Players as People

Players as People

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8175-0.ch002
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Video games are defined as much by the game as by the people that play them. With increased depth and breadth, and different types of games, there are as many different types of people playing games as there are games, and each of these games has individuals playing the same games in different ways. But it is not just about playing the games; it is also about the community that surrounds video games: eSports, machinima, streaming, etc. The ways in which video games are permeating culture are many, and understanding only the video games themselves leaves out more than half of the equation. This chapter explores the people playing the games.
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The Bartle Test

Richard Bartle was one of the first designers of MUDs when they first existed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A MUD is a Multi-User Dungeon, or, to simplify, it is a text based adventure or RPG. Imagine a Zelda game, but without a controller or graphics, and the only way to do anything is through textual prompts, and all of the information given back to the user is through text. (“You see a crossroads.” “I turn left!” “You walk left down the road and see a mailbox.” on and on. That is a MUD.) During this time, Bartle spent time speaking with other high ranking, long playing players of a MUD. The discussion involved why people wanted to play the MUD, or, specifically for Bartle’s paper (1985), “What do people want out of a MUD?”

The initial work that Bartle did, with the discussion of fellow MUD players, gave him the framework that began much of the work for trying to classify the different ways of the desires behind why people want to game. Initially, there were four different motivations: achievement within the game context, exploration of the game, socializing with others, and imposition upon others. These were then shortened and categorized as Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, and Killers, respectively.

Achievers, according to Bartle, are focused almost entirely on points-gathering and obtaining an in game goal. This can be reaching max level, becoming the most powerful, or becoming more powerful than others. Bartle also states that achievers are focused on gaining riches, as that is another form of points within the game. It is a matter of taking one aspect of the mechanics of the game, such as experience, levels, money, or skills, and getting as many of those as possible. Being the richest. The highest level. The best gear. The most achievement points. The most boss kills. There are many different ways to do this. Other aspects of the game, such as killing, exploring, or socializing exist only as tools for the achiever to obtain more and more points. This is important to think about, because the other aspects of the game still exist, but they are a means to the end of achieving more.

Explorers are players who wish to find everything about a game that is possible, and not just in a geographic or mapping sense. It is also about exploring the ins and outs of the game; the mechanics of why something works. It is also about finding bugs, or finding ways around rules that exist within the game. Explorers delight in the thrill of discovery, and that is their primary motivation for playing the game. This is different than being an achiever because explorers are not necessarily looking for an extrinsic display of what they have discovered, or a way to show others what they have done. Exploring is more about learning and finding more out about the game, whereas achievers are trying to be the best at the game itself.

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