Meta-Pokemon

In a previous post, I mentioned my fascination with Twitch Plays Pokemon (TPP). The reason behind this stems from the many layers of metagaming that take place in TPP. As I discussed in my previous post, the most basic definition of metagaming is "using resources outside the game to improve the outcome within the game". However, there's another definition of metagaming that has grown in usage thanks to Hofsteadter: "a game about a game". This reflexive definition of metagaming is where the complexity of TPP begins to shine. Let's take a stroll through some various types of metagaming taking place in TPP.

Outside resources

At the base level, we have players making use of a variety of outside resources to improve their performance inside the game. For Pokemon, the most useful resources might include maps, beastiaries, and Pokemon-type matchups. In TPP, many players also bring with them their own previous experiences with the game.

Game about a game

Pokemon itself is a metagame. Within the world of the game, the Pokemon League is its own game within the game. A Pokemon player is playing the role of a character who is taking part in game tournament. What makes TPP so interesting is that that it adds a game outside the game. Players in TPP can cooperate or compete for control of the game character. In effect, TPP is a meta-metagame: a game about a game about a game. Players in TPP are controlling the actions of a game character participating in a game tournament. It's Pokemon-ception!

Gaming the population

Another use of metagaming is to take knowledge of the trends in player behaviors and utilize that information to improve the outcome within the game. In TPP, players would use social media sites such as Reddit to encourage the spread of certain strategies. Knowledge of social patterns in the general population TPP players enables a few players to guide the strategy of the collective in a desirable directions. Memes like "up over down" bring structure to an otherwise chaotic system and quickly become the dominant strategy.

Gaming the rules

One of my favorite pastimes in theory-crafting, which is itself a form of metagaming. Here, we take the rules of the game and look at possible strategies like a game. The method TPP used in the final boss fight is a perfect example of this. The boss is programmed to select a move type that the player's pokemon is weak against and one of these moves deals no damage. By using a pokemon that is weak against this particular move, the boss is locked into a strategy that will never do any damage! Not only do the TPP players turn the rules of the game against it, but they also needed to organize the population to pull it off!

Gaming the population

Another use of metagaming is to take knowledge of the trends in player behaviors and utilize that information to improve the outcome within the game. In TPP, players would use social media sites such as Reddit to encourage the spread of certain strategies. Knowledge of social patterns in the general population TPP players enables a few players to guide the strategy of the collective in a desirable directions. Memes like "up over down" bring structure to an otherwise chaotic system and quickly become the dominant strategy.

Rule modification games

One of the defining characteristics of a game are the rules. The rules of Pokemon are well defined by the game's code, but the rules of TPP are malleable. We can choose between "chaos" and "democracy". Under chaos, every player input gets sent to the game. Under democracy, players vote on the next action to send. When we look at the selection of rules in terms of a game where we try to maximize viewers/participates, we get another type of metagaming.

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