amusing message contains the phrase, "Everyone's building up. What's up there anyway? Some kind of metagame?"
  • Street Fighter II and almost all 2D fighting games have only two things going in the screen at higher levels: metagame and Combos. Combos are a "safe" way to inflict decent damage, but decent players don't leave themselves open for them, so most matches consist on both players trying to find an opening and dealing damage while not giving themselves away and losing, and this is where most of the metagame is found. For example, in mid-to-high-level matches, when the two characters are looking for openings at a very close range it's called "footsies", and it's not weird to see someone lose because he threw a crouching medium kick at the wrong range and got punished in the few frames of recovery it has by a well-timed crouching roundhouse. There are glossaries full of words used every day in the fighting game community when discussing the metagame, and they all describe essential concepts. Most of the times, the basic strategy in 2D and 3D fighting games involves putting your opponent in a state of disadvantage (knockdown, frame disadvantage, plain fear of your pokes, etc) and use a "mixup", which your opponent will have to block/avoid correctly to avoid the damage and/or disadvantage it could inflict. For example, projectile characters can also take another approach and play a "keep-away" game, "chipping" their opponents to death while punishing their attempts to attack. There are thousands of different strategies (sometimes even more than one for each match-up), and thousands of counter-strategies, and all of them use metagame concepts like "zoning", "mindgames" and "pressure" to their fullest.
  • Super Smash Bros. games have developed fairly extensive metagames, with standard techniques known for the most-played characters.
    • The metagame for Melee has risen to a ridiculous level that it was still evolving decades after the game came out, and continued to do so long after its game system was no longer made. Every character has unique special moves with unique cancels which add a high element of unpredictability. For example, a Falco player may approach an opponent using short-hopped lasers to quickly deliver stun and set up for an attack. However, many professionals are capable of frame-perfect shielding, which has led to use of the running powershield technique, which reflects the stun laser back at Falco and perfectly sets up an attack if performed correctly. A good Falco will play differently when confronted with a player capable of the running powershield. And we didn't even scratch the surface on exploits that became now standard universal high-level techniques (L-canceling, dash-dancing, wave-dashing, shield-dropping).
      • Former champion Ken is generally considered to have invented the majority of the Marth metagame. As a result, every knowledgeable Marth player these days is in some way inspired by Ken.
      • Jigglypuff was medium-low tier in 2002. It later became top tier after a player named Hungrybox (a member of the Five Gods) pioneered a very defensive strategy where he would chip away at an opponent until they got so frustrated they made a major mistake, where he would instantly punish them. Following this, Armada (another of the Five Gods) picked a similar low-tier character, Young Link, and implemented an even more defensive strategy where he would simply hop around the map and evade H-Box's Puff while throwing all of Young Link's projectiles at him to zone him away, chipping away at Puff until he could go in and get the final kill. Following this, Hungrybox had to adapt Puff to play a more balanced strategy just to even take games off of Armada, which completely undid everyone else's tactics for playing against him, allowing him to rise to finally take major tournaments.
      • Similarly, Wobbles took the Ice Climbers, once considered a Low-Tier Letdown, and learned how to desync them and stunlock opponents via grab-headbutts, a technique that came to be known as Wobbling. Many rules were put in place to allow for the Ice Climbers to still make use of this technique, but also to prevent the game from becoming "Super Smash Ice Climbers" by preventing some of their more broken techniques from being spammed.
    • Up until Project M was released, rebalancing everything and everyone, the Brawl meta was an extra-campy projectile-fest for the longest time, with Meta-Knight being banned entirely due to several of his attacks having high priority and one of them being able to be spammed in such a way that it left the player completely safe from any harm.
    • In Ultimate, as each new character is added and patches are put out every so often, the meta shifts considerably to account for each new fighter's abilities. As was the case with Brawl, if a new fighter is sufficiently broken, they may be banned outright until a patch comes out reducing how broken they are, or until pro players are able to figure out strategies to play against them, purely to ensure the tournament doesn't just become completely overrun with people only using that character (The Hero, for instance, was banned for several weeks following his release).
  • And now there's Divekick, which boils the complicated finger-fumbling down to only two moves: Dive and Kick, for a game that's very light on mechanics and very heavy on metagame.
  • Pokémon, being a multiplayer battling game, has also developed an extensive metagame, becoming more popular as connectivity expanded. Tournaments are heavily influenced by the metagame, to the point where certain creatures with great stats or moves are considered nigh-unplayable because of the environment of the time.
    • People started to find out and manipulate the game's hidden numbers for a Pokémon's stats, such as Natures and Individual Values permanently input to a Pokémon, and Effort Values, which depend on which enemy Pokémon you train your Pokémon with.
    • And as an in-game example, The Rival always chooses his starting Pokémon after you do, and systematically chooses the one whose type is strong against yours.
    • The card game even more so. Pokémon have weakness and resistance in this game as well, so even if you have a powerful deck, you can still be blown out by a deck whose Pokémon had a type advantage against you. There was at least one period where more than half of tournament decks were the same thing, making it a viable strategy to build a deck entirely to beat that (and for the most part, lose to anything else).
      • The Platinum sets had "the SP deck", filled with Supporter and Trainer cards that required the usage of SP Pokémon in your deck. They were always better than non-SP versions of the same card (example: Bebe's Search and SP Radar, Poketurn and SP Turn). It's supreme card quality made many SP decks incredibly powerful and popular, but it had one weakness: all of the SP Pokémon were Basic Pokémon. Thus, it's counter was born, the Machamp Take-Out deck. And since Machamp's weakness is Psychic type Pokémon, there was Gardellade that was good against it. And so on.
    • There is actually an incredibly advanced online Pokémon metagame where people use an online simulator instead of using the actual game for a more regulated environment. Usage statistics are tracked for everything, and analyzed often. There is also an established Character Tiers system with about five different developed metagames.
      • Indeed, Smogon has extensive writeups on every fully-evolved 'mon and then some, including the ones that are not useful at all.
      • The metagame of Pokémon is also the source of many cases of Kick the Dog, where certain Pokémon are put down for stats, abilities, or other properties that make them "useless", and can be upsetting to those who don't care about stats and believe that any Pokémon, given the right level, moves, and training can be useful. Accepting that one's favorite Pokémon cannot be used practically in the Standard metagame is a tough pill that almost every newcomer has to swallow.
      • Note that Smogon doesn't discourage people using their favorite Pokémon (provided that the tier of said Pokémon doesn't compete below its placing, e.g. Arceus shouldn't be used in anything below Uber competition). In fact, the tier system pretty much allows virtually all Pokémon to be played in a form of tournament - even though most low-tier ones don't get any support or analyses for usage in tiers they're deemed too weak/outclassed for.
    • Game Freak seems to have shown an ambiguous level of awareness and support for the metagame over the years. On one hand, they introduced the Battle Frontier and the extremely useful EV-adjusting berries in Emerald, but then they introduced Team Preview for Wi-Fi battles in Black and White, which revealed each player's team to their opponent and vice versa, thus destroying many strategies that depended on the element of surprise. On the other hand, this is also a source of further mind games (and it was introduced the previous generation, but on Pokémon Battle Revolution).
      • Because of Team Preview, a particular type of team for double battling started showing up, though mostly limited to Japanese players, consisting of 3 attacking Pokémon and 3 support Pokémon. Because double battling has each player picking 4 Pokémon, the player selects one attacking Pokémon they deem will be most suitable against the opponent's team, then all three support Pokémon. This is not a sort of team that's practical in anything that isn't 4v4 double battling with Team Preview.
  • The free browser-based strategy game Cybernations' gameplay consists of pressing a few buttons everyday. Most of the actual "gameplay" comes from people making alliances and engaging in diplomacy.
  • The Gamerscore on XBox 360 could count as a metagame, especially considering all the satellite websites and communities that have sprung up around it.
  • If you play World in Conflict long enough, you learn to anticipate just where and when exactly the next tank buster strike will come, considering that your tanks stood in a certain position in plain view for a few seconds. Of course, a player who knows that will place another tank buster to where you will have moved your units just in time for it to hit you. Nicer players will also warn their support about incoming strikes. You will also learn the good spots to hide your snipers that will never be found by anyone who doesn't know where to find snipers that can't be found. And where to drop your nukes on do_Spaceneedle to kill dozens of enemies and neutralize two enemy positions at once. And you'll know what the cluster bombs/airdrop combo is and exactly why you shouldn't use it unless in dire situation.
  • Ragnarok Online has a great many builds and metagame strategies, not just for PvP, but for the War of Emperium. Skilled players can interpret opponent's strategies, builds, and items, with only a minimum of contact on the battlefield. This also changes, sometimes drastically, on different custom servers.
  • The meta game for Guitar Hero and Rock Band mostly consists of the physical aspects of actually playing an instrument. This includes fingering and tapping (using both hands on fret buttons) for guitar and bass parts, and sticking for drums. Using Star Power/Overdrive appropriately is also a big factor in maximizing scores, and a lot of research goes into determining the best path for deploying it.
    • The research that goes into it has led to people making programs that, given the chart data in the game, can determine the best "path" for using Star Power/Overdrive. One person, in attempt to determine the best path for a full band performance of a song, made a program that could essentially brute-force its way through a full band path, which requires such a large amount of computational power and time that it costs about $2 to path each song.
    • Not to mention squeezing, which is essentially playing slightly ahead or behind rhythm for one note or more to maximize the notes you get under Star Power/Overdrive. Playing off-rhythm. In a rhythm game. Somehow, it all works. To screw with your mind even more, on some drum songs you can get better scores by overhitting.
  • Team Fortress 2
    • Spies (a class that can nearly perfectly mimic an enemy class) seemed way too powerful, to the point where teams basically relied on Spies to do anything useful. This lasted until people realized that Pyros could just use their flamethrowers on any person on their team; the ones who catch fire are Spies. Plus, the Spy will have just caught fire, which will hasten their demise. This practice, now known as Spychecking, is now widely used by most Pyro players, which brought the game back into relative class balance.
      • The reason this happened was because Valve removed friendly fire on as a server option. Until that point, the majority of servers included friendly fire, meaning the Pyro couldn't spycheck without blasting his friends with flame, making it much less useful. With no friendly fire, the Pyro could spycheck at will with no penalty beyond losing a few units of ammo.
    • The Spy also relies on the metagame to perform effectively. The Spy player has to know how certain classes behave and be able to act like the one they're disguised as, recognize certain tactics, know various routes and blind spots on a map and generally play with the opponent's mind, much like a true spy.
    • Again with the Spy, a lot of his more useful capabilities are unlocked once the player figures out how to use Hitbox Dissonance and server lag to their advantage, so they can predict when they get buggy facestabs, matador stabs, and stair/rampstabs that instantly kill their target.
    • This trope is also a major factor in the Unpleasable Fanbase. Every time an update ships, somebody's bound to complain that the new items have upset the existing meta-game, claiming that it gives one or more classes an unfair advantage/disadvantage. Sometimes they're right. This very wiki had to devote an entire subpage to the new and interesting ways you can now make certain classes nigh unbeatable in skilled hands.
    • It should also be noted that TF2 has a completely different competitive scene than the developers intended. While normal play involves 24 players with few if any class limits, two completely different competitive scenes have evolved, one involving 12 players with some class limits, and another involving 18 players with strict class limits. Additionally, "6v6" has a considerable amount of items which are banned from competitive play. "9v9" (known as the Highlander mode because each team has only one of each class), while having significantly fewer items banned from competitive play, does also institute item bans.
    • To elaborate, the 6v6 mode is typically on of the more "even" Capture Points maps (Grainary is the most common). Even though there are usually no restriction on what classes can be taken, 9 out of 10 times it will be the optimal lineup (2 Scouts, 1 Demoman, 1 Medic, 1 "Roamer" that's usually a Soldier and 1 "Pocket" who stick with the Medic to guard them and is also usually a Soldier). Also, even though most "OP" weapons are banned, you will rarely if ever see anything besides the default loadouts, since these have no drawbacks compared to the sidegrades. While Vanilla TF2 may be anywhere on the silliness scale, competitive TF2 is usually considered Serious Business.
    • The Mann VS Machine mode also (predictably) has a metagame - not as evolved as the PvP one, but still. However, due to the Two Cities update which added a few new missions and buffed the Medic significantly, it underwent major changes (from the old Scout-Engie-Heavy-Heavy-Demo-Pyro setup, to the new Scout-Engie-Heavy-Medic-Demo-Soldier setup). A lot of things that sacrifice splash damage and crowd control abilities for single-target damage are also viewed as inferior to other options (which is partially true, due to the nature of the gamemode fighting hordes of robots). Players also tend to be suspicious of Spies and Snipers, as they require more skill than other classes and correct upgrade paths to be effective and most don't manage to make their choices work (but when it does happen...).
  • The online card game War Metal Tyrant has a fairly complex and well-defined metagame, though similar to Yu-Gi-Oh, players consider the metagame to be moving towards a cookie-cutter layout where the aim is to pack as many of the strongest cards available into a deck. The usual decks used to be Tiatlapreds, Wall-stalls, Reaperspam, II rush, Pummeller/Bloodpool, and Xeno slowroll, all of which interacted with each other in complex ways, however most of these decks are considered moot and have been outstripped by cards with Summon and Refresh, two very unbalancing skills. At the time of writing, Righteous Slowroll is most dominant, with Raider Rally and Xeno Summon being very prominent.
  • MechWarrior Living Legends has a particularly complicated metagame in its competitive circles. Knowing the enemy team is absolutely critical to winning a match - what BattleMechs or other vehicles they take, their preferred tactics (Smoke Jaguars loved to Zerg Rush, Knights of the Inner Sphere prefer to dominate the skies, Russian Death Legion loves to snipe, etc), and knowing the huge maps are all required for a victory. Tactics that don't normally work in pub games are often very powerful in competitive matches - such as hidden battlearmor using the Target Acquisition Gear to guide in friendly artillery missiles, or one team holding forces in reserve until the enemy team reveals itself.
  • Overwatch:
    • The introduction of Ana — a sniper-healer whose Limit Break gave an ally boosted damage and more damage resistance — was found to be extremely powerful, largely because her ultimate ability charged quite fast for how much effect it had on the game. This caused the "Triple Tank" metagame to rise up, orienting itself around characters that could make the best use of Ana's support capabilities (like Reinhardt, who could tank damage that Ana would rapidly heal in bursts, farming special charge for her; or Lúcio, whose healing radius paired nicely with Ana's grenade, which multiplied healing of allies in its explosion); this also caused Offense heroes to decline, since they would die too fast or have too small of a health pool to properly be healed by Ana.
    • After the Season 4 launch, Bastion — a hero that could turn into a stationary machinegun turret — got a buff, most notably having a 35% damage resistance while in turret mode. This drastically affected the Payload gamemode, where Bastion shines; the objective is a moving object that heals nearby attackers, so the normal downside of Bastion being rooted to the spot when the player wants the machinegun is no longer an issue. Offense plays largely oriented around similar stationary defense to protect Bastion with as it shreds the enemies, such as the placable shields of Orisa and Winston.
    • Brigitte, a mace-wielding healer oriented around stunning enemies or knocking them away, was introduced to counter then-predominant strategies oriented around mobile tanks bum-rushing enemies and annihilating them on the spot. When players got their hands on her, her abilities actually reinforced those of mobile tanks trying to bum-rush enemies to annihilate them on the spot. Referred to as "GOATS", either for the pro team that championed this playstyle or short for "GO All Tanks and Support", it followed in the footsteps of the aforementioned Triple Tank metagame in being oriented around a potent healer that could make hardier tank characters withstand way more damage than normal, while diminishing anyone that didn't have the same health pool.
  • Star Trek Online has a specific metagame for its endgame PVE missions, especially its Special Task Force missions. However, when Power Creep struck the game, the metagame essentially went to crap until Delta Rising released, forcing the metagame back, but leaving players utterly confused and rage-worthy because of it.
  • Given its Perpetual Beta status, Little War Game has had an evolving metagame since its creation in September of 2013. Catapults, Mages, Wolves, Dragons, Watchtowers, and even Workers have been overpowered at one point or another.
  • Destiny and Destiny 2 were designed around continuous content and an evolving world, with new weapon designs introduced and back-end adjustments if certain weapons or weapon archetypes become too much of a Game-Breaker. In the third year of Destiny 2 with the release of the Shadowkeep expansion, the game transferred to a seasonal model which released continuous content and a new season every 3 months like clockwork. Each season came with an artifact that provided particular bonuses to existing game mechanics and would "promote" a certain subclass or weapon archetype into becoming the most powerful option. Examples include a 25% damage bonus to all fusion rifles, or that all void grenades will cause an enemy to be more vulnerable to damage. Weekly online updates from Bungie would alert players on the changes that would occur for the next season, so they could think ahead on the best exotic armor or weapons they have for that upcoming meta which would become even more powerful that season.

  • And this Irregular Webcomic! strip, in which the Nigerian Finance Minister confuses metagaming with Just Plain Cheating.
  • Full Frontal Nerdity often revolves around the three Munchkin players metagaming all the DM's adventures into oblivion, like this!
  • Julie tends to metagame sometimes in the D&D webcomic Our Little Adventure. The comic itself has handwaved this as one of Julie's bardic powers, but Rocky has warned her about it a couple of times.
  • The Order of the Stick is an RPG Mechanics 'Verse rather than an actual game, but the characters are well aware of this fact. We have seen characters blatantly take advantage of things like there only being one Random Encounter per trip regardless of length (more would take up too much time), become the rivals of other characters so they can level up without doing any work (you will be the same level as your rival, so a fight between you is suitably dramatic), and acknowledge that being a human is best because somehow you will learn just as much magic in decades as an elf will in centuries (and if you start as another class and then multiclass into a wizard, you skip years of training because it is retroactively assumed you have been practicing all along).
  • Applejack's player in Friendship is Dragons has Incorporated Justified metagaming into her build. Specifically, AJ is a Ranger whose familiarity with the habits of everyone who lives in Ponyville allows her to say that she knows them well enough to predict how they'll react in various situations.
    • Twilight accidentally did the whole metagame thing when first meeting Rarity. Rarity tried to present herself as an ordinary dressmaker, but Twi's player had seen her character sheet and knew she was a Rogue, causing her to act extremely suspicious and basically badger her into confessing. The repercussions of this have colored their relationship both IC and OOC ever since.
  • In one Arthur, King of Time and Space strip, one of Arthur's subject kings asks him if he can play chess. Arthur replies that he knows how the pieces move, but nothing about strategy. The other king concludes "So, no."

    Web Original 
  • NationStates is an elaborate, multifaceted metagame that may or may not require you to have anything to do with the actual game it's attached to.

    Web Video 
  • Jet Lag: The Game: Sam, Ben, and Adam, who are all extremely familiar with one other, will often make gameplay choices based on what they believe the other players will do. Sam in particular has a tendency to go for high-risk, high-reward plays that usually backfire and allow Ben and Adam to win with a safer and more relaxed game, which he pointed out in season five and intentionally tried to break away from in that season.

    Real Life 
  • Savvy military commanders sometimes metagame during wargames and similar exercises. They usually get a lot of flak from their superiors afterwards due to the prevailing belief that real engagements wouldn't have fixed enough rules to be exploited, and that it may invalidate data they are trying to gather. However, public opinion may not be kind to simulations that outlaw meta-gamey tactics for what seems like spurious reasons: Millenium Challenge 2002 is the best known of these, wherein opposing general Paul Van Riper of the "Red Team" used motorcycle messengers to deliver orders to troops and World War II era light signals to launch planes without radio communication, knowing that the United States' "Blue Team" would be using sophisticated electronic surveillance, then launching a massive attack as soon as Blue demanded a surrender, crippling Blue's forces. At this point, the games were stopped, and were restarted along more scripted lines. Realizing that his team was being instructed not to follow his orders, Van Riper resigned from the game, and publicly characterized the game as a set-up to validate strategies that had not actually faced testing.

    This criticism itself faced criticism as he cheated and his tactics wouldn't have worked in real life either. When he attacked the Blue Team's fleet he did so by claiming that a fleet of fishing trawlers fired anti-ship missiles even though they couldn't possibly hold them. In addition he used suicide vessels and tried to ignore the countermeasures that would be used against them in reality, primarily naval helicopters. Also, his motorcycles somehow could travel at the speed of light.

    The wargame was heavily criticized within the military for these same reasons. The fact that Van Riper was able to exploit the game's rules so effectively and do the patently impossible showed how poorly designed it was. While it is impossible to think of every possible variable, designers of a wargame need to keep in mind that the Red Team is supposed to cheat, and that they need to close off avenues which would be patently impossible.
  • The Office of Naval Research takes advantage of this with their online game platform MMOWGLI (Massive Multiplayer Online War Game Leveraging the Internet) to combat Somali pirates. It puts teams of players in the roles of the Navy and pirates in which they will have the expected resources of each side and have to pursue their respective goals against each other. A control team ensures no one does anything phenomenally stupid or unrealistic.
  • Another example in war gaming, you may have heard about concerns about diesel powered submarines being able to stealthily (since they can go completely silent) ambush super carriers. Well there have been a few criticisms of the war games that have been used to collect this data, namely in how the sub marines find the carriers. In real life it would be hard to find the carriers since the ocean is a big place and diesel subs are rather slow (especially when submerged). However these war games often force submarines to spawn within a certain distance of the carrier. The sub commanders can then use the rules for sub spawning and their own locations to reverse engineer the most probable position of the carrier, resulting in a confrontation every time.
  • According to this greentext story, a war game was won by using Tindr. The writer supposedly used the app to search for women with military gear in their pictures and figure out their positions, and thus the positions of the enemy emplacements.
    • While apps and dating weren't involved, counter terrorists once carried out a successful strike against a large ISIS compound because they were able to use background geography of pictures on Isis's news feed to locate where it was. You can't meta game real war but it does say something about the usefulness of meta gaming in war games.
  • If there is a "metagame" for how to build a space rocket, SpaceX's Starship/Super Heavy project completely ignores. Out go advanced composites and superalloys built in sophisticated factories, instead Starship is being built outdoors using stainless steel. It's also planned to be the biggest rocket ever yet it's reportedly running on a relative shoestring budget.