What no one tells you about games (part 1)


No matter if you’re actually playing any games – whether computer or table ones, you’re a gamer. Whether you’re aware of it or not, chances are you’re participating in a big thing called gamification. Now how and why you’re doing it, is linked to other, psychological factors – and it all depends on your personality. Let me put it this way: tell me how you play, and I will tell you who you are.

Gamification

“Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. Gamification commonly employs game design elements which are used in so called non-game contexts in attempts to improve user engagement, organizational productivity, flow, learning, employee recruitment and evaluation, ease of use and usefulness of systems, physical exercise, traffic violations, and voter apathy, among others.” - Wiki link
So what does it mean exactly? The concept that has started as a helpful theory in games development now is being applied to other fields requiring human interactions and engagement. It’s a rather new approach, but it seems to be very successful in business.
Gamification is being used in marketing, advertisement, social media, human resources and many other fields we’re being part of, whether as an user/customer or company owners. If you’re running a business and creating social media campaigns, you probably work hard to get your fans engaged – via questions, contests etc. – you’re applying gamification. If you’re collecting points every time you buy something at a gas station, if you’re loyal Starbucks customer using their My Starbucks Rewards app or if you’re a member of any network where you’re gaining reputation points by answering questions (like Stack Overflow) – you’re part of it.
And in general it’s a good thing. Gamification brings positive results for both sides – it helps the company to reach their goals, to a customer it brings satisfaction, rewards and some fun. The whole subject of gamification is huge and deserves a separate article, but today I’d like to focus on how your gameplay style links with your personality.

How it all started

First, we need to go back in time to 1996, when Richard Bartle published a paper "Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who suit MUDs".  Initially, the theory was created for MUD games (Multi-User Dungeon games, usually text based). Later on, it was adjusted to MMORPG games (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Play Games). The questionnaire created by Erwin Andreasen and Brandon Downey in 1999–2000 based on Bartle’s research categorizes people according to their gaming style. It answers questions about what kind of needs we fulfil while playing and puts gamers in one of the four main categories: achievers, explorers, socializers and killers. Each one of these types represents different game style and seeks different goals.
  • Achievers will try to get best items, highest level, ranks, in-game currency
  • Explorers focus on visiting interesting places, finding hidden locations, learning about the in-game world
  • Socializers are concentrating on relations with other players – they’re making friends, getting close with people, chatting etc.
  • Killers (also called “griefers”) usually initiate conflicts between themselves and other players, they’re playing aggressively and are “offensive” types.
Despite the fact that we’re talking about four types of gamers, no person is exclusively a killer or achiever. Usually gamer represents a mix of all of the types and each combination says a lot about their other preferences and personality.



For example:
  • AEKS – gamers interested mostly in player vs. environment, than anything else. Many times they’re loners in order to achieve more than others. Sometimes they do engage in player vs. player actions, but it’s more like a whim than a goal itself.
  • SKAE – people who focus on cooperation – they’re creating alliances and many times are team leaders. Their goal is to build relationships and the satisfaction that comes from joint action.
  • SEKA – this type of a gamer concentrates on relationships. Usually they’re interested in world exploration, but they don’t pay much attention to duels. They care even less about points or items, their goal is to socialize.
Bartle Test for a while was so popular among gamers, that it was pretty common to ask “What’s your type?” the same way we get asked sometimes about our zodiac.  If you’re interested to see what type do you represent according to Bartle’s theory, check this online test  (the design is sooo 90’, but it serves the purpose nevertheless ;) ).
As games were evolving, Bartle Test became too limited to reflect gamers personality as a whole and new studies emerged to fill in the gaps. They’re expanding Bartle’s theory and create more up-to-date categories – also connecting it more with psychological traits of a person.

Updated gamer types

One of the new models based on Bartle’s theory is presented at Quantic Foundry created by Nick Yee and Nicolas Ducheneaut. Nick Yee’s research paper on “Motivations of Play in MMORPGs. Results from a Factor Analytic Approach” gives a new perspective to good old Bartle’s types and is a base of linking motivations of a player with personality traits (I highly recommend taking a survey if you’re interested in your own profile).
Quantic Foundry takes into account personality traits known from psychology, so called “The Big Five” – conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness to experience and extraversion (CANOE model). What are they and how do they relate to gamers’ types? Let’s take a look:
  • Conscientiousness – efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless. In psychology this trait describes one’s tendency to be dependable, self-disciplined and a person whose behaviours are more planned than spontaneous. Conscientiousness leads to The Mastery-Achievement cluster in Yee’s research, which describes gamers’ focus on long-term goals and planning.
  • Agreeableness – friendly/compassionate vs. analytical/detached. Agreeableness shows one’s will to cooperate, help and trust.
  • Neuroticism – sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident. This trait represents ability to experiencing negative emotions easily as well as to control impulses. It also indicates one’s emotional stability level.
  • Openness to experience – inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious. Openness describes the level of intellectual curiosity, imagination and independence. It also reflects appreciation for adventure, ideas and preference for novelty over a routine. Openness to experience maps to gamers’ focus on discovery and fantasy – the Immersion – Creativity cluster.
  • Extraversion – outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved. The degree of extraversion reflects one’s sociability, energy level and need for the company of others, as well as how talkative one is. In gaming experience, extraversion translated to one’s excitement craving, cheerfulness and social assertion. Many gamers with high extraversion will be greatly interested in explosions, guns and competition with other players. They’re those players who seek for social interaction, so you’ll find them chatting a lot with other players online. They’re also often the ones who like to blow up things in games for the pure excitement. ;) In Yee’s theory extraversion is a base for the Action – Social cluster.
Neuroticism and agreeableness were not implemented in Quantic Foundry research and theory, as there was no clear motivation clusters that would map to them. Yee and Ducheneaut found several correlations between gamers’ motivations and their personality offline. Picture below shows how personality traits are mapped to gaming motivations.
“(...) So gamers who score higher on Extraversion tend to score higher on Action-Social. And gamers who score higher on Openness tend to score higher on Immersion-Creativity. The relationship between Conscientiousness and Mastery-Achievement also had partial empirical support.” - Quantic Foundry link



16 shades of personality

If you’ve seen friends sharing results of a quiz on Facebook claiming they’re ISTJ, INFP or anything like that – well, this is it. It’s a a very interesting (and quite accurate) questionnaire that categorizes you based on how do you perceive the world and your decision making processes. The Myers – Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is based on Carl Jung’s theory. Carl Jung speculations were that we all have four principal psychological functions – sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking – that determine our personality and perception of the world. Based on Jung’s dominant functions Myers and Briggs developed a theory of sixteen personality types first published in 1944. Myers and Briggs taxonomy was used in research I’ve found at www.16personalities.com. They’ve asked 2500 people about their gaming preferences as well as personality types and created an elaborated study on that subject, linking personal traits with attraction towards specific game title or genre. It’s a pretty long read, so I’ll give you a short summary relevant to this post (whole article is available here – I recommend checking it out if you’re interested).
In their study, researchers categorized Myers & Briggs sixteen personalities into four groups: analysts, diplomats, sentinels and explorers. Each one of the four categories represents a set of specific traits, shared among four MBTI types belonging to it.
  • Analysts – gamers belonging to that group have a tendency to particularly enjoy the freedom and exploration of the in-game worlds.  They also like to “dig in” and look for hacks or mods – they’re seeking for improvement of initial vision as well as customization. Gamers of that type tend to choose single-player games, as they prefer to explore the world in their own way. Analysts do not pay as high attention to game’s graphics as other types – even more, they may dislike a game that is not offering much more than “pretty looks”. Extraverted analysts enjoy competition in gaming – they’ll be very happy to plan and execute a strategy to defeat an opponent, while introverted analysts will be more than satisfied with creating their virtual empires. What’s important – analysts tend to take their in-game characters pretty seriously – whether it’s to test different behaviours or by perceiving game as a way to create their own world where they can lose themselves for days. Analysts show the highest score among all the groups in engaging in morally objectionable behaviours in games – like stealing and tricking other people. This category of gamers is also willing to attack rather than defend or to take a support role – which maps directly to their strategic and logical way of thinking.
    MBTI types: INTJ, INTP, ENTJ, ENTP
  • Diplomats – gamers of that category like to see games that are more than pure mechanics, they’re looking for a storyline. They’re also attracted to games that trigger their imagination whether it’s done by offering them a great open world or by an intriguing narrative. Diplomats choose role-playing games as their favourite genre more often than any other group and they tend to pick support or magical classes as their characters – they enjoy playing healing classes and helping other players. Despite the fact that diplomats choose single-player games over multiplayer type, they do enjoy connecting with other people and engaging into conversations. This category of gamers is holding highest score when it comes to getting satisfaction from non-linear storyline and quests. At the same times they’re last to experiment with behaviours morally objectionable.
    MBTI types: INFJ, INFP, ENFJ, ENFP
  • Sentinels – these gamers spend the least time playing video games among all of the groups. They choose so called casual games more often, as they have a tendency to see this type of entertainment as a waste of time. Sentinels treat games in a similar way as non-fiction literature – they just want to relax a little bit and have some fun. This group is particularly attracted to games on smartphones etc. – they consider their time too precious in general to spend many hours playing, so these are the gamers who play while waiting at the doctor’s office ;) Game is just a little distraction, a moment of fun. Sentinels usually are pretty clear in their expectations, they will choose well defined goals over exploring the world. They’re also more likely to choose defensive classes for their characters and when they dedicate themselves to a specific game they enjoy, they will stick to it more than other groups. Because of their perception of video games in general, they’re least attracted to the idea of being professional gamer.
    MBTI types: ISTJ, ISFJ, ESTJ, ESFJ 
  • Explorers – gamers belonging to that group prefer fast-paced and easy to jump in games over those where one has to go through a manual to even begin playing. Their rapid decision-making makes them particularly attracted to shooters and racing games and they’re more likely to stay away from role-playing or strategic genre. At the same time they enjoy games that offer them stealth – like experience, which maps to their tendency of making fast decisions. Introverted explorers prefer games where perfect timing of their actions gives them victory, while extraverted ones enjoy the competition and being in the same place as other players, but overall explorers tend to choose multiplayer games as their favourite genre more often than other categories of gamers. As for choosing a class for their characters, they will either pick a warrior (extraverted explorers) or archer (introverted explorers). Explorers are not as loyal to one title, as other gamers – they like to look for excitement and jump from a game to game, so they’re least likely to finish all of the quests.
    MBTI types: ISTP, ISFP, ESTP, ESFP
So that's the theory and models used in categorizing gamers and describing their personalities. For me it all makes sense! I've decided to answer a big question "Who am I?" and run the tests for me. Jump to part two of this article and compare your results with mine! 


Take tests linked below to see what results you'll get!

Do you see the correlations between games you play and your personality?


Sources: Richard A. Bartle publication, 16personalities, 4you2learn, Quantic Foundry
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About Katarzyna Wójcik

I'm a passionate blogger and freelance graphic designer. When I'm not working, I'm either reading, researching, learning new stuff, playing games or writing about cool findings. Oh, and I cook too! If you'd like to get in touch - whether it's about a collaboration, your awesome project, feedback, or you just want to exchange views - drop me a line!
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41 comments:

  1. This is such a great post! I would say I'm more of an Explorer. I don't like having to sit there and practically memorize a manual in order to enjoy a game. Even Minecraft took me a while but it's one of my favorite games. My boyfriend is big into COD and Halo. And he's so proud I'm finally taking an interest in other games. He was extremely worried about my Candy Crush obsession. lol

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    1. I'm an Explorer as well, whether it is about literally exploring the in-game world or learning to play :-) It's great that you're looking into other games! Embrace your inner geek ;-) I didn't play Candy Crush, not my genre, but I've heard it's addicting!

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  2. There was A LOT of information in here. All I know is that my kids are obsessed with Minecraft.

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    1. Hahah, as many other people! :) This game must have "something"!

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  3. Great post. My boyfriend is really into gaming and I've heard him mention a few things - I do really enjoy playing them when I do though. Such an insightful post!

    Megan

    Www.lifewithmcm.com

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    1. Thank you! In my relationship we're both gamers and we like to play MMO together when we have time for that. Do you play games with your boyfriend?

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  4. I had never given so much thought to all the facets of gaming before. Not a big gamer myself, but kids are certainly into Minecraft and other games this is an interesting perspective.

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    1. Who would've thought, right? As a parent you might think of some interesting ideas how to motivate your kids based on their gaming style :)

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  5. Being a lifelong gamer, I loved this :D I'm typically an explorer / achiever. And oddly enough: at my last office job, I scored a promotion because I once nerded out with my boss about leading 40 man raids in World of Warcraft. He was impressed by my organization and management!

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    1. That's great! I've got a friend who got a managerial position based on his experience as a clan leader in Lineage II! And they were telling us that games are a waste of time :P

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  6. I am totally not a gamer at all. My son and my hubby are huge into games but with housework, the kids and school I just don't have enough hours in the day!

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    1. Maybe you are and not even knowing it - gaming mechanisms are now used so widely, that we participate without realizing it. Think about it - do you collect points or stamps, maybe taking part in some loyalty program of local business? It belongs to gamification ;)

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  7. I've never heard of gamification before so thanks for enlightening me. It was also interesting to read how people's gaming style reflects aspects of their personality. Z

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    1. Yes, it's a fairly new concept, but since market is changing fast, there had to be new strategies in order to draw customers and to keep them - gamification seems to be one of them.

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  8. I've never realized how much gamification intersects our lives. So interesting. I'm not really into playing video games, but this will definitely make me think more about gaming when interacting with apps and brands.

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    1. Yes, it was surprising discovery for me as well - it turns out you don't really have to actually play games to "play the game". Brands use it, companies use it - even as a form of evaluation. It's definitely something to be aware of.

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  9. I never got into the whole gaming thing as I have seen too many people become obsessed with it so it turned me completely off. I have a few family members that do nothing but game and it's ridiculous. In moderation would be much better ;)

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    1. As with everything in life - games are good when it's within a reason. I've met few people who were seriously addicted to games - they failed at job and schools because of this, so I know what you're talking about. Many times it's a sign of much deeper problems - games are just a buffer and a way to escape from problems and real life, like any other addiction. This is something we all should be aware of and watch carefully, especially if it happens to kids.

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  10. I used to really be into gaming when I was younger but I just don't have enough time and I prefer retro games. Stuff like Mario, Spyro, Sims and Donkey Kong those were all games I was really into. Mind you my cousin has a game on a computer he built- I can't remember what it is called but I really enjoyed playing it - it is very retro and reminds me of Nintendo 64 Mario.

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    1. I love retro games as well, I grew up with them! Now I can't spend a whole night playing games, like I did years ago (adult life is very time-consuming ;)), but I still enjoy doing it in my free time.

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  11. This was SO so interested!! I will have to have my husband read it - I think that he would be able to teach a few lessons on this at Sunday school!!

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    1. Oh wow! That would be amazing - please let me know if he does!

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  12. I can't believe how much playability these games have now days too.

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    1. Yes, things evolved a lot in the last years, it's crazy!

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  13. Wow! You have done an amazing job researching gaming! I'm not a gamer, but my older son and his friends all play WOW and the younger daughter loves Minecraft.

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    1. Thank you! I love the subject both from theoretical and practical point of view :) WOW is one of the games that represents a huge field for research - I've heard of few social experiments based on its mechanics.

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  14. This is really interesting! I am an INFJ - and I can totally relate to the "diplomat" gamer. I have always loved games like Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda - to be these are story games, and fun. Also, I have a slight obsession with solitaire, but I don't know what that says about me...

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    1. I'm so glad to hear the theory works for you as well! It means it's not just me :D I wonder about solitaire, I used to spend a lot of time on it too ;)

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  15. This is so interesting! I used to play a lot of computer and video games when I was younger, but never knew a lot of this. I really liked how you talked about personality types in relation to gaming preferences. That is so cool!

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    1. Thank you! It's surprising how things we wouldn't think of are connected, isn't it? :)

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  16. I had no idea there were so many different gaming personalities! I rarely play games but every now and then, I'll pick one up - usually when there's someone else around to play with. :)

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    1. Yes, it turns out to be a pretty big subject! And since you're likely to play with someone else, you might be a Socializer or at least value this aspect a lot :)

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  17. Such an interesting read! You really did your research when it comes to various personality types, and it's neat to tie it with gaming types. I'm going to bookmark this article.

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    1. Thank you, I'm very happy you liked it! It's a very interesting field, whether you're a gamer yourself or some of your friends or relatives are.

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  18. Interesting! It has been ages since I've played video games, but my love for them lasted for years since I had started playing them at the age of 5. I believe I'd fall in the explorer category, because that has always been my favorite part of a game. :-)

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    1. My love for games is about this long too! It started with classic tabletop games, but when I discovered video games, that was it!

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  19. I'll have to take one of the tests to see what kind of gamer I am. I am a real hard core gamer and if I tell no-one they'd never know. I can sit for hours on a game, especially if I love it with a few friends in a game party. :)

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  20. This is eye opener. I didn't know we could take tests. I am an explorer

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  21. What's funny is I think that I was an Explorer as a child, and now that I'm older I'm an Achiever. I think my husband (who's quite the gamer!) has always been an Achiever. My son is now starting to play games and he's in the Explorer stage as well. Curious to see what he'll be when he gets older. I've never thought about how we play games could say so much about us!

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  22. Haha. I hardly every play games so this whole post is a little overwhelming to me but it's so much good information!!!! :-)

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  23. As someone who is a gamer I can definitely relate to this. I think also people don't realize how addictive these games truly can be!!! Take it from me! I know. I played World Of Warcraft through closed beta, open beta and then release... I played A LOT. Not good. Honestly I still sit down at my computer and my left hand still goes to AWD... it's been 4 years since I played

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