My New Meta

Historians say every generation has its great battle. A battle that sends ripples through history and affects how an era of people grow, love and ultimately find their place in the world.  The Greatest Generation withstood the Depression and went on to fight in World War II.  They lived frugally, worked hard and made no fuss. The terrors of Vietnam placed the nation into a crucible, and out came free love and civil rights.

Our generation may not have a great war, but make no mistake, there’s a battle taking place today. And the lessons we learn from it will determine how we’re remembered by generations to come.

March 2nd, 2016.  This will be known as our D-Day, or launch day . . . of Clash Royale, a freemium game by Supercell for Apple and Android smart phones.

This battle (of wits) has over 260 million fighters—20 times as many Americans sent to WWII. And just like the wars before it, Clash will define how our generation grows, loves and ultimately finds its place in the world.

Proof 1: You can grow with a phone game

When you create a Clash account, a tutorial explains the basics—wouldn’t that be nice in the real world?

It’s simple. Bring down your opponent’s towers before they can bring down yours.  You’ll do this by deploying different types of troops from a card deck you’ve assembled. Each troop requires a certain amount of Elixir to deploy, but your Elixir regenerates quickly, so the board quickly looks like a battlefield.

Everyone starts with the same cards and resources.  And while some units are objectively more powerful than others, these cost more elixir.

There’s a balancing and inherent fairness there. You are as good as the strategy and skill you employ. Imagine 260 million people believing, unlike the era of Standard Oil and Carnegie Steel, that your last name means nothing.  How long you’ve played means little too since a noob can come along and make quick work of you.

And so a generation playing this game can grow. No more entitlement, inequality, stereotypes. On this battlefield, they’ve got just as much a chance as anyone else and are judged based not on their creed, but on the content of their player’s character.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re following me. “What about other things that are essential to life? Everything is not zero sum or a competition. What about love?”

Proof 2: Love

On March 9th, 2017, Supercell introduced the ability to play 2v2. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Everything I’d accomplished in the game had been by myself. I could point to my trophy count, win percentage, and even my failures and say “those are mine.” To put my trust in someone else could cause me a lot of anxiety.

At first, I did what I thought I was supposed to do. I found someone that played exactly like me because we’d understand each other. The strategy isn’t terrible, but I realized that we were only getting as far as I ever did. It was when I found someone with completely different cards, one that complemented my weaknesses, that I discovered a truth about love and partnership.

Maybe you should always find someone that challenges your assumptions. This doesn’t mean go out and grab the nearest Republican you can find, but this game taught me to get out of my echo chamber. It made me face this truth: The person out there that that can make you a better person is most likely nothing like you.

I lucked into someone like that in my personal life. But in this game, I was able to iterate and deliberately meet my partner in crime.

Cream 3.1416, I’m thinking of you, bro.

“But this game is a stupid game. It’s not like you can figure out the meaning of life or anything.”

Proof 3: The Meaning of Life

Eventually, after you’ve leveled up your units to something close to the maximum, which could take 1-2 years, you begin to hit a wall. You won’t realize it at first since you’ll be able to win any one particular game, but on average, you’ll start winning and losing games at a ratio of 1:1.

Like Sisyphus, you’ll roll the boulder up a mountain, only to watch it roll back down again.

You may fight it at first, and that’s natural. But eventually you’ll realize this is as far as you can go. Sure, you can fork over some real money, level up your units just a bit more and make some modest gains, but eventually you’ll hit the inevitable ceiling.

This gets shrouded in real life because there is no agreed upon scoreboard. If you try to maximize money, someone turns around and says it’s the root of all evil. If you make it happiness, you’ll find that you should be helping others. If you’re helping others, you’ll wish you had maximized money to help them with.

In the gaming world, this is called a meta, an agreed upon strategy or player deck that is considered winning until supplanted by a new meta.  It’s possible that life itself is the passionate pursuit of these different metas until you reach your final ceiling.

“This is just a game. Just enjoy it and don’t overthink it so much.”

It’s not a bad strategy and not just for Clash Royale. Eventually the clock reads zeroes, the Game Over sign is followed by no Continues. You reach the end. In that moment, it’s worth asking:

“Did I enjoy it? Did I overthink it?”


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