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Temperament Theory & Online Play Models

If I were a believer in Possible World theory (one of the many 20th century "alternatives to God"), I might be prone to suggest that somewhere in the multiverse was another me whose interest was in Multiplayer Online Gaming... It's that other side of the video games industry, the MOG (or MMOG) world. It almost happened... James McLaren (now working for a games company in Japan) and Gary Jones (now a professional poker player - and one of the top ranked Hold 'em and Omaha players in the world) very nearly went into business to produce a MMORPG called 'Black Sun', based around the org structure of a MUSE, and employing a number of 'virtual actors' to drive forward storylines. Instead, International Hobo was founded. Two timelines diverged in a yellow wood and so forth.

But that's not the universal waveform I life in, and MOG play is a secondary interest at best. Nonetheless, I'm particularly interested in models of online play like the classic Bartle Type, because I'm interested in audience models in general.

Dmitri Williams recently posted a request on Terra Nova to find out what people wanted to know about, and I have found myself sucked into the discussion that has resulted (it's a turbulent discussion, as there are dozens of threads in parallel in the comments - you can get to it here if you're interested). I am particularly interested in Bart Stewart's suggestion:

Some personal study I've done suggests that while the Bartle types may not correspond with the classic Myers-Briggs types, they do (in my opinion) correlate very well with the four temperaments model of David Keirsey, which in turn correspond to particular groupings of the sixteen Myers-Briggs types:

Killer (Bartle) :: Artisan (Keirsey) :: ISTP, ESTP, ISFP, ESFP
Achiever (Bartle) :: Guardian (Keirsey) :: ISTJ, ESTJ, ISFJ, ESFJ
Explorer (Bartle) :: Rational (Keirsey) :: INTP, ENTP, INTJ, ENTJ
Socializer (Bartle) :: Idealist (Keirsey) :: INFP, ENFP, INFJ, ENFJ

I put together a more detailed exposition of this theory in the Will the Real Explorer Please Stand Up? thread here on Terra Nova if you're curious.

This prompted me to run these correlations in my own data, which lead to the following:













































Now clearly our data (as I have mentioned before) shows nothing but a predilection for Explorer. But, and this is a key point, this may be simply because the instruments people have used to identify their Bartle type have too woolly a definition (not to mention that the data we have may show sampling errors).

Looking at this with fresh eyes, what do I think of Bart's hypothesis?

So, I'm going back to Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs for reference:


Achievers regard points-gathering and rising in levels as their main goal, and all is ultimately subservient to this.

So we're talking about goal-oriented players, for whom the RPG mechanics are the key framework. This would take in the majority of Guardians (in theory) and about half the Rationals, in principle - unless one of the other definitions supercedes this initial assignment.


Explorers delight in having the game expose its internal machinations to them.

This is most certainly a definition that fits the Rational temperament. However, it should be noted that many people with Rational temperament will allow themselves to be sucked into the RPG mechanics and therefore will fit the Achiever archetype more completely. 


Socialisers are interested in people, and what they have to say

This definition fits the Idealist temperament, but it also fits anyone who is biased towards Extroversion in Myers-Briggs terms. Our data suggests this is the minority of MOG players at this time, so the effect might be negligible at the moment. In the long run, I would think this class could 'steal' half or more of the other archetypes - but it would be impossible to tell without study how significant this effect would be.


Killers get their kicks from imposing themselves on others. This may be "nice", ie. busybody do-gooding, but few people practice such an approach because the rewards (a warm, cosy inner glow, apparently) aren't very substantial. Much more commonly, people attack other players with a view to killing off their personae (hence the name for this style of play).

This does not match Artisan very well. What I see here is a player for whom interpersonal agon (competition) is more important than other play rewards. This could happen with an Artisan, a Guardian or a Rational (but it would be exceptionally unlikely for someone fitting the Idealist temperament). DGD1 suggests this sort of player would be C1 - which would be a subset of Guardian. It would also take in part of C2 - which would be a subset of Artisan. I suspect a thorough study of Killers would expose this archetype as being the loosest correlation with Temperament theory. I also suspect we'd see many more male than female killers.

I can see several conclusions. Firstly, whatever instruments players are using to identify their Bartle type appears to have too wide a definition of Explorer. This does seem to relate to Rational temperament in broad strokes, but the data we have shows a disproportionate skew to Explorer. Testing errors strike me as the likely explanation.

Secondly, the Bartle type categories don't correlate exactly with Temperament theory - but they are close enough that it would be possible to create a new model which used Temperament theory as its stepping point. Whether or not this would be a worthwhile study to pursue is harder to ascertain. Certainly, there is interesting research here that could be carried out.

Finally, Bartle types provoke a surprisingly vibrant degree of debate. This is good news, as discussion is the necessary prerequisite for balanced refinement. I hope that someday the DGD1 or its successors can provoke the same response.


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I think trying to shoehorn the Kiersley types to the Bartle types merely because they both measure personality and have four categories is a little inelegant. It may be better to get more specific with the Kiersley classes - rather than making Socialists the Idealists (a convergence that hardly fits me, an INFJ/INFP and KAES.) Hearts may be better described as ExFx; extroverted feelers, rather than xNFx intuitive feelers. Other analysises of personality types show certain types to fit in other suits better - INFPs and INFJs are allegedly severe perfectionists. Thus, they may fit better into Club (beating other players provides a natural motivation to honing skills to perfection) or Diamond (again, perfectionists will be attracted to great achievements.)

Regarding the explorer conundrum, you may want to look at Nick Yee's analysis on the Daedalus project where Yee breaks it up into two parts - the immersive explorer who relishes finding new locales and hidden vistas in the world, and the gameplay mechanic explorer, who enjoys dissecting the systems and mechanics of the game.

I should clarify that everything I say here is in response to Bart Stewarts comments at Terra Nova - http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2005/07/what_do_you_wan.html

I'm commenting on his observations of possible correlations between temperament theory and Bartle type; I'm personally agnostic about it, and just thinking out loud. :)

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