What type of player are you? Bartle’s taxonomy of player types tells you all about it
Bartle’s works have considerably impacted the design of online games, particularly massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs). He is an influential author on the design and development of this type of game, and he has since been cited in several scientific articles on the classification and types of players, identifying the characteristics of their engagement and motivation.
Who is Richard Bartle?
Richard Bartle is a British game developer, author, and researcher who has been studying video game players and their behaviour models since the 1970s. He is also a lecturer and honorary professor at the University of Essex, in the United Kingdom.
First, he co-founded the first virtual world, the first MUD (multi-user dungeon), in 1978. This term refers to the first online role-playing video game inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, originally only in textual form but which then evolved into various forms. Players interacted with each other through typed messages, and the virtual world only existed as a collection of text files read by the computer.
Bartle is also known for publishing an article in 1996 entitled "Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, and Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs," in which he developed the theory of player types, which defined four basic types of players.
In 2003, his book Designing Virtual Worlds also became a reference text on the subject, and in 2010, he was the first winner of the prestigious Game Developers Choice Awards (GDCA) prize. During one of the biggest events in the video game industry, the Game Developers Conference (GDC), prizes are awarded to any game nominated and voted for by members of the community of professional game developers.
The type of players and 4 profile types
Bartle’s player types are a taxonomy of player types, particularly for multiplayer games. As such, he developed this classification in the 1980s and 1990s based on his observations of interactions between players in MUDs. Bartle’s observational work on players was used to classify players based on their motivations and behaviours in games. Four main types of players were identified: those who succeed, those who explore, those who socialise, and those who kill.
One of the first players mentioned in this classification are the achievers, those players who like to accomplish all available missions in order to earn rewards and tools in the game. They often try to accomplish as many tasks as possible and reach the highest level because they want to earn the rewards that come with it.
The commitment of achievers is also due to their interest in competition and their desire to achieve their goals, such as beating their top score or reaching the top of the leaderboard. They view accumulating points and ascending through levels as their main objective, and everything else is ultimately subordinate to this.
Called "socializers," this type of player prefers to interact with others to enjoy a community experience where they can support each other if someone is struggling. According to Bartle, this player is therefore looking for social interactions and prefers to play games where they can interact with other players rather than compete against them.
The gaming world is just a setting; it is much more interesting to meet people and get to know them because it is the characters that make it so captivating. Socializers are proud of their friendships, contacts, and influence.
This includes players meeting up with their loved ones to play together, as well as meeting new people online with whom they can play regularly.
These players love to explore all aspects of a game, from how it works to its mechanics to different story elements, and they want to know everything about what they can do in it before moving on to other games.
Real fun only comes from exploring, so they love to explore the world in the game they are playing, looking for interesting things to do and places to go. These budding explorers tend to be less concerned by the competition and more interested in having fun. If you are an explorer, you will probably spend more time interested in the experience and story that the game has to offer.
Some explorers also like the game because it exposes its internal mechanisms to them. Bartle explains that they can be interested in how the game actually works and are looking for interesting and abnormal characteristics, such as bugs.
These players are usually competitive and like to win at all costs. They will therefore seek to compete with other players to defeat them thanks to their skill or their ability to use the tools provided by the game to their advantage.
Killing is then necessary to eliminate rivals or a player who gets in the way, or to win large amounts of points (if points are given for killing other players).
If you are a killer player, you probably don’t worry too much about the game’s design, story, or characters, unlike explorers, but you are the type of player who is more interested in victory.
Richard Bartle has therefore drawn up four player types, each with their own representative characteristics and traits of their enjoyment and commitment to a video game. A simple way to remember them is to compare them to the suits in a conventional deck of cards: the achievers are diamonds (they are always searching for treasure), the explorers are spades (they are searching for information), the socializers are hearts (they have empathy for other players), and the killers are clubs (they attack others).
These four main categories of players will prefer to play different kinds of games, but that doesn’t mean that these profiles are necessarily exclusive. For example, someone who prefers to play as a killer may also like to play as an explorer or achiever at certain times or, depending on the games they play, have different gaming experiences.