Four friends sit down for a marathon night playing My Fantasy Village Is Better Than Yours (never heard of it? It’s okay – me neither. Stick with me). First game, Sue won. Her classic, tried-and-true strategy of gather resources, build your buildings, raise an army, and raid the enemy proved to be superior. Second game, BUTCH (and yes, he insists you capitalize it) raised enough sheep to support his hulking squad of mountain giants, which then proceeded to flatten the other three villages without much resistance. In the third game, Aimeyj (pronounced “Amy”) looked like she was not accomplishing much until her elite taskforce of elven rangers stopped up the enemy food supply, cut off trade routes, and assassinated the generals to lead to an unmistakable victory. The last game, well, Sue won again. The fourth player, Raphael, didn’t win all night. But he did have the coolest village, complete with a fully-upgraded blacksmith and a fountain.
Here’s why these gamer friends matter to you:
They represent the four types of hobby gamers, and the most successful games will offer something to each of them.
I believe it is our responsibility as game makers to consider how our game might be played, and make sure that fun can be had by more than one type of gamer.
Now, the concept of gamer types is not original to me. Mark Rosewater, head designer for Magic: the Gathering, fleshed out three basic types of Magic Players. You can (and should) read his thoughts here when you have a minute.
Today, I’ve expanded the idea to discuss hobby gamers as a whole. I’ve added a fourth type of player I’ve found around the table, and changed the names to protect the innocent.
When Sue sits down to a game, she immediately starts calculating the most direct path to victory. Do you win by getting the most victory points? Sue will find the safest way to get victory points–she doesn’t take a whole lot of risks. Sue is the standard play-to-win gamer. Consequently, she needs to know all of the cards and options at her disposal. When learning the game, the rulebook will be at her side. You may find yourself waiting for her to take her turn as she analyzes the text on each card that passes through her hand and is played on the table. She’s meticulous, but you can’t argue the results. Her win record speaks for itself. She doesn’t have to win by much; she just has to win.
Not so with BUTCH. BUTCH wants to win, but he wants you to lose by an embarrassingly huge margin. Such a victory doesn’t come easily, however, so BUTCH will take some major risks in order to find that power card. If he can’t quite play the devastating combo, the next best thing will be an aggressive attempt to make you lose points or resources. BUTCH doesn’t win nearly as much as Sue does. But BUTCH’s victories are big ones–the ones you remember and talk about at future game nights (and if you don’t remember and talk about them, I bet he will).
Aimeyj (again, pronounced Amy) aims to win as unconventionally as her name is spelled. Playing this game is an opportunity to show how creative and clever she is. Is there a card or location that isn’t typically used? Leave it to Aimeyj to craft a winning strategy around it. Of course, it won’t happen very often. But one win is plenty. She proved she could do it. Now on to the next unconventional win.
Raphael sits down to the table to experience the game. He wants to immerse himself in the world it creates. If he is building a civilization, his civilization will be realistic and balanced–a little bit of everything. If the game involves exploration, he will explore every tile. He wants to try a piece of everything the game has to offer, disregarding its viability to win in the long run. When it comes down to choosing between two options, Raphael will pass up the “best” card (strategically speaking) for the new card. Sue, being of the opposite mind, will beat Raphael almost every time. At the end of the night, Raphael probably didn’t win that much. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t have fun. In fact, he might have had the most fun.
Do you recognize yourself in one of these descriptions? Maybe a combination of two? Let us know where you fall, and hang onto that thought. Recognizing these gamer types has implications in not only designing for them but also designing as them. Stay tuned for an upcoming article where we can get into more detail about design.
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There’s actually a school of thought in sales/marketing around persona-based sales efforts that almost hits this on the nose. Sue’s your stereotypical Methodical buyer. She’s logical, but slow, and want to consider every piece. BUTCH is a Competitve buyer is logical and fast – they want to know the best thing to do RIGHT NOW and they want to feel superior for doing it. Aimeyj is Spontaneous – choosing something based on what feels right in the moment without too much thought into the rest. And Raphael’s Humanistic – he wants to take his time to feel out every aspect, and focuses on the emotional experience of the game.
You could probably apply this break down to almost any group you’re in – PTA, Book Reading Club, Bicycle Club, etc. Good post, Mike!
Interesting stuff! I had to admit to myself I am an Aimeyj here. Well, and a mix of Raphael. (designer side) I live for those combos. Lords of Waterdeep – plot quests, guilty! Winning that way feels so awesome. But fails a lot. So I guess I don’t play to win…
However, if I look at Christina’s comment on buying, I’m not an Aimeyj with my wallet. Or maybe I am, thank goodness for the game stores out there so I can get a game TODAY.
I bristled at “Sue” because I think “JR” is a more efficient way to name that archetype.
I think these map fairly well to Richard Bartle’s player types, first outlined in 1996:
Sue is a Achiever/Diamond. She is drawn to the prestige of winning.
BUTCH is a Killer/Club. He plays games for the thrill of dominating other players.
Aimeyj is an Explorer/Spade. She plays games because they tickle her brain. She likes figuring out what makes games tick.
Raphael is a Socializer/Heart. He plays games for the joy of the interactive experience.
Obviously, it isn’t a perfect one-to-one match–Raphael has elements of a Spade in him, for instance–but I think it’s interesting to note how similar your psychographics are to Bartle’s classic ones! Thanks for sharing your ideas.