Player Typology in Theory and Practice

Here’s a link to the paper I presented at DiGRA this year entitled Player Typology in Theory and Practice, and the abstract:

Player satisfaction modeling depends in part upon quantitative or qualitative typologies of playing preferences,  although such approaches require scrutiny. Examination of psychometric typologies reveal that type theories have—except in rare cases—proven inadequate and have made way for alternative trait theories. This suggests any future player typology that will be sufficiently robust will need foundations in the form of a trait theory of playing preferences. This paper tracks the development of a sequence of player typologies developing from psychometric  type theory roots towards an independently validated trait theory of play, albeit one yet to be fully developed. Statistical analysis of the results of  one survey in this lineage is presented, along with a discussion of theoretical and practical ways in which the surveys and their implied typological instruments have evolved.

Thanks to everyone who attended my presentation and the boardgames panel! It was a great shame to only be able to attend one day of the conference.

Cross-posted from

Videogame Cultures 3/Fighting Used Game Sales

Skip over to ihobo for my thoughts on the conference I just finished:

Where does the games as art debate go now? How much do stereotypes of the gamer dominate and distort perspectives of games in culture? Can counterplay and co-creation in games change the relationship between the makers and players of games? Issues such as these were the focus of lively debate in-and-out of the conference halls at Videogame Cultures 3 in Oxford University’s Mansfield College.

Read the whole thing in Highlights of Videogame Cultures 3.

Also over on, a short rant about how Fighting Used Game Sales is Suicide. This is an old topic of mine, but I think I mostly wrote about it before I started blogging.

Much Needed Refreshment (and Forthcoming Papers)

Right, I really needed that break from blogging… Frankly, I was feeling incredibly weighed down by the weight of academic papers that I had to write, and needed to focus on them. Here’s a list of all the papers, book chapters and presentations I’ve written or worked upon in the last month and a half:

  • “Player Typology in Theory and Practice” (with Rebecca Lowenhaupt and Lennart Nacke)
  • “BrainHex: Preliminary Results from a Neurobiological Gamer Typology Survey” (with Lennart Nacke and Regan Mandryk)
  • “Neurobiological Foundations for Player Satisfaction Modeling” (with Lennart Nacke) in Game Telemetry and Metrics (eds. Mady Seif El-Nasr and Anders Drachen)
  • “Chaotic Good in the Balance” in Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy (eds. Jon Cogburn and Mark Silcox)
  • “Dungeons & Dragons & Dice &… Prop Theory for Role-Play”
    in Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy (eds. Jon Cogburn and Mark Silcox)
  • “Prop Theory for Game Aesthetics”
  • “Orthodox Science Fiction and Fictional Worlds”
  • “Fictional Worlds in Films and Games”

That’s a lot of papers for someone who doesn’t work as an academic! Anyway, I now have this workload under better control, so with luck I should be able to get back into the blogging.

Blogging resumes again next week - hope to see you in the comments!

Cross-posted from ihobo.

What is Endured Always Enhances Enjoyment

It is one of the strangest aspects of play that whatever can be endured will ultimately serve to enhance the enjoyment of the player who perseveres. Tolerating repetition adds satisfaction to the completing task. Tolerating difficulty in challenges turns mere success into glowing victory. Tolerating frustratingly obscure puzzles leads to smug triumph when they are eventually cracked.

Of course, each of these ordeals to be endured will also exclude certain players from reaching their eventual rewards. Not everyone is willing to endure tedium, difficulty or obscurity. But it is striking to note that the same things which cause certain players to give up a game are the very things which make it worth playing for others. This is more than just ‘different strokes for different folks’ – it seems as if whatever a player will endure ultimately ends up enhancing the reward they experience.

Cross-posted from ihobo; comments accepted on either blog.

What You Like and Dislike in Games

Question_mark_1 What words do we use to discuss what we like and dislike about games? The words people use in specific contexts reveals something about their relationship with that aspect of life, and this is true of games as much as anything else.

What words would you use to describe what you like or dislike in the context of:

  • Game pacing, that is, the rate at which content is added to a game  e.g. “well-paced”, “slow” or a “grind”.
  • Virtual worlds, that is, the fictional worlds of games e.g. “beautiful”, “dark”, “dull” or “immersive”.
  • Mechanics, that is, the rules and systems of games e.g. “unbalanced”, “perfectly balanced” or “quirky”
  • Compulsiveness, that is, the extent to which a game captures and holds attention in the short or long term e.g. “addictive”, “compelling” or “replayable”.
  • Any other aspect of games I’ve not mentioned

Feel free to simply describe games you are currently playing or your favourite games in whatever words you choose – I’m interested in the words we already use to describe our play experiences, any anything in this respect could be useful.

Cross-posted from – please leave comments there!

Fair Play?

No new post on ihobo this week as I am still hoping to foster further discussion on the notion of gamer virtues. Here are some of the questions thus far:

  • Can all the many vices I have singled out be understood solely as "fair play", or is there a sense in which terms like "camping" serve to restrict the options for play in ways that favour one player over another?
  • Is "imba" a term which can be best understood as having come to mean "efficient player", and if so is the sole virtue that players of World of Warcraft recognise mere efficiency?
  • Do any other online communities recognise virtues for their players? Do players ever say anything nice about one another, or do they just bitch about how their fellow players annoy them?

Please share your thoughts on these matters in the comments to last week's Gamer Virtues, Gamer Vices post. Thanks!

Gamer Virtues, Gamer Vices

Over on ihobo today, I ask what are the gamer virtues and vices? Here's an extract:

My first investigation in this area shows a lot of evidence of vices. Camping is used pejoratively to criticise players who gain tactical or strategic advantage by remaining in the same place, and spawn killing is a particularly reviled form of camping. Spamming, whether chat spamming or grenade spamming, denotes a criticism of players who act in overly repetitive and irritating ways. Kill stealing is a particularly unique form of "theft" in which credit for a kill is taken by another player who didn't do most of the work. Then there is griefing, the all-purpose word for describing the behaviour of a player who is obnoxiously intrusive on the play of others. All these words show that there are plenty of gamer vices. But what are the gamer virtues?

You can read the entire piece (which is quite short) over on ihobo, and please share your perspective in the comments there as I'm really interested in what people have to say about this.

Also: It's a sudden blitzkrieg of survey results ever since Facebook invaded BrainHex some time last week.

What is the Appeal of Brutal Games?

Ever wondered why people play brutal games? This is the subject I'm exploring on ihobo today, via the work of Slavoj Žižek. Here's an extract:

Žižek's claim is thus that players of brutal games do so because they would wish to be this brutal in real life, but are prevented by social norms and so forth. I get the sense that Žižek wants us to take this claim as applying to a very wide range of individuals, but of course the sales figures we see for brutal games only account for at most 5% of the market for videogames. If Žižek's explanation is to carry any force at all, we would have to conclude that the players who buy and play the brutal videogames are closet sociopaths or, at the very least, would be given the right circumstances. He may be right – it's certainly not easy to prove or disprove such a claim – but I find something about this account suspicious.

You can read the entire post over on

Someone's Doing My Brain Research (ihobo)

More "this is your brain on games" stuff on ihobo today, as some researchers conduct one of the experiments I have been waiting for. Here are the highlights:

  • Players with a larger pleasure centre (nucleus accumbens) did better in the early stages of the study i.e. began learning more quickly. This suggests that a large pleasure centre increases motivation to perform (an expected result).
  • Players with a larger caudate nucleus and putamen, two key features of the striatum (the limbic system-end of the decision centre) performed better at variable priority training i.e. practising and learning different skills dynamically, within the framework of the overall goal. (This is also an expected result, but is less well studied).

Click here to read the full piece.

BrainHex Shop Now Open (BrainHex)

Cross-posted from

Thanks to Zazzle (and a little help from Corvus), we have set up some BrainHex merchandise in the new BrainHex shop. At the moment, you can buy light and dark T-shirts, a button/pin badge, stickers, a fridge magnet, a mug, a cap or a mouse mat with any of the BrainHex class icons on them. Each of the T-shirts also has the phrase associated with the class written on the back.

Many thanks to everyone who let us know they were interested in merchandise!

To comment to this post, please do so at the equivalent post on the BrainHex site.