‘Metagames’Richard Garfield’s presentation for the 2000 Game Developers Conferenceis in today’s links, but I think it deserves a bit more attention than that. Here are some quotes from the document that stood out for me.1
What a metagame is:
“My definition of metagame is broad. It is how a game interfaces with life.”
In other words, metagame design is contextual. It forces you to think about when, where, how and by who your game will be played.
Why metagame design has not been getting as much attention as game design itself:
“…the majority of a game’s metagame is probably unalterable by game designer or publisher.”
So, metagame design is a second order design problem. Designers can only indirectly influence how metagames play out. They facilitate it, but do not direct it.
Garfield divides metagames in four broad categories:
- What you bring to a game
- What you take away from a game
- What happens between games
- What happens during a game
Where “game” should be understood as a single play session of a game.
Garfield has interesting things to say about all these categories, and I recommend reading the article in full, but I’d like to zoom in on one bit mentioned under “from”:
“It is worth noting that many things listed have a ‘circular’ value to the player.”
Getting something from a game that you can bring with you again to a game makes you care more and more about the game itself. One clear example of how metagames are a helpful concept for making a game more self-sustaining.
Better yet, the ‘stuff’ that players get from a game play session can be shared or passed on to others. In this manner, the metagame becomes a viral loop.2
- Richard Garfield is the designer of the CCG Magic: The Gathering. [↩]
- Via Matt Webb. [↩]