The metagame is a convoluted term with no unified definition despite its importance and its common occurrence across different fields such as game design and behavioural economics. In our paper we provide a unified and compact definition of the term metagame and metagaming by firstly highlighting their historical evolution. Although, the metagame meant multiple things such as the environment surrounding the game, it has come to mean a perceived optimal or dominant playing strategy that is usually popular with an esport at that specific point in time. "Metagaming" as a verb is distinct and refers to a number of ways a player can affect the outcome of a game that are external to the game’s environment. We focus on how these terms crystallised in the world of digital entertainment (esports) by providing multiple examples of metagames and metagaming in competitive settings. Finally, we provide a theoretical framework on the life cycles of metagames as well general guidelines of understanding the current metagame of LoL and Dota 2. We conclude that by understanding and cataloguing the highly fluctuating metagame(s) of an esport at specific points in time, researchers will gain a historical context of that game’s space which in turn will give them insight into the decision making of professional esports players along with a possible future understanding of how the game will progress.
© 2021, The Author(s).