We continue with our next part in looking at personality types and play styles in gaming. If you haven’t read Part 1 (The Achiever) in this series, then please do have a look through it.
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, Socialisers, and Killers. There are other variations and expansions of this model from Lazzaro, Callois, Kersey, and other psychometric tests, many of which are explored in detail in this Gamasutra article.
The issue that some may have with Bartle’s model is that it is incomplete, Dr. Bartle even mentions this himself. There are other player type theories and models that may offer some more scope. The problem that you may run into is that Bartle’s may be too narrow, or that the expanded variants on it are too broad or perhaps not broad enough.
One of the goals of this series is starting from Bartle’s player types as a base point of reference and to then explore how to expand to an even broader psychological taxonomy of player types. And this may be done by perhaps using Jungian Archetypes and the other expanded taxonomies to create a more holistic picture.
Before we continue, it is good to be reminded that these player types are not neat little boxes into which people can be placed. The player types simply describe an aspect of a personality. Each person will have all of the player types within them, just in varying amounts. And each player type may come more to the forefront depending on the experience on offer, either in a gamified environment or traditional games.
“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
With that, you must always perform a carefully designed qualitative research of the community for which you wish to create a game or gamified system. This is that you can more accurately determine what the target audience desires and better cater to the varying levels of each player type.
Bartle’s player types
As has been mentioned before, we’ll be using Bartle’s models as a base and exploring each one to get a better understanding of the four types, what varies between them, and how they interact. Here is a short reminder of what each type entails:
“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
It is good to re-emphasize once again that these player type models don’t exist to stereotype people into specific roles. Rather they exist to help understand and add labels to concepts and varying types of interest found in each person. Each and every game or gamified experience or environment will appeal to one or hopefully to multiple player types if designed well. Invariably the experience will most certainly appeal to a specific type, due to the creator’s preference. Therefore, as a creator, it is recommended to the aforementioned qualitative research so that you are better equipped to create a more holistic environment for your audience. Through this method, you are guaranteed to increase the engagement on your platform.
Sometimes player types theory reminds me of different pseudo-scientific ideas like socionics and so on. The reason for that is a generalization of types. The Bartle’s models proof it.
I think the approach should be changed, but how is still a big question.
Hi Cassie, thank you for the comment.
Indeed they are generalisations, this is why they are used because it would be too cumbersome to categorise on an individual level.
Bartle’s 4 player model is one of the most famous in Gamification, and as he himself has said it was developed for the MUD player base, and not as a general representation of every player.
However, the generalisation serves the purpose of working out player motivations rather than assigning labels to people. The purpose of the series was more of a showcase of this particular model, due to its popularity in gamification.
Though I would question the use of the term “pseudo-scientific” when discussing/describing theoretical frameworks in sociology and psychology. As the ideas you have named have been tested through a scientific method, and have an active academic community around them.
As for the topic of the player-types, as I said before they are more descriptors to be used when discussing psychological, emotional drives and motivations. No one person is a single type, each individual has every type, and depending on the situation the type may have a higher position in the priority of the internal drives.
Hope that helps.