Richard Bartle: Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs
This article is a must for any game designer and game studies academic. Although it was written in 1996 and based on MUDs the application of its content is absolutely current.
There are four proposed types of players mapped into a two axis chart according to playing styles.
- Action versus Interaction
- World-oriented versus Player-oriented
The four labels to these styles are:
- Achievers (action-world): getting treasures, killing mobs
- Explorers (interaction-world): discovering the topology, physics and mechanisms of the world
- Socializers (interaction-player): communicating with others
- Killers (action-player): Bothering other players
According to Bartle, players have one of these styles as the primary, and will only shift to other style to keep advancing in their goal.
The main application of this analysis was to promote balance in MUDs. Game developers of current Triple-A MMO use this player classification for fine-tuning, like in Pirates of the Burning Sea, game designers not only ask to the beta testers what computer they own but what kind of player they were, if achievers, explorers, socializers or killers!
But what happen we want to know gaming styles in other genres? Bartle’s work has initiated a broader analysis in digital games: player taxonomy. For instance, Bateman and Boon have developed a classification that includes players of different games and platforms; they coined the term “demographic game design” to the application of such analysis into the game design process. However, Bateman and Boon taxonomy heavily relies on Bartle’s which is concerned about multiplayer online, so their classification might be letting out a more sensitive taxonomy that includes different types of games. There is the relationship with my thesis; I’m trying to identify gaming preferences attached to personality traits, that could lead to a refine taxonomy of players.