I get e-mails on a regular basis; some are thankful messages, some are suggestions for future articles. One recurring email I get is asking me to detail how to break the meta. I try not to fool readers - I am by no means a great or even good player, I am an average player like you. I do not have the individual ideas or conviction or skill to single-handedly bring about change. However what I can do and do well is help you understand what limits meta shifts and how you can help move it along. I'll be using a couple of well-known concepts to explain to you, the reasons behind a stagnant meta and why we must be the change we want to see in this game.
Here is the video version of this article (but be aware that the written version is more fluent in its explanation of ideas):
Give me a few minutes of your time and read on - I hope to broaden your mind and help you view this game in a 'DIFFerent' light and hopefully move us along one step closer to breaking the meta.
The Status Quo using the Golden Circle
The status quo - the current state of the game. The following questions are commonly raised when talking about the current meta:
What is it?
Why is it like that?
How can we change it?
There is a book called 'Start with Why' by Simon Sinek and in it he details a concept he calls the Golden Circle. This is a concept that can be used to understand the meta.
I believe the most important question is not the 'what?' or 'how?', it is the 'why?'. The 'why' is the basis on which the meta is formed. Every part of the meta can be explained by the following chain of questions: why -> what -> how. Here is one example of this for creating the best team composition/set-up.
To create the best chance of winning, we will form the best composition/set-up
By giving each member of the team the best chance to affect the game in a positive way.
We can achieve the 'why' and the 'how' by giving carries the safest lanes to allow them to grow into the shoes of a carry and put the team on their back.
And thus we have achieved in understanding the reason for why AD carries are bot and AP carries are mid. The above set of questions can be applied to various parts of the meta and we will end up with logical answers for all of them. The path starts with the 'why'.
The Effectiveness of the Meta and Riot's Part in it
Most players would agree on the fact that the current meta is the best way to play the game as it is right now and I would agree with them. The placement of each champion in each lane serves a purpose and that purpose can be answered using the Golden Circle and thus we have the current meta. There are slight variations, an example being Double AP that helps provide a very slight deviation from the meta. This meta is effective and it is proven to be the best, being used in tournaments for a lengthy period of time.
So why are we unhappy about this meta? The answer isn't that the meta is boring, the answer is that there is no change. Familiarity breeds contempt. Some players like to have variety that provides them with the thrill of encountering something new every time they play.
Why haven't we been able to change it? The majority of the community contradicts themselves. We scream for a change in the meta, we crave it. However when it's time for the patch preview and the release of patch notes, there comes an outcry. How can Riot help change the meta when the community refuses to let it be changed? Can you imagine the reaction of the community if several bruisers were buffed at the same time or if several AD carries were nerfed at the same time? The outspoken ones among us would try to veto the change, how dare Riot nerf already weak champions? How dare they buff the strong ones?
The problem isn't that Riot does not wish to change the state of things, it's that they cannot even if they wanted to - due to the backlash from the community if they were to try to do so. Remember the jungle changes? That was neither a small or monumental change but the reaction from the community was polarising. Why would Riot try to shift up the meta when they can let it stagnate and remain successful? They balance according to the current meta because that is what the community demands. They want a champion balanced with the current meta and not simply as one package. Champions should not be balanced according to their place in the meta but with other champions. If you want to see proof of what I just said, you can see Riot balancing along the lines of the meta especially in the patch previews regarding supports.
The Law of Diffusion of Innovations - Be the Change you Want to See
So if Riot has got their hands tied on changing the meta and the current meta is the most effective way to play the game, how do we change it? How do we bring about an era of a new playstyle that will change LoL as we know it currently. There are a few significant ways:
Find a different set up that is as effective as the current one. i.e. the counter to the current meta
Sit back and hope Riot starts balancing champions with other champions and not with the meta
Allow small innovations to permeate through the community and invoke change - slowly but surely.
Number 2 is not something we should rely on, sitting back and letting things happen to you is not what leaders do, and you should take it upon yourself to help lead a change in the game play.
Number 1 is unlikely to happen as a whole. You don't just happen upon a complete change of the meta, you take gradual steps to finding that set up which is why we have to support Number 3 as the most viable course of action to changing the meta.
Now let me introduce to you the 'Law of Diffusion of Innovations':
Some of you may recognise this as a concept for explaining sociological patterns and this can be applied to League of Legends as well. Put simply, the rate of adoption of new ideas/technologies follows this concept. Take for example e-mails.
There are people who were the innovators (the 2.5%) who were the first people to use the technology and they also helped develop it.
The early adopters (13.5%) then picked up on the technology and helped promote the use of e-mails to the wider community.
The early majority (34%) then pick up on the trend and we now have widespread market use of emails.
The late majority (34%) are a bit slower on the news but also pick up on the use of technology.
Laggards (the 16%) are the final bunch to start using e-mails due to a lack of resources/skill and a reluctance to change. These are your grandparents, they buy keyboards only because you can't buy typewriters any more.
This same pattern applies to League of Legends. There are the innovators - the upper echelon of players, who try out new things in the hopes of finding a startling new way to win the game. This knowledge then propagates to the wider community as a result of streams when and if there is proof of success. However this does not always happen and a look at the diagram below well help explain why.
This is the crux of the 'Law of Diffusion of Innovations'. There is a chasm between an idea spreading to the early adopters and as far as the early majority. The innovators and early adopters of LoL, generally platinum level players, are more comfortable trying out new ideas as they are comfortable in their belief of what will happen, they do what they do because they believe it brings about a healthy change. However the early majority of players will only try something out if they've seen an idea be successful, they require someone else to have done it before they would do it themselves.
Every idea has 'believers'. Every idea has people that just 'get it'. There are those who need proof of something before they will try it, and these are the 84% who are not early adopters or innovators. The chasm exists because making the jump from 'my idea is popular among the 10-15% of the population who just get it' to 'my idea is popular enough to penetrate the early majority and thereby be a widespread success' is not as easy it sounds.
I'll give you examples of "new ideas" in LoL. One is a widespread success, the others are not (yet).
The Successful Idea
AD Kayle Top lane has been something of a new phenomenon. How was this achieved? By jumping the chasm. There were the innovators who perfected the idea, the build and the theory behind top lane Kayle. These are the people like Rincent and Zekent. Why did AD Kayle not take off when these players played AD Kayle? We, as a community, did not decide to pay attention to it, we shelved it to the realms of cuckoo builds that work only if you're a legend at this game.
Yet we stand here today with AD Kayle top being a common threat and pick that you need to learn and be aware of. Who can we thank for this? Dyrus. Dyrus was the man who took AD Kayle from the realms of early adopters and innovators and bridged the chasm to bring it to the early majority. These people saw Dyrus play with this build and be successful with it. Here was the proof that this build works, and now the early majority is adopting it (we are still in the early majority stage).
The Not-so-Successful Idea(s)
You may have heard of the player called Azingy. He is popular for being a high Elo solo queue player who uses unusual builds. He plays AP Amumu and does crazier things like double Doran's and Rylai's on Fiddlesticks at mid lane. He is an innovator. He does things because he believes they would work and he enjoys doing so. Why are these builds not widespread? Because they haven't been proven to be consistently successful - it hasn't crossed the chasm and spread to the early majority.
To further make it clear that an idea has to cross the chasm to be popular, take a look at M5 Genja's Urgot build. He was building Doran's, Brutaliser and Frozen Heart long before IEM Kiev. He was innovating before IEM Kiev - yet the idea only took off at IEM Kiev because the exposure he got was enough to cross the chasm.
By now, I hope you understand the Law of Diffusion of Innovations and how crossing the chasm is the divide between widespread use of an idea or remaining unknown to the majority.
The Conclusion: Your role in Breaking the Meta
Now you've read everything I've had to say on the matter. I've talked about Riot's role in changing the meta and innovators who challenge the meta everyday. What is your role in all of this? Why did I write this article? Why did I spend half the article talking about the concept of a law. I'm not doing this so you simply learn what keeps the meta stagnant, I wrote this article because I want you to be an active part in helping shift the game.
Help provide the exposure to people like Azingy, unique builds by anyone that you think may be viable. Provide exposure to these, see if you can narrow the chasm that exists and bring creativity as a whole to this game. Encourage unique builds, be the change that you want to see. Unless we change ourselves and the way we play, the meta will not change for a long time to come. I hope you learned something today and I hope you put it into action. I want to see this game be played differently every time I jump into a game, I believe we can make it happen and you can do your part in helping make this happen.
$25 RP Card Contest for hitting 1000 YouTube subscribers
In one of my earlier videos, I mentioned that when I hit 1000 YouTube subscribers, I would run a giveaway. So today I have a $25 RP card to give away to my subscribers. How do you win it? All you have to do is be a subscriber of my channel and comment on today's video with an unique build you've seen or tried - let's try to get some exposure and break the chasm :)
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you enjoyed this use of your time!
If you enjoy reading the article - I'd really appreciate you clicking the up arrow - thank you in advance!
If you guys have any questions, feedback, suggestions, propositions or anything else you'd like to say:
- Feel free to join me in the "A DIFFerent View" chatroom on the NA server in the LoL Client