Why, when, and where to use metatables?

I’ve recently been doing quite a bit of dev forum reading on one specific topic. Metatables. I know they are used in OOP, and I know that they are meant to make a table more powerful by giving it metamethods.

However, I’ve never found an actual need for metatables. Why use them?

I’ve read that you can use __index to return a default value if a table index returns nil, but couldn’t you just do an if statement and assign a variable the default value and return that variable? I’m not seeing a real need for metamethods here. So why use them?

Another question I have is when to use them. What real-life scenarios would someone need to use metatables? Now I’m asking for an actual real-life situation, and not a pizza example I’ve seen multiple times.

So my question is: Why, when, and where would someone need to use metatables?


No, you never really need them, but that can be said about a lot of features. The only time you might want to use them is when you want to do some tricky behavior or have syntax sugar for functionality in your code.

Here are some related posts:

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Already saw those posts, as I’ve stated in my post. I’m asking for more information