8.3. Player Types

So if players help create “fun”, and players are attracted to different aesthetics, how do we figure out how to market to them correctly?

Partly, this happens via genre conventions. Certain genres have conventions regarding various aesthetics. Gamers normally expect minimal ability to express ourselves within a first person shooter (FPS); within a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game however, the ability to customize a character and possibly even a dwelling as a unique expression is considered an essential feature by many gamers.

But even if we stick to the expected aesthetics of a genre, we have to consider the variety of players attracted to that genre. One person may play an FPS to enjoy the challenge of the single player campaign. Someone else may be interested primarily in the story and fantasy of being a soldier and are playing through the single player campaign on easy to enjoy those. Another may be all about the competition in online matches.

Much work is done to identify the types of people that play different games - to identify what makes them tick in an effort to figure out how to design for them. One of the most famous early systems for categorizing players was designed by Richard Bartle (link to his paper - optional but very interesting). It focused on online multiplayer games and categorized people on two dimensions: Do they prefer to interact with the environment or other players; Do they prefer to act on things (impose their will) or interact with things? Based on the answers to those two questions, you can divide players into four types:

Bartle Types

The four original Bartle Types (from Transmedia Storyteller). In the expanded paper linked above, Bartle adds another dimension to make 8 different types

Given these types, you could come up with a list of activities and goals:

Bartle Types with Goals

Possible activity goals for player types (from Transmedia Storyteller).

As a game designer, you can use a system like this to make sure you are serving the different types of players or to focus your attention to the group you believe predominates in your game.

Of course, Bartle’s system is not the only way of categorizing players. Many other systems have been designed, some focusing less on online play, others including different dimensions, but all working in a similar way to try to understand groups of players. Understanding your players is an important part of modern game design and marketing. The quick video below is a promotional video that describes the kinds of services that game developers often turn to (video is by a company Playnomics that was since purchased by the game engine company Unity).

Materials on this page adapted from:
Game Design Concepts by Ian Schreiber (CC BY-NC 3.0)