Meta gaming is a role playing game expression used to describe behavior that goes outside the boundaries of the game in order to create an advantage for your role playing character.
Understandably this is very much frowned upon in role play gaming as it not only disrupts the integrity of the game but is considered cheating. So if you are new to role playing games and ask more established players, what is meta gaming , you will show that you don’t really understand what is going on and you will need to be prepared for a lengthy explanation too.
Luckily we ask the question what is meta gaming here, which means that you won’t have to show your ignorance in front of your game playing friends.
So what is meta gaming?
Role playing games require you to play out your character in a fictional setting as if you were that character living in the moment and making decisions based on the context of the game.
Meta gaming by contrast refers to aspects outside the game so if you are playing a game based on historical events and you bring this knowledge to direct your character, you are metagaming. Your character would not have forward knowledge of events so bringing this into the game will ruin it.
Metagaming does not only affect historical role playing games. It refers to any outside knowledge that one is playing a game and can include reading adventure guides or watching others play the same role in the same game so that you can refine your decisions based on previous game play.
Meta gaming also refers to acting outside the game’s parameters. So for example if your character suddenly invented gun powder or used a machine gun in a role play game about Ancient Rome this would be considered Meta gaming.
How you act is important too. You may have real life friends playing different characters in the game but this should not affect how your character reacts to them in the game’s fictional setting.
The short answer to what is meta gaming is that it brings real life knowledge into a fictional setting and this destroys the flow and the integrity of a game. As with any kind of drama production, the actors are protected by a “fourth wall” which means an invisible barrier between them and the audience. This allows the audience to suspend their disbelief and believe in the drama and the story line as if it were real. When an actor breaks the fourth wall, it destroys the illusion by bringing real life into the performance.
Avoiding Meta gaming in role play games is important. Not only does it create an unfair advantage for the offender, but it also breaks the fourth wall of the game.
We do all know that our role playing games are just games and that outside the game we exist in the modern world. But role playing games are great fun and if we break with the reality of the game, there is not much reason to even play it at all!