When Meta-Gaming Breaks Play

Meta-gaming is a term that refers to when gamers try to think outside of the “box” of the game narrative…and just focus on winning.

You might not think this is such a bad thing, but it really is…because it infects more than just games.

World of WarcraftWhen Meta-Gaming Breaks Play — Kimia Wood

It’s easiest to see in a computer role-playing game (CRPG) like World of Warcraft.

Once upon a time, WoW gave your character “talent points” for leveling up, and you applied these points to a complicated tree that eventually led to other abilities or perks. (Other CRPGs frequently used this system also, such as Diablo 2.)

With so many branches to choose from – and different end goals that you had to work hard to achieve – you could truly make your character unique.

I personally poured all my talent points into making my mage’s cast time faster.

Other players? They crunched numbers and created Reddit pages dictating the exact specifications you “needed” to “really be an X, Y or Z.”

Are you a Warrior? You need this build order. Are you a Hunter? You must put your talents into these things. The algorithms are such that only this configuration will give you a “proper” character of your chosen class.

No matter if you just wanted to make your cast time faster, and wouldn’t be caught dead in a player vs. player (PvP) scenario (unless you’re doing the Children’s Week achievement…and the reason you avoid it is you usually end up dead! Ugh).

The Reddit types are no longer playing. They are gaming.

Instead of helping Varian and the Alliance defeat the undead, they’re now trying to max out their gear.

They’re not interested in breathing life into their avatar by giving them a totally unique build of talents and quirks. They want to know what will give them the maximum edge in combat, and then they’re playing to win.

No wonder Blizzard Entertainment simplified the talent system to where you choose one of three new spells or abilities every level (instead of funneling points toward different branching tree systems).

Dungeons and Dragons

When Meta-Gaming Breaks Play — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Wikipedia

Relaunching our campaign and delving into the world of AD&D has given us a chance to examine this gaming system.

My dad especially has found there’s a lot of tips to help Game Masters (or Dungeon Masters for some) prevent players from “meta-gaming.”

This is why players aren’t allowed to trade or give items to each other (imagine two siblings teaming up and sharing all their loot…how unfair would that be?). Same reason players are discouraged from running two characters at once (of course I will let Myself borrow my Magic Sword of Dragon-Smiting!).

You might be wondering, “What’s wrong with people being friendly and wanting to share?”

Meta-gaming!

See, each character in D&D has “stats” – like strength, dexterity, charisma (how convincing you are to people), constitution (how well you recover from illnesses), etc.

Meta-gaming knows what these stats are, and tries to work them to its advantage.

It tells the strongest character to try opening the door, the prettiest character to get information out of the innkeeper, and the smartest character to read the cryptic writing on the scroll. It gives the magic sword to the guy who needs it most (not the guy who found it, for example), and tries to distribute other items, potions, etc. according to stat needs.

Of course, with all these actions you have to roll the dice to see if you succeed…and a good GM can either give you a helping hand, or totally mess with your plans.

BECAUSE THE POINT IS NOT WINNING.

I mean, obviously we want to win. But the point of the game is not to play with pencil in one hand and calculator in the other, figuring out the exact probability of each fight and moving into just the right place to maximize profit. (Which is exactly what the brother and I do playing Battle for Wesnoth, by the way…:} .)

The point of the game is to play.

You are this character. What might they do? Sure, your character sheet says you have great charisma…but how good is your acting when you talk with the GM (who plays all the non-player characters)?

Yeah, the sheet says this character is the strongest…but his player has portrayed him as a gentle giant, unsure of himself, so it doesn’t make sense for him to rush into the fray.

Besides, the guy with lower strength got a really good roll, and opened the door with no problem.

I said earlier that meta-gamers think outside the box…but actually, they’re confined by the numbers and the probabilities, and don’t have the creative freedom to try a true “outside the box” solution. (Like “let’s pull on the door together – or use this broken sword as a lever” or “his character is ugly as sin but the player is great at improv – let him talk us out of this”…)

Where am I going with this?When Meta-Gaming Breaks Play — Kimia Wood

So meta-gaming can make a game less fun (unless lots of math or internet searches is how you like to spend your game time), but is it really worth a whole post?

Is it really so bad? Can’t I let some players do them, and let me do me?

Theology

It doesn’t just apply to games, see. Though that’s where it shows up most visibly…

Jesus had a lot of harsh things to say to the Pharisees – a brand of “hyper-observant” Jews who took the Law of Moses and the Old Testament super seriously and were doing their best to follow what God said.

Or were they?

What was that Jesus said to them?

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Matt. 23: 23)

And He got more explicit:

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men. And he said to them, You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!

For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’

But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do. (Mark 7: 8-13)

See, they weren’t focused on playing. They were into gaming.

God said, “Here’s My game. Here are My rules. Now let’s play.”

But the Pharisees said, “I crunched the numbers, and this is how I need to play to win the encounter.” (I.e. their goal was “eternal life,” not actually “living with God wherever He is.” – see John 5:39-46)

And God said, “That’s actually not the point, and no, you don’t win.”

Go with the Game Master

It’s so easy to fall into the meta-gaming trap. We think if we put tracts in every bathroom we visit, then we don’t have to witness to our neighbor next door.

Or that because we went and visited lonely people in the nursing home, we can sass off to our mom at home.

We’ll say, “The man is not doing his job; but the job needs to get done. So we’ll have this woman do it” – even though that’s exactly what God said not to do!

We see that parents are not taking care of their kids…so we decide we’ll do it for them, instead of helping the parents fulfill their God-ordained duty to raise/teach their own kids!

WHO DID GOD GIVE THOSE KIDS TO AGAIN?

I know you couldn’t get an 18 on the parents’ character sheet if you added all the numbers together (18 is the max stat), but that doesn’t mean you can mess with the encounter.

The GM says it’s their role to do this. /end rant

This “pragmatism” is a “need to achieve.”

When you meta-game, you are essentially saying:

  • “We can’t trust the GM to arrange things in our favor. We have to become slaves of the numbers to make the system work.”
  • “The actual children aren’t important, only the test scores/high scores/level achievements we get. We’re not here to walk beside our children and trust God to bless us…we’re here to do ‘whatever it takes’ to get the output we want – e.g. the good grades, good jobs, good social skills we’re sure we’ll get if we use the Magic Wand of Academic Readiness.”
  • “I saw on a Reddit page that soup kitchens help reduce crime. I’m not sure how, so let’s not bother to establish strong, stable relationships with the hurting people we meet – or heaven forbid share Jesus with them! – but focus on running as many people through our lunch line as possible. Because Jesus said, ‘Go thou and get high attendance numbers,’ right?”

What does the “Game Master” really say?

He says that checking off the prayer, Bible reading, soup kitchen, and “smiling” boxes doesn’t win the game for you! This is not about getting the “proper” gear for your class.

This is about immersing yourself in the game, and playing with all your heart.

Cry when a side character dies. Don’t sweat that your stats aren’t high enough. Solve the puzzles in new, creative ways. If you “break the fourth wall” too much, it won’t be there anymore…and you won’t even be in the story anymore.

Trust the Guy-in-charge-of-the-game. If you play His way, you will win. The Referee is on your side, see 😉

‘Cause it’s not about winning. It’s about playing the game with your “Dad.”


When Meta-Gaming Breaks Play — Kimia WoodKimia Wood was raised by an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, gaming, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing projects.


Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

“And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie

"And Then There Were None" by Agatha Christie — Kimia Wood Ten strangers lured to an island. A phonograph accuses them each of murder. One by one, they start dying.

Who will be left standing? And just who is the murderer?!

As the author’s note explains, Agatha Christie wrote this because it would be hard…and she certainly pulls off a spine-chilling whodunit stuffed with questions about morality and “the perfect murder.”

Characters and Voice

Ten characters. Ten unique personalities and voices?

Yes and no. A couple of the characters die off so soon we don’t really get to spend much time with them, although they do get painted in general strokes.

Mrs. Christie breaks all kinds of writerly rules – but hey, she’s Agatha Christie! Whether she’s writing from the perspectives of most of the different characters, or using stereotypical short-hand to quickly clue us in to the character types at the story’s start, she goes against what your author “guru” on the internet probably told you to do…but still weaves an edge-of-your-seat thriller.

We are introduced to all the characters at the start of the book. Thus, we have a working knowledge of each of them and what makes them tick before they start dropping like flies.

But each and every one of them has a deep, dark secret hidden in there, too – from the young governess-turned-schoolteacher to the soldier-of-fortune, from the ex-policeman to the star surgeon with a drunk past.

As more secrets unravel step by agonizing step, we begin wondering if we can root for any of these people…and yet we can’t help rooting for them after “riding in their head” through this harrowing adventure. (That’s part of Mrs. Christie’s theme – more on that later.)

Suspense

I’ve been struggling to read over the past few months, but I finished this little classic in just a few days. To be frank, I should have put it down earlier in the day, because that night I tossed and turned with half-dreams of these characters I had bonded with facing mysterious death.

With zero gore and very little detail of the actual act of dying, or the dead bodies, Mrs. Christie still paints a picture of horror and encroaching dread where the characters question their grip on sanity.

I ask you, can any modern torture-porn horror author claim to have written something as chilling yet lasting as And Then There Were None?

The Onion of Mystery

Unlike a Robert Ludlum spy book, there’s no deep conspiracy here (which is what I’ve meant by “onion” in the past) but there is a “mad” killer on the loose on this rocky, isolated island.

Who is the killer? Which of the men and women in this lonely house could be capable of this elaborate, even artistic death-trap?

Mrs. Christie admitted it was hard to write, but she pulls it off. I didn’t guess the killer at all (partly because I was hamstrung by a Get Smart episode with a false assumption), but once it’s revealed it makes sense.

And that is the mark of a great mystery writer: to string the audience along until the big reveal, then have them cock their heads and nod and say, “Oh, yes, I see how that makes sense, now.”

Justice and Murder

This book bears a very similar theme to Murder on the Orient Express. There, the victim was a well-known gangster and murderer. Here, all ten of the characters are accused of murder.

And yet, the law can’t touch them. One man ran over some kids while speeding…another kicked a pregnant girl out of her boarding house, and the girl committed suicide (understandable given the culture of the time).

Thus, the Big Bad assumes he/she’s justified in killing these people because they are “murderers” beyond the reach of the law.

And yet…is he/she really right to take the law into his/her own hands even though the others are supposedly “guilty”? (And without a true trial, can we be sure that they are guilty?)

The answer of the Bible is manifestly: no! The king is appointed to punish the wrongdoers (Rom. 13:3-4), and we are not to stand on our rights (Phil. 2:5-8) or take matters into our own hands (Rom. 12:17-20).

But a person determined to construct the “perfect crime” is understandably not concerned with Biblical morality. The whole situation is orchestrated to baffle the police and gratify the perpetrator (and vicariously the readers, who will devour this safely contained horror of a puzzle box).

I realize I can’t say more without giving spoilers, but I was intrigued to realize Mrs. Christie has explored these themes on two different occasions…especially as I had connected it with a more “modern” trend in detective fiction of adding grey to both detective and criminal, thus rendering the contrast less black-and-white.

But I guess trying to validate the evil-doer is nothing new.

Gather the Survivors for the Revelation of the Culprit!

Agatha Christie is the culprit. She wrote this.

I was the victim. I fell under the spell of this book, and thoroughly enjoyed every spine-chilling, stomach-twisting moment.

You are the detective. Read this book, and see if you can figure out who the murderer is…before it’s too late!


And Then There Were None is available on Amazon (Kindle, paperback, hardback, or audiobook), Barnes&Noble (paperback, hardback, Nook, and audiobook), Kobo (also offers audiobook), and the Book Depository (free worldwide shipping).

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures!

Why Genos is Adorable

I…I’m in love.

I don’t even know how it happened. It all started when my brother bought the first season of One Punch Man…and then –

Why Genos is Adorable — Kimia Wood

Then this gorgeous creature entered my life.

His name is Genos. He makes me swoon.

Me! Who can’t stand romance except in microscopic doses! Me, who hates the fourteen-year-olds-in-grown-women’s-bodies who squee about their book boyfriends like a bunch of @$#%?@ —

Why has this emotion taken over my life, and why does that hunk of metal and blond hair make my heart flutter EVERY – SINGLE – TIME?

Well, I’m here to over-analyze just that and try to arrive at a logical answer. Welcome along for the ride.

He shoots fire out of his hands.

Need I say more?

He’s a blond cyborg.

Need I say more?!

He asks to be the main character’s disciple.

Saitama is technically the main character, but in a lot of ways he’s less interesting than Genos (to me).

Genos can’t obliterate enemies with “one punch” – and he knows it. He admires Saitama’s strength, and tags after him in the desperate hope that he will himself become stronger.

But their dynamic has so much more to it than that, and as the season progresses and they learn about each other Genos’ unshakable faith in Saitama (when the entire rest of the world thinks he’s a wanna-be fraud) is part of what keeps Saitama going (when he’s really kind of bored with the whole thing and really just wants something to punch that doesn’t immediately disintegrate).

He’s nineteen.

And he acts nineteen! He’s super serious, and focused, and aspirational. He’s idealistic, and wants to get constantly stronger so that he can be an even better hero!

He’s inexperienced, and he knows it. Everything about him screams green, eager, and determined.

His memories of his tragic backstory are fresh in his mind, and he’s dedicated to preventing that from happening again.

He respects his elders.

Obviously he respects Saitama, but this goes for everyone else more experienced, too.

Whether it’s a tough old grandpa/mentor type who wants these new up-starts to succeed, or a self-important veteran who just wants the newbies to stay out of his way…Genos knows he doesn’t know it all. And he’s all about letting those who know teach him.

He plays well with others, and isn’t selfish.

Genos isn’t about being a one-cyborg-show. He knows the value of working with and learning from those who have walked the path before.

When a hero out-classes him, he readily submits to their superior skill. When a “hero” pathetically fails, he moves in to fill the gap.

None of what he does is about making Genos look good. It’s 100% about service (and also about becoming a better servant).

He gets blown up. A lot.

He’s a cyborg, of course, so he just needs to get rebuild.

But Genos getting his butt kicked is TOTALLY ADORABLE for some reason. (And his battle music is pretty cool, too.)

He has a tragic backstory.

Genos’ whole family (and most of his town) was blown up by an evil cyborg. But now he’s been rebuilt to be a good cyborg and hunt down the evil cyborg. (Sympathy points!)

He’s super grateful to the scientist who saved his life, and later to Saitama (who saves his life repeatedly).

His tragedy hasn’t given him baggage…just a(n adorable) drive to do the right thing, and to protect those who can’t protect themselves. (And also get strong enough to protect them against even bigger threats.)

His chemistry with Saitama pushes Saitama to be better.

Why Genos Is Adorable — Kimia Wood

Genos wins noodle-eating contest. Image credit: OnePunchMan.fandom.com

I think.

At the very least it’s hilarious the way Genos hangs on Saitama’s every word – while Saitama doesn’t really know why he’s so strong or how to help anyone else improve.

But Genos’ earnest, sincere devotion force Saitama to dig deeper, involve himself in more heroics, and embrace his mentor role (or at least make up something that sounds profound).

He’s naïve.

Genos believes everything Saitama says…even if he just made it up to sound good.

Saitama has no idea what makes him so strong, and no actual martial arts technique…but Genos doesn’t care. He knows what Saitama can do, and respects him profoundly for it.

But his naïvety also makes us laugh from time to time. Aww…

He never gives up.

Did I mention he gets his butt kicked?

Even though he can vaporize an eight-story building with one blast, he still gets “turned into bad modern art” almost every episode. (Has he ever even won a fight? I’m trying to remember…)

But not only does he look ABSOLUTELY KICK-BUTT while he’s getting trashed, it never stops him from giving it his all. Whether he’s shooting his fiery lasers at a meteor or punching an enormous monster, he pours everything he’s got into his task.

Although sometimes he over-analyzes.

He is a cyborg, after all, so data is very important to him. He’s memorized all the stats on every hero, and he tries to out-strategize his opponents whenever possible.

When he gets it wrong, that just means he’s still learning and growing and IT’S ADORABLE!

(He’s basically what Eric Kedzierski would be if Eric were a little more erudite.)

He’s smart, detail-oriented, and has a great memory.

Genos has read all the pamphlets. Contrast Saitama, who doesn’t even know what his job description involves.

Good thing he has Genos to keep track of all the details for him, tell him what’s going on, who’s who, etc.

Genos is the kid in college who actually read the textbook and aced all the tests.

Like me 🙂 except some of my tests weren’t 100%.

Can you say over-achiever perfectionist ADORABLE?

He saves little kids from certain death.

Even if it means having his back, lower body, limbs, and most of his torso melted off by acid.

I love this guy!

He’s honest.

When he asks Saitama to accept him as a disciple, he inadvertently spills his whole life story. He’s also very upfront about why he wants to be around Saitama.

In fact, he’s open and straightforward with everyone he meets. It’s hard to imagine him attempting a subterfuge…or succeeding if he did.

He’s humble and heroic.

With all the snotty, high-powered heroes running around showing off their muscles and looking down on the “lower class” heroes, you’d think Genos would mention vaporizing that multi-story building. At least once.

But no.

He’s there to save innocent people, learn from those stronger and better than he, and support his master Saitama.

In fact, when he knows about a sufficiently enormous threat, he automatically invites Saitama to come with…even though Saitama isn’t technically in the “high-tier” group.

Genos never elevates himself. He never grandstands on a kill or tries to get media attention.

His first instinct is always the protection of civilians. His next focus is always Saitama – learning from him, appreciating his victory, or defending him from the critics.

Combine that with Saitama’s willingness to take a publicity fall for the benefit of heroes as a whole, and you get a duo-dynamic that is TRULY AWESOME.

Did I mention he’s a blond cyborg?

He also has sexy yellow eyes, tracking robot vision, and lifeform-detection technology (when he uses it).

This might explain why I’m still single.

I’ve put the bar just so, so high…

But come one. A cute, honest, driven, smart, humble, conscientious, sincere, kick-butt, building-vaporizing cyborg? With blond hair?

How is this too much to ask?


Note: One Punch Man is a fun, raucous show, but does contain a handful of scattered swear-words, heavy gore, and borderline male nudity. Parental guidance recommended. (It’s also Japanese, so make sure you get a version that will work in your area before you commit. Also dubbing is nice.)


Why Genos is Adorable — Kimia WoodKimia Wood is still single and has no idea why.

She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures!

5 Stages of Singleness

5 Stages of Singleness

5 Stages of Singleness — Kimia Wood — single Christian

Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

So. You’re Christian. You’re single.

There’s ups and downs that go with that territory, and if you’re like me, you might find yourself going through these five “stages” of singleness (probably bouncing between them with the shifts of the wind!):

Denial

Marriage? Bah! Marriage forces you to get along with a radically different person for the rest of your life, mirroring the love of Christ for His church in your self-sacrificial service to one another.

Who needs that work?

This is the mood where you think spouses aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Every story on the planet includes a romantic subplot (if it’s not a straight-up romance story), every song on the radio (no matter what station) is talking about pairing up, and every person you know is “involved,” about to be “involved,” or trying to be “involved”…but that doesn’t mean you should take it seriously. Continue reading

Being Not Achieving—What Vacation Taught Me

Being Not Achieving—What Vacation Taught Me — Kimia Wood

Some things you gotta see for yourself…

For the past two weeks, I’ve been on vacation with my family. And I’ve been sick the whole stinkin’ time.

You know how any vacation goes…the expectation, the planning, the packing and list-making… This particular time, we were camping – so the organization of “this goes in my tent”, “this smells like food, so goes in the bear barrel”, “this is only for the car ride” was intensified.

I always over-pack for car rides, vacations, etc. I had my list of everything I could get done (see below) and anticipation was especially high since this is the last extended vacation for our immediate family for the foreseeable future (four adults’ work schedules are hard to coordinate).

But God allowed something else to happen. Namely, a “sinus infection” that is still making my voice softer and weaker than normal! Continue reading

Dear Diary…the journey home

ALERT: May Contain Spoilers for the Adventure: “Against the Cult of the Reptile God”

First thing after breakfast, I accompanied Mikael back to the lower level. We know the water will start to creep in, now that the zombies aren’t running their pump, but it shouldn’t go fast enough to cause us problems.

And he wanted to try befriending that vicious-looking bipedal lizard thing.

So while the others hauled all the treasure up to our cart in the over-world, we made one last trip to the depths… Continue reading

Dear Diary…foes and fortunes Part 2

ALERT: May Contain Spoilers for the Adventure: “Against the Cult of the Reptile God”

We arrived at the VIP quarters without incident, and while I mixed up something to eat from the late guards’ supplies, Mikael cast Detect Magic on the jewelry we’d acquired from the harpy.

He pronounced a gold necklace to be magical, so Ezekiel looked over it. He has done a lot of traveling and studying, after all.

As he looked it over, he started cackling and whooping.

“I think,” he said. “I think this is a ‘Necklace of Adaptation’ – meaning it’ll ‘adapt’ your breathing to any environment: vacuum, gas, water, whatever!”

So we gave it to Lancell to wear, at least for as long as we’re in the dungeon, since he’s our front line heavy hitter. Continue reading

“Avatar: The Last Airbender”

A"Avatar: The Last Airbender" — Kimia Wood kids’ animated series has not previously been in my box of tricks, so this was a fresh, new experience for me and my viewing partner.

Avatar: The Last Airbender has cool characters, awesome moments, great fights scenes, and interesting world-building…mixed in with immaturity and Buddhist mumbo-jumbo. But, hey, it’s all about the #siblingtime, right? Continue reading

Dear Diary…foes and fortunes Part 1

ALERT: May Contain Spoilers for the Adventure: “Against the Cult of the Reptile God”

Far above where the sun shone, dawn broke. Lancell and Nori the spider were moving again, and seemed none the worse for spending the night paralyzed. Even Ezekiel had color in his face again, so we headed out in our usual battle formation.

Down the hall, about the turn where Ezekiel was attacked before, the lizardmen (trogs) suddenly melted out of the shadows and fell upon us.

We must have startled them as much as they surprised us – that, or they were consumed with hatred to hit us – because two of them cut down their companions in front of them before we could even engage.

Nori pounced and sank her fangs into one of the stinking creatures, while Mikael leaned against the wall of the passage, clearly trying not to hurl.

I launched my arrow while Raven darted forward and did one of his Monk-ish palm-punches, stunning the trog.

The luck didn’t stay on our side, though. Nori was felled to the ground with a stone ax, and I…sort of…grazed Mikael’s arm with an arrow.

Lancell was dropping trogs left and right, while Ezekiel soaked up punishment until he was leveled to the ground.

I tell you it was my bow, but somehow it slipped from my hand and came back to whack me in the eye. My next shot finally flew true, though, and nailed a trog through the throat… The enemy was defeated. Continue reading