Metagaming is a term that refers to when a player’s character makes use of knowledge the player is aware of, but the character is not meant to be aware of. Metagaming can come about for a variety of reasons: the player could be using source material that the character would not have knowledge of; or another player may have written something to clarify a situation for their fellow players which the characters are not immediately aware of.
The problem with metagaming is that the characters do not put in any work to discover the information that the player knows. This means the characters get an unfair advantage over their fellow characters, which can throw off the balance of a story and the game.
Having players know game information is not a bad thing – it can be an integral way to get everyone on the same page or help a story run more smoothly. It also is not a bad thing for characters to eventually learn that information in game. The problem of metagaming comes in that the characters learn the information immediately or before a reveal happens.
How does hurt a game? Imagine the following example:
Lieutenant Hawkings got married last year, and she writes a scene with Doctor Fax learning she is pregnant. Hawkings is overjoyed, but wants to make sure she is the first person to tell her husband. In game the only two characters who know Hawkings is pregnant are Hawkings herself and Doctor Fax.
However out of game all the players know she is pregnant because they just read the scene where the doctor told Hawkings the good news. Imagine if Commander Blite saw Mr. Hawkings in the lounge before he had a chance to connect with his wife and said ‘I heard your wife was having a baby’
Well, at that point in game Mr Hawkings doesn’t know that – and instead of his wife getting to share the good news, her scene is spoiled because Blite used out of character information in game. That’s metagaming rearing its ugly head, and exactly what we want to avoid.
So how do we avoid it? If the information comes from a source material or is something the characters can learn have your characters research and work together to learn it – suddenly a bad thing becomes a good thing because you spent the time and effort to make a realistic discovery.
And if the information is a reveal like the example above, wait for the characters who are ‘in the know’ to reveal it, or ask them if you can figure it out if they are holding it a secret for an extended period of time.
Working together you can bring information into the game in a way that avoids metagaming and gives everyone something fun to react to and play with. Remember to have some patience and communicate with your fellow crewmembers to avoid just bringing information you know as a player into the game.