What are the basic types of player? Can we
uncover a comprehensive inventory of play styles? What would this teach us
about games and game design?
Below you will find descriptions of nine hypothetical player patterns that I would expect to find by examining the gaming audience in terms of the following three areas:
- Caillois’ patterns of play, Agon, Alea, Mimicry and Ilinx, plus Ludus and Paidia. No study has ever been conducted on player attitudes to these patterns, and I believe it could be useful.
- Emotions. Not just the ones Nicole Lazzaro reports in her Four Keys Model (which of course I adore), but all the emotions that might apply: Sadness/Agony, Anger, Surprise/Fear, Disgust/Contempt, Amusement, Contentment, Excitement/Relief, Wonder, Bliss, Fiero, Naches, Elevation, Gratitude, Schadenfreude, Guilt/Shame, Embarrassment, and Envy. Plus emotion-like behaviours such as Curiosity, Belonging and Greed. (See here for more information). I expect to broadly validate the Four Keys model, strengthen the implied connection between Anger and Fiero, and demonstrate further connections previously unexplored such as Amusement outside of People Fun and Contentment as a key play emotion previously overlooked because of the method used for Four Keys.
- Skills (derived from Temperament Theory), namely Strategic, Tactical, Logistical and Diplomatic skill sets.
Additionally, as before, data on favourite
games would be collected. (We didn’t learn much from least favourite games, and
I’m disinclined to bother with it this time). A few more pointers will also be
The method will, alas, be survey based, relying on self-reporting. As such, it will be prone to errors, but I believe it may still be worthwhile. As before, we will follow up with case studies.
Now, let’s look at the hypothetical
patterns. The first four “basic players” are named after the DGD1 types; the
remaining five express areas I feel that first model overlooked.
The (Hypothetical) 9 Basic Players
“I’ll beat any challenge”
- Play: Hard Agon
- Emotions: Anger/Fiero, (Fear?)
- Skills: Strategic, Tactical & Logistical
The fiero-seeking Conqueror is the economic mainstay of the upper market of videogames, thriving on a diet rich in First Person Shooters. Challenge is the draw for this player – when the complaint “it was too easy” is heard, it is heard from a Conqueror. Fiero, the emotion of “triumph over adversity” requires that the player be put through the ringer, pushed to their limits, and as a result anger and (possibly) fear are likely to be related emotions. It is likely that Conquerors are younger on average than other players.
“I have to know how it works”
- Play: Complex Ludus, Agon
- Emotions: Contentment, Fiero
- Skills: Strategic
The strategic-minded manager is a complexity-seeking player. Games with many rules, including both strategy games, and certain cRPGs, are the mainstay of such a player, although adventure games will also be enjoyed by many. Although fiero is likely to be a theme, the Manager is less dependent upon this one emotion, and seeks the satisfaction of knowledge or mastery, expressed through the feeling of contentment. They can rack up serious hours on the games they really love.
“Escape to another world”
- Play: Mimicry, Paidia
- Emotions: Wonder, Curiosity, (Fear?)
- Skills: Tactical & Diplomatic?
The escapist Wanderer seeks immersion in the sense of engagement with an imaginary world. Such a player enjoys the beauty of fantasy worlds, and is driven by a curiosity to see what is out there. Story (specifically characters) is a greater drive than challenge, and indeed the desire to know how the story ends may drive engagement with any game. Fear may be enjoyed for the experience, in the manner of a fairground spook house.
“Let’s play together”
- Play: Agon? Paidia?
- Emotions: Belonging, Amusement, Naches
- Skills: Any?
The archetypal social player, the Participant doesn’t want to play alone. Although competition (agon) is enjoyed, it is enjoyed principally for the opportunity to be part of something taking place between people. The need to belong, to be part of something, is likely to be expressed most strongly with such a player.
“As much as I can get”
- Play: Mimicry, Ludus?
- Emotions: Greed, Contentment
- Skills: Logistical
The logistically minded Hoarder cannot resist acquisition of game resources. Likely found playing equipment-heavy cRPGs, as well as MMORPGs, the Hoarder is a thorough player, gaining satisfaction (and hence contentment) from the completion of “stamp collections” and the like. When they finish a game, they usually find they have accumulated an absurd amount of equipment, ammunition or money.
“Time has lost all meaning”
- Play: Simple Ludus, Alea, Ilinx?
- Emotions: Excitement, Relief
- Skills: Tactical
Puzzle games are the zoner’s remit – lost in the flow of an abstract game, they become intent upon the actions of the game they are playing to the exclusion of all else. However, as much as they love the games they play, they may not play for long period of times. Short games played often is the nature of the experience.
“Knock ‘em down”
- Play: Easy Agon, Mimicry, Paidia
- Emotions: Amusement, Contentment, Excitement
- Skills: Tactical?
The Juggernaut seeks a little resistance in the game they are playing, but mostly wants to push through everything with comparative (and amusing!) ease. A little excitement is desired, but the Juggernaut isn’t looking for the degree of challenge that would consistently supply fiero. Rather, they just want to play around – often completely dominating the game they are playing. For the Juggernaut, games aren’t about stress, they’re about unwinding.
“Evil is my middle name”
- Play: Agon, Paidia
- Emotions: Schadenfreude, Amusement
- Skills: Strategic? Tactical
The emotion of schadenfreude – taking delight in the misfortune of others – drives the Monster. Mischief is their primary occupation – “griefing” of strangers in a MMOG, and playful annoyance when among friends. The Monster player is not interested in rules – except in so much as they can find new ways to break them.
“The thrill of the ride”
- Play: Ilinx, Mimicry
- Emotions: Excitement, Relief, (Fear?)
- Skills: Tactical
The master of high speeds and nail biting
rides, the Hotshot is the master of vertigo (ilinx). The ultimate payoff of
victory (fiero) will be enjoyed, but it is the experience of being at the brink
of control – the excitement (and perhaps fear) of being right on the edge that
is the driving force.
Even this is not comprehensive, as I have (for example) intentionally set aside the issue of people making things inside a game space such as Second Life, or decorating in The Sims. This related area of crafting is outside of the scope of play as defined for our purposes, but could be an interesting area of research in its own right.
I plan to construct the questions in such a way as to be 'neutral' to the models used as inspiration. A side effect of the survey, therefore, will be to test whether various traits that are presumed to correlate with one another actually do so in practice!
I do not doubt that the actual “basic
players” that will be discovered in this new survey will not match up to the
hypothetical examples listed here, but by suggesting what may be found, we
codify our expectations, allowing us to look at what we might expect this
research to uncover, and what questions we can usefully ask.
Do you recognise yourself in any of the “9
Basic Players” described here? Let me know how this relates to you in the
Also, any input on the methodology will be gratefully