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Thread: #4: Metagame Matters (by Systolic)

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    #4: Metagame Matters (by Systolic)

    Article #4: Metagame Matters
    - written by Systolic

    In the world of mafia, many factors inside and outside of a game influence the game's outcome. This article will be focusing on the overlying game within the individual games. If anyone knows anything about me personally on 2+2 (another site where I've played a lot of mafia), it's that I constantly walk a fine line. Some people think I'm arrogant, some people think I'm borderline insane, and yet some people think Well, Systolic is such a nice guy outside of the game and in person, but put him in 2+2 and he might as well be bipolar. The absolute truth is that this is completely deliberate.

    Perhaps I am revealing something openly here that I never have, but 2+2, and the specific subforum where I spend my time, to me, is nothing but one big game of mafia, whether I am in a game thread or not. I am sure that this statement will cause lots of controversy, but I think that secretly in everyone's minds we all know that this is true. I find myself taking long breaks from the game only to occasionally see an ongoing discussion or thread OUTSIDE of a game of mafiaf in which I can't help but interject myself. Usually when I do interject, however, I create a huge stir. I need this for my mafia game. I inherently love arguing, but at the same time I find that my influence within games is directly impacted by actions outside of the game. Why do I think this way, and why do I subject myself to such harsh treatment by the community, only to continually act the same way in the future?

    I'm a fighter. I've always been a fighter. I always will be a fighter. I will fight for what I believe, and I will fight for it until I'm restrained to the point in which I can't fight. As a result, fighting in mafia puts me within my comfort zone. I make my best reads and my best analysis when I fight constantly. I am sure that there are several people in the community who have fought with me all game, only to have a moment of clarity and realize that we are both town. On the flip-side, I have picked many many fights with players as mafia with the sheer intention of just seeming like 'typical Systolic'.

    I'm not willing to give away all of my secrets regarding reading other players, but from a rudimentary perspective people tend to approach their way of attacking or defending you differently when they have formed a bias for or against you. There have been numerous games in which scum who actually did not like me outside of mafia games have pushed for my lynch, but because of their attempt to not seem scummy, their argument against me changed from just policy lynch/hatred to something more ambiguous and lukewarm.

    In my positive and negative experiences in mafia, one thing I have learned is that range-balancing is completely based upon perception. If one cannot deliberately worsen one's town game to help their mafia game, then how can range-balancing be accomplished? The answer is METAGAME. If I come across as a fighter in virtually every 2+2 (or MU) thread in existence, my range is then balanced within the games themselves, and whether I am playing as town or as mafia, the community will always view me in the same, always subjective light.

    When players begin to view you subjectively, they begin to misplay. Does this mean that someone hating you and trying to get you lynched when you are actually mafia is a town misplay? Yes. Not because of the fact that they lynched a scum obviously, but because of the fact that they lynched a scum for the wrong reasons. On the flip-side, the same player would be misplaying if they attempt to PREVENT your lynch simply because they liked you as a person. To truly balance your ranges, you want every player on your site to view you subjectively. The most important key to this, however, is understanding under which conditions you personally play the best. If you prefer calm conversation with other players and feel that you make your best reads when the thread is generally levelheaded, then your approach to posting in your subforum should reflect this, as it will become what people expect out of you. At that point, you can actually enter a game and play AS YOURSELF. Being mafia is a million times easier when you feel that you can just be yourself and post without feeling unnatural or contrived. In a total effort to toot my own horn, I will say that I have downright face rolled games as mafia when I could stomp into the thread, guns blazing, casting aspersions, arguing with everyone, making ridiculous cases, and basically being a huge pain in the ass to everyone. The only reason that this works for me, however, is because my metagame allows it to work.

    Of course, this article could be perceived by some as an attempt to change my metagame, but that is where my first point comes into play. 2+2 and MU and whatever subforum you play in is mafia. We play many games, but mafia is the most prevalent and the game in which most people make their reputations. It is an opportunity for you to make people think whatever you want them to think about you, and carry that over into something competitive. ABUSE IT AT ALL COSTS. Your win rate will improve drastically, and you will find yourself feeling more at home with virtually every phase of your game. Does this mean that you have to raise a big stink all the time? Absolutely not. It is all about you and creating for yourself a comfortable playing environment.

    Now within games themselves, I tend to believe that metagame with individual players is not nearly as prevalent as many people on at least 2+2 seem to represent. The reason for this is that mafia is inherently a team game. Have you ever seen a meme created by someone that obviously referred to an inside joke, and was probably funny to whomever created it and to those who understood it? THAT is the equivalent of individual player metagame. Perhaps in final 3 scenarios or perhaps if you have a clear soul read on someone then individual metagame may be more important, but for the most part, metagame between two players is far less meaningful than the overlying metagame in your subforum.

    I hope this article at least shed a rudimentary light on the impact that metagame has upon the game of mafia, and perhaps I have explained how people misapply it frequently.

    I think a 'try-it-and-see-for-yourself' approach is my best advice, because I could go on for days about it, but no one would believe it until they experienced it. Trust me, it works.

    Cliffs:
    • Your metagame is whatever you create it to be and it is entirely malleable.
    • Metagame is best used to create favorable in-game scenarios for yourself, in which you can make the best plays that you know how to make.
    • Range-balancing accompanies playing within your comfort zone without feeling as if you have to significantly alter your thought processes to fit the part.
    • When people fail to view you objectively, they begin to make mistakes and become easier to exploit or read.
    • You are in a game of mafia any time you post in the subforum where you usually play mafia, whether you realize it or not, and if you want your mafia game to improve, then focus on manipulating player perception OUTSIDE of games.
    • Individual metagame is a distraction, overrated, and is not easy to interpret outside of the players with the metagame between them.

  2. ISO #2
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    Pretty great article (also, why doesn't it have any comments lol) Time to rez it for current discussion.

    Making people play on your terms, or at the very least allowing you to exist on your own terms is a huge component of successful play, especially in more tightly balanced setups where you can sacrifice a bit more as town to bolster your scum wr. Once you are nice and settled, in a single game or in a general group metagame, you significantly raise the price someone has to pay to dislodge you from your comfort zone (i.e. to force you into a situation where you can make a mistake).

    If we abstract away any specific setup concerns, Mafia is largely a game of not getting lynched, so having this comfort zone and being able to live in it for cheap/free is key. If you lack this stability, I think you will end up being lynched a lot more for the simple reason that people would be lacking a "place" to be looking for you and will be wifom-ing you more than you need as any role/alignment.

    The other point here, coming from IRL games perspective, is that individual metagame has to be in harmony with who you are, because nobody (even me) takes Mafia as seriously as to play the long con 24/7. If there's a discrepancy that can be exploited, it will be exploited. It is particularly important to allow people in your headspace for free, so they can see who you are and compare it to who you are projecting. If there are no discrepancies on an emotional/psychological level, the only thing that then decides your fate is how well you can micro-adjust to the game situations and specific people that you are playing with at that moment.

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