In a post in August, I opened a discussion of how analyzing the meta-discourse surrounding MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas) may help us describe the relationship between player-performance in these games and bardic performance in ancient epic in a more interesting way. The point of such an analysis is not merely be to demonstrate that the Iliad and League of Legends take place on the same cultural ground–a ground we might call “heroic play”–because that hardly needs demonstration, though people do seem to lose sight of it more often than an evangelical humanist like me likes to see. Rather, I hope that an analysis of MOBA meta and how it finds expression in player-performance, seen both strictly from an in-game perspective and from a broader perspective that includes marginal performances like chat, will help us develop better descriptions of the place of MOBAs in culture over against more usual objects of humanistic study like film and novel, as well as over against older forms like oral and written epic.
A tall order, but let me show you what I mean:
When fighting a support Blitzcrank, his damage will be much lower than his allied AD carry. Don’t be afraid to force a fight if he has used Rocket Grab and/or Power Fist recently.
This passage, which I also quoted in August, is a standard example of MOBA meta. It explains how a player whose champion finds him or herself opposed to a champion named Blitzcrank can fight Blitzcrank most effectively: because Blitzcrank (considered a “tank” champion–that is, a champion who absorbs a great deal of damage in order to protect another champion who has the potential to inflict a great deal of damage–the “AD carry” here) does little damage himself, an opponent shouldn’t hesitate to attack as soon as s/he sees Blitzcrank use one of his damage-inflicting skills.
The details of the meta aren’t the important thing–what’s important about meta is its role in the game.