CHOOSE YOUR HERO: Player Type Theory

Updated: Aug 10, 2018

As you can imagine from an industry worth over 100 billion dollars, there’s a lot of effort spent analyzing the consumer base. Understanding gamers is an absolute boon for developers, as it provides insights on how to monetize and increase the longevity of the game. But, exploring the way gamers think and play games can help the larger community as well. “How so?”, I hear you asking. Well, dear reader, if you’ll join me on a quick jaunt through gaming history, it’ll all become clear.


Image created by Ben Malachowski

Back in caveman times (just kidding, it was the early 80s), the first MUDs were developed. These games were text-based RPGs that took many queues from tabletop RPGs, such as Dungeons and Dragons. The unique thing about these games, as opposed to previous text-based adventure games like Zork, was the ability to play alongside others (something that we take for granted in modern gaming). Hence the name MUD (Multi-User Dungeon).


While university students whiled away their hours in these virtual worlds, players and developers began to ask why people played these games. Richard Bartle (the co-creator of MUD1, the original MUD) was apparently so intrigued by this question that he wrote an entire paper on it. The ideas and taxonomy that Bartle presents (known as Bartle’s Taxonomy, because us gamers are a witty bunch) form some of the most foundational pillars of game design.

I’ll spare you the details (though if you’re interested the full paper is available ONLINE), but essentially Bartle asserted that there are four player types. These different types of players all want something different from their game, and they interact with other players and the world in different ways.


These types are:


· Achievers – These players want to master the game. They want the high score, to get all the trophies, and to be the best. They’re the ones doing speed runs, grinding for 100% completion, or hunting for hours and hours until they find all 247 gnome statuettes that the developers dropped into their world for no reason. These gamers thrive on challenges and are always eager rise to a new one.


· Explorers – These players are less concerned with beating the game, and more with experiencing it. They want to delve into every dungeon, discover each character’s secret backstory, and find all the weird glitches or Easter eggs littered about. They want to find the gnomes, too, but more for the sake of rooting through the game world and less for the thrill of succeeding at the challenge.


· Socializers – These players want to play with the other players. They’re interested in the game for the sake of playing with friends. They want to role-play and have others be enraptured with their performance, and they want to be part of a team with whom they can build a rapport. They don’t care much about the gnomes, but they’ll definitely join you on your search if you’re willing to listen to what Becky from accounting had the audacity to say today.