Theorycraft (or theorycrafting) is the mathematical analysis of game mechanics, usually in video games, to discover optimal strategies and tactics. Theorycraft involves analyzing statistics, hidden systems, or underlying game code in order to glean information that is not apparent during normal gameplay. Theorycraft is similar to analyses performed in sports or other games, such as baseball's sabermetrics. The term has been said to come from Starcraft players as a portmanteau of "game theory" and "StarCraft".
Theorycraft is prominent in multiplayer games, where players attempt to gain competitive advantage by analyzing game systems. As a result, theorycraft can lower barriers between players and game designers. Game designers must consider that players will have a comprehensive understanding of game systems; and players can influence design by exploiting game systems and discovering dominant or unintended strategies.
The way players theorycraft varies from game to game, but often games under the same genres (e.g. collectible card games, MMORPGs, turn-based strategy) will have similar theorycrafting methods. Communities develop standardized ways to communicate their findings, including use of specialized tools to measure and record game data, and terminology and simulations to represent certain data. Theorycrafts proven potent usually find inclusion in the metagame. Knowledge from theorycrafts are often communicated through blogs, community forums, or game guides.
The term theorycraft can be used in a pejorative sense. In this sense, "theorycraft" refers to naïve or impractical theorizing that would not succeed during actual gameplay.
- Bonnie Nardi (2 June 2010). My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft. University of Michigan Press. pp. 137–142. ISBN 978-0-472-02671-5.
- "Theorycraft". Retrieved 13 March 2016.
The term originated in the Starcraft community as composite colloquialism between the name Starcraft and Game Theory.
- "Optimizing Play: How Theorycraft Changes Gameplay and Design". Retrieved 13 March 2016.
The growth in the role of theorycrafting offers room to analyze how games change over time and how players can influence a game's design by reshaping how they play..
- Ask, Kristine (February 7, 2017). "The Value of Calculations: The Coproduction of Theorycraft and Player Practices" (PDF). Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society. 36 (3): 190–200. doi:10.1177/0270467617690058. hdl:11250/2458233.
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