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.
Bartle’s player types
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.