I very much dislike that point in an online game where it goes from being a fun chaotic mess where skill doesn’t much matter to being held to a strict tiered meta with only a few ways to win and “skill” means being able to properly apply said meta. It is a small peeve that doesn’t come up much, but it can be incredibly frustrating every time it comes up. Also, that fact that it comes up frequently enough for me to consider swearing off all online games says a lot about this as well.
It probably happens in the life of every online multiplayer game, but since I’ve started trying out more online games in the past couple years, it never really came up for me. Usually, I’d come into a game where the meta was established only if I found the meta particularly interesting or enjoyable, so I didn’t bounce out of games that quickly. Now, as I try out games as they come out that have online pvp modes, I tend to bounce off of them two or three weeks after they came out once someone publishes a meta analysis, player choice variation disappears, and every game begins to play the same. In retrospect, it does make all the old memes about the combat knife being overpowered in Call of Duty Whatever War start to make way more sense.
My first encounter this with was Overwatch. The meta began to shift once both players and developers saw professionals play the game. Non-professional players tried to imitate the pros and failed miserably, because there’s a whole host of things that only work well if you’re good at doing them. The devs saw the professional players use the same strategies constantly, with little variation, only pulling a win once the other side messed up, which is pretty normal for most professional players of sports or video games, and decided they needed to force the pros to change up their play style in order to make matches more exciting. As the meta solidified in the professional games and everyone tried to imitate it in recreational games, it ruined any variation in the game. It was the same game over and over, as people who were good at the meta murdered everyone else with it and doing anything other than playing DPS stopped feeling satisifying or fun.
It happens a lot faster in most other games I’ve played since then. Every update to Destiny causes a day or two of chaos as people try new things and then the meta solidifies behind pretty much the same thing once again, unless there’s a new gun with a bug or exploit, in which case it stops being fun unless you have the necessary gun to pull off the exploit. In the Pokemon MOBA game that came out this summer, there were three weeks of fun that all came grinding to a halt when someone published a list of the best items, moves, and passive items for each Pokemon, and then was made worse when the devs tried to rebalance the game and took all the fun alternates to the best characters and nerfed them into mediocrity.
As is true of most games, meta is no replacement for top-tier skill, but meta frequently screws over a casual gamer like myself. I don’t have the energy or willingness to grind a game until I’m a top contender for it since I get nothing out of being good at PVP games. It can be exhilarating to pull off an unexpected win, but you can get that from PVE, too. I just want a fun online PVP game that doesn’t make me feel like shit for not committing four hours of every day to perfecting my skills at. Is that too much to ask?