The Inverted Introvert
A Secular Age (2): Social Imaginaries

Player Skills

One of the many things we were testing in the DGD2 survey data was the validity of the skill set model from Temperament Theory. We arranged the data in order that, whether or not this was validated, we would still have some useful data about player skills from which we could derive some correlations. However, to my surprise, the Temperament Theory skill sets (Logistical, Tactical, Strategic, Diplomatic) were validated – although owing to a bug in the data gathering program, we lost most of the data on Diplomatic skills and were unable to reach any conclusions about this. 

We also gathered data about basic game literacy (things like understand how a game works without looking at a manual and moving around a 3D world using mouse and keyboard or two joysticks). 90% of the 1,040 respondents gave themselves one of the top two grades in these skills, despite the fact only 50% self-identified as a Hardcore gamer (40% self-identifying as Casual, and the remainder being unsure). This brings into doubt our system of using self-identification to separate Hardcore and Casual players, or suggests that Casual gamers are more game literate than perhaps is usually assumed.

We used exploratory factor analysis with principal component analysis as the extraction method, and varimax with Kaiser normalization as the rotation method, and a rotation converged in 3 iterations. Logistical, Tactical and Strategic groupings all held together under this analysis, as did basic game literacy, although there were signs that this could be further reduced – that Tactical and basic game literacy formed a set (possibly a bias because the 3D world controls are essentially Tactical in terms of Temperament Theory), and Logistical and Strategic also formed a set (which supports some of the claims of DGD1, in which the Conqueror archetype was shown to possess this combination of skills in varying degrees). There is probably more work that can be done here. 

Cross-tabulation confirmed that there were overlaps in the composition of these sets – which is to say, some people might always respond high, and some always respond low, but this was not the case in the data gathered.

To explore the influence of player skills, we divided the sample into pairs of groups based upon how high respondents rated themselves in the given skill sets, using an average value of 4 or higher as the split. These splits did not wholly reflect the expected proportions predicted by Temperament Theory, but the skewing effect is likely to be a result of the biases in videogame players we have already observed. Nonetheless, high Logistical skills were still more common than high Tactical, which was more common than high Strategic, all of which fits the general predictions of Temperament Theory. 

A t-test of the groups also showed that the different groupings based on skill set were statistically significant when compared to the other skill sets (and also with basic game literacy).


Player Skills and Game Types

A first set of data explorations compared the skill sets against measures composed to match game types, on a system inspired by Caillois’ patterns of play, but constructed to work independently of this model. Several of the measures do not correspond directly to Caillois’ patterns, and thus it should be seen as an inspiration for the construction of this part of the analysis, and not a rigidly applied formula. 

For Logistical skills, 40.1% of respondents fell into the high group. The general pattern for this high group was that they showed greater interest in all but one game type, and greater emotional response across all the emotional measures. The greatest significance values were attained for interest in challenge (Caillois’ agon), structured play (Caillois’ ludus) and escapism (interest in world-based play, playing such games just to mess around, and enjoying acting out in ways that they would never even consider in real life). This somewhat validates some of the results of DGD1, which associates Logistical skills with challenge-oriented play, but it is hard to push this conclusion too far.

There was one measure in which Logistical skills did not seem to be a factor – namely sandbox play. It seems that having high or low Logistical skills had no influence in a player’s interest in games such as The Sims or the sandbox modes of the various sim games on offer. Of course, this might be a skew in the sample of players, but the lack of statistically significant findings on this measure was interesting since every other measure was affected by Logistical skill ratings. 

For Tactical skills, 38.7% of respondents fell into the high group. The same general pattern was repeated with these groups – the only measure which did not produce a statistically significant finding was sandbox play. However, the strongest correlations were in different places – both challenge and escapism were once again two of the strongest significance values, but excitement (Caillois ilinx) and role-playing were also in this highest correlated group. This links in with predictions I have made concerning the relationship between Tactical skills, real time play, and excitement.

Finally, for Strategic skills, 30.2% of respondents fell into the high group. There was considerably more definition here – and in precisely the predicted areas. The two correlated measures were challenge, and structured play (Caillois’ ludus). This seems to validate the results of the DGD1 which links Strategic skills with precisely these two elements of play.


Player Skills & Emotions 

Another set of correlations that were explored were the player skills versus emotional patterns. In this part of the data, certain assumptions were used in constructing the measures which perhaps lacked strong prior experimental evidence, but in all cases the measures were not used unless they were shown to hang together convincingly.

For Logistical skills, all but one of the emotional measures were shown to be statistically significant, with the higher skill group rating higher the value of emotions to their play in every category but negative emotions, for which there was no statistical pattern. Unusually, it was fiero which came out “worst”, pulling in a statistical significance of 0.06 while all others were statistically significant at a degree which showed up as a flat 0 in the results (i.e. highly significant). 

For Tactical skills, the pattern was very similar, except in this case even negative emotions were shown to correlate (higher skills showed a higher rating of negative emotions at a 0.05 significance level). It’s very hard to know what to make of such a finding. All emotional measures had a statistical significance which showed up as 0 for the Tactical skill groups comparison, including fiero.

Finally, for Strategic skills there was one major difference: anger was not a statistically significant correlation in the comparison between the two groups (which it was for both Logistical and Tactical) – which is to say, players who rate high on Strategic skills had no greater interest in anger than those who rate lowly. Since anger serves to heighten fiero, this suggests that players with strong Strategic skills are less interested in being driven to frustration prior to victory. Although differences in the fiero measure were statistically significant between the high and low Strategic skill groups, the significance was 0.025 – like the Logistical groupings, this was the “worst” performing measure, and like the Logistical group negative emotions did not correlate at a statistically significant degree.



The major result in this part of the DGD2 data analysis was that the skill sets described by Temperament Theory formed valid patterns in our data – a validation of Temperament Theory, which also serves as a validation of aspects of the DGD1 results.

Although players strong in Logistical skills were shown to be more obsessive than those who were weaker in this skill set (which was a predicted result), players high in Tactical and Strategic skills were also shown to produce the same pattern (which was not predicted). On the whole, it seems the higher someone rates their game abilities, the more likely they are to be an obsessive player. The same kind of pattern is found with positive emotions, social emotions, curiosity and amusement: it seems whatever a player is good at, the higher they rate themselves on those particular skills, the more they will value these kinds of emotions and behaviours. This might be an artefact of this kind of self-assessment study, rather than any kind of deeper conclusion. 

The study produces faint evidence of a connection between Tactical skills (which includes and implies competence in real time activities) and enjoyment of excitement – this was another predicted result, and perhaps warrants further exploration. The odd thing about the Tactical results is this correlation with negative emotions – suggesting that players strong in Tactical skills are consistently better at shrugging off negative feelings than those players strong in other skills. (The mean value was closer in this case to “I don’t care” than “I don’t like feeling this way”). This fits with the idea of Tactical competence being “of the moment” – focused upon the present.

Both Tactical and Logistical skills (which share in common the Sensing trait in Myers-Briggs typology) correlated with an interest in escapism, that is, acting out in a world-based environment – something that did not correlate with Strategic skills. This is another predicted result, although we might have expected this to correlate more strongly with Tactical than Logistical, which was not found.

The results in respect of players strong in Strategic skills were more or less as predicted: these are players looking for challenge in a strongly ludic game (a game with complex and detailed rules, such as a strategy game). It is interesting to note the decreased interest in anger, however – the Strategic player archetype is perhaps more dispassionate about their play; they want to win, but are perhaps less interested in having a fight to achieve this goal. A sign of a desire to dominate rather than overcome? We can only speculate. 

On the whole, the results of the DGD2 survey analysis in terms of player skills were interesting, but lacked definition. The most general conclusion we can draw concerning these results is that players who rate themselves highly on any aspect of player skills are more likely to rate highly their interest in particularly game types and emotions of play. But what is clear is that there are distinctions between Logistical, Tactical and Strategic skills – it would be interesting to discover if the same validation can be achieved for Diplomatic skills, about which we are still quite uncertain how they connect to play.

Coming soon - the remaining DGD2 analysis: Hardcore vs Casual, Single player vs Multiplayer and a mystery finale!


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dj i/o here..
Fascinating research, as always.
As a primarily tactical player, I do feel I resemble not caring about negative emotions while playing. Rarely do I get angry, but more frequently frustrated. But... Often frustration is a source of fun for me.
On that note, I've recently picked up N+ for PSP, and it's tickling my tactical/platforming needs very very much. :)
I've been exhibiting some logistical/collecting traits by attempting to collect all the gold on every level..but I enjoy that type of play because it ramps the challenge up quite a bit. I'm sure later in the game I'll reach a flow point where it will eventually become too frustrating to collect the gold and I'll likely be struggling just to get by the levels... and I'm looking forward to that point :)

dj i/o: thanks for the kind words, and the descriptions of your play! I never tire of reading people's accounts of how they approach the play of games: I find it endlessly fascinating.

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