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This week we’re continuing with our series of looking at the various personality types and play styles in gaming, using Dr. Bartle’s player taxonomy model. If you haven’t read Part 1 (The Achiever) and Part 2 (The Explorer) in the series, then I do recommend having a look through them as well.
With this series, we’re looking at and breaking down one of the more famous Player Type models, Bartle’s Player Type taxonomy, which splits people into four categories: Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, and Killers. There are other variations and expansions on this model from Lazzaro, Callois, Kersey, and other psychometric tests, many of which are explored in detail in this Gamasutra article.
A problem that has been highlighted through this series, and was also apparent prior to starting it is those player type theories, in general, tend to be incomplete in describing the scope of characteristics found in people. There are player theory models that offer a bit more scope, but these and the majority suffer from similar issues; they are either too narrow, too broad or not broad enough.
One of the aims of these series, after working through the 4 most well-known types, is to explore a broader psychological player type taxonomy that looks into the Jungian Archetypes in relation to the other expanded taxonomies.
The one caveat that you must remember though is that even with an expanded player type model is that the individual types do not describe nor cater to a single player. They are simply tools to help you understand the many facets that appear in human psychology when an individual is enjoying a game.
“The player types theory is there to remind you that you’re making games for human players, involving their psychology in how they perceive and play your game.” –Source
This statement is a cautionary reminder that when you are creating a game or gamifying a system that you undertake careful qualitative research of your target audience/community. So that you can accurately determine the player types you need to cater to allow for an enjoyable experience.
As we’ve mentioned, we’ll be exploring specifically Dr. Bartle’s player type model, taking each type individually, how they function, how they interact and what the variations are between them:
“Killers: interfere with the functioning of the game world or the play experience of other players
Achievers: accumulate status tokens by beating the rules-based challenges of the game world
Explorers: discover the systems governing the operation of the game world
Socializers: form relationships with other players by telling stories within the game world” –Source
What you must always remember when dealing with taxonomies and player models is that they don’t exist to pigeon-hole people. They exist to create a better understanding of how varying interests within individuals interact. They are simply labels for components that exist in every person’s psyche. Therefore, every game or gamified experience will naturally lean to a specific player type, due to the creator having a predisposition to that type while creating their experience. In addition to that though the creator should also do an exhaustive qualitative research so that a more holistic environment is built for the audience, and can thereby increase participant engagement.
As you’ve read, each person generally has all the player types in them, to varying degrees, depending on the circumstances, moods, and environments. Sometimes one is more dominant than the other for example. Depending on the experience of the game, one may be drawn out more and the individual may choose to prioritize that experience.
As a designer, you should decide what demographic you wish to aim for, what is their dominant type, what do they prioritize in that environment. This is done through research, similar to how Dr. Bartle’s player types are based on the observations of players in the MUD and MMO subculture.
Player types as a function, therefore, are there to understand what people find Fun. It helps you understand the kind of objectives that you can create that they will enjoy. And it helps you determine what type of agency is evoked internally in a player when they are delving into your experience. What drives them to discover and complete the goals you’ve set out for them.
So, with that in mind we’ve decided to deal with each player type individually to better understand them, and otherwise, there might be too much to cover in a single piece. The next player type that we’ll explore is the Socializer.
In Bartle’s player types, Socialiser is in the quadrant of Interacting and the Player:
This type of player is most at home when they are interacting with other players, such as creating guilds, clans, teams and community experiences.
“[…]these are individuals who are attracted to the social aspects of a game, rather than the game strategy itself. They are the “Hearts” of the game world because they gain the most enjoyment from interacting with the other players in the game.” –Source
Socializers do have a small extrinsic motivator in that they do with some social acknowledgment from their peers. After all, if you go through all the effort of creating a close-knit community and well-functioning team, you’d like to be recognized for the hard work you put into it.
Another term for the Socialiser is a Community Engager, they don’t necessarily join a game or environment to start a community but also to engage with them. The roles that socializers take on are mentors, traders (virtual goods or knowledge), social creators (for guilds, teams, etc..) and moderators for forums and discussion boards. They will help out the newbie who is unfamiliar with the system simply for the opportunity of social interaction with another. A socializer is a glue to your game or environment.
Remember though that the socialized doesn’t only exist in the closed-off space of your game or gamified experience, they will continue their interaction outside it as well. This personality type is the one that creates facebook group pages, youtube videos about their experiences, fan pages, fan forums and so forth. If your experience is engaging enough, the Socialiser will essentially be your marketing machine.
Inside the game and/or environment, the Socialisers usually create an internal equilibrium. As they are Interactors with Players on Bartle’s model, they will naturally attract other player types. If you have the right aspects that attract the other player types but they aren’t coming then adding a little bit more to the social aspects so that socializers start coming will help with filling out the other types. The only player types that may annoy the Socializer is the Killer, as this one can at times get in the way of meaningful interactions, but it tends to be a minor, short-term issue.
The Socialiser type is an integral aspect of your game experience. They are the ones that will spread it by word of mouth, invite new players to join and keep the old ones coming back. Creating relationships and bonds is what communities are based on and what keep them living on.
You as the creator, therefore, need to ensure that there enough ways for people to connect with each. You don’t necessarily need to recreate things like Facebook or other social networking systems within your environment, just make sure that the already established ones are easily accessible. People are already on and familiar with these, thus having an easy access point and portals towards them is enough to attract the average socialize.
The main aspect you should focus on when designing from scratch is that the experiences and activities within your game environment promote social play. That the individuals who join have a way to engage in teamwork, to pursue an objective that requires others to achieve. These communal objectives are what communities will form around and this is what will truly allow the socializer to attract, create and form large collaborative networks for you.
In essence, the hope is that with the tools and objectives that you place, an organic system arises in which community’s aid and compete with each other. As the socializer’s drive is relatedness, the experience and goals must be something that people will discuss, plan for and reminisce after they’ve completed it.
Unfortunately, though there is no clear method to fully implement something that will always attract a socializer, all you can do is make sure that the correct tools and access points are available. The best course of action beyond that is ensuring that you have an immersive enough experience with sufficient depth that people will want to talk about with others.
The Socializer will be the brunt of your player base in any situation. People will congregate where other people, as long as it’s a voluntary experience. As they are the brunt, they are also the most important part. Without them, there is no community and there is no player base. Your game or gamified experience will unfortunately wither and die off if you only have Achievers, Explorers, and Killers. These are the hardcore individuals that will consume all the content but may do it solo or in a closed-off group. The experience will not spread further than them, and they are there for the short term if there is no larger community to be part of.
So, when you design and create your environments take extra care in accommodating for the socialized type if you wish longevity for the experiences you deliver. Add the tools they require, but do not forget to simply make it a social experience. If they wanted a social experience then they would stay on Facebook or Instagram, your creation is not necessarily for those bonds. What the socializer specifically wants is an experience that facilitates those bonds, that allows for shared memories. So always ensure that you have something worth engaging with and gives a meaningful encounter. Working with the prior knowledge of how to engage an Achiever and an Explorer will benefit you immensely in grabbing hold of the Socializer.
Be sure to check back in the near future as we explore the other player types, their personalities and make an attempt at creating a more straightforward and expanded player type that you can use in the development of your games and gamified experiences.
I hope that this piece has given you some food for thought and helped improve your own methods or at least offered a different viewpoint to consider.
Please do check out the other posts on æStranger.com, and please do leave a comment or contact us if you have some ideas of your own that you wish to discuss or if you would like to see other topics discussed.
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