inventing new player types outside the bartle taxonomy’s four
In 1996, co-creator of the first Multi-User Dungeon game (MUD) Richard Bartle published his theory of four player types. With his theory outlining the motivations of and interactions between achievers, explorers, killers and socialisers1, Bartle set a standard for the game design of MUDs and Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs or MMOs).
Previously, I wrote about the limitations of Bartle’s taxonomy. In particular, the four player types may not be applicable when starting to design a game, especially one that is not an MMO.
Bartle himself was vocal about the possible misuse of his theory. In a 2012 talk, he cautions that designing based on player types can limit a game’s players by “herding” players into his four predetermined player types.
Then, you suddenly stop designing whatever you were and start designing an MMO.
— Richard Bartle, “Player Type Theory: Uses and Abuses2
Hence, I suggested that game designers develop their own intuition and discover specific player types in their games. These player types may overlap with Bartle’s four, or they could be completely different.
Determining your own player types can be intimidating. That’s why in this post, I will provide a few examples of invented player types outside of Bartle’s Taxonomy. Based on my observations playing these games, I will discuss what each does to encourage a certain type of players.
I don’t have the years of research or study to back these as “official” player types or put them in a convenient framework. I’m also seeing these games from a player’s perspective, not from the designer’s.
However, these examples show that designers don’t need to come up with a complicated player type theory to better design games for their players. Simply by observation, game designers can identify their game’s player types and use their characteristics to find ways to engage their core audience.
Examples of Other Player Types in Games
1. Collector Player Type in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
For most of my ample time playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I’ve focused on one thing alone: collecting Korok seeds. The 900 Koroks hidden and in plain sight around Breath of the Wild’s map have been my sole objective, surpassing all others.
My invented “collector” player type differs slightly from Bartle’s achiever player type. I don’t collect different types of things, only Korok seeds. And I don’t trade the Korok seeds in to get additional inventory slots.
Also, I’m not as interested in getting the 900/900 as I am in actually finding the Koroks and performing the tasks to get the seeds. As the number of seeds unfound in the wild dwindles, I’m sad that there are fewer for me to discover rather than happy that I have more of them ticked off my list.
Breath of the Wild supports collectors of Korok seeds by greatly varying the tasks required to get these seeds. Some of them just require climbing to the top of a hill, while others require battling monsters, finding specific items, going on mini quests, or solving puzzles using pieces of the environment. There are even skill-based tasks like shooting arrows, or having enough stamina to float out to a spot in the distance.
This means that collectors are drawn into other parts of the game that help them gain the abilities or materials needed to find Koroks. Players who want to find Koroks need to be explorers, combatants and puzzle-solvers at different points, which makes the task of collecting more interesting.
The varied tasks and difficulty levels also go with the dispersed location of the Korok seeds, which are scattered all over the map. While Korok-finding can be the main task, Breath of the Wild does a lot to encourage these players to engage with other parts of the game, picking up traits of other kinds of player types, too. This increases playtime and longevity in the game.
2. Gambler Player Type in Teamfight Tactics
A while ago, I wrote about my trouble understanding my motivation in Teamfight Tactics. Despite this, I’ve continued playing the game on and off.
Only recently, I’ve found that I tend to spend my games rolling to try and get the ultimate team on the board. It’s more important to me to create a team of champions with cool synergies than to win. And so, having the game end early for me if I’m not ahead is frustrating because I’d be in the middle of trying to get the perfect team.
This type of player in Teamfight Tactics can be called the gambler. The thrill for a gambler is rolling for champions, and hoping to get the ones they need.
Teamfight Tactics has made some great moves to improve the experience for gamblers. First, they introduced a new mode called Hyper Roll in 2021. This mode is a faster, slimmed down version of Teamfight Tactics that focuses on rolling for champions. Needless to say, it’s a great way to play Teamfight Tactics for gamblers.
Additionally, later modes of Teamfight Tactics have had different perks that improve the staying power of players in the game. Special bonuses can heal your character between turns, or buff units that don’t have items or traits activated. This makes it so even when you’re lagging on the leaderboard, it’s possible to continue building the team you want.
3. Observer Player Type in Untitled Goose Game
One interesting player type to include is the observer. As video games have drawn spectators from the couch to streaming platforms like Twitch, I think it’s important to include a player type who is invested in watching the game.
Observers like feeling a part of the action without actually playing. It’s fair to include them as a type of player to appeal to, as they can be a large part of a game’s success. A game like Untitled Goose Game is built for spectators and friends calling out suggestions or laughing at key moments. Designing for observers made the game popular as a talking point as well as fun to enjoy with friends.
Player Types is Not an Exact Science
These three player types were invented based on my observations of different games. It can be this simple to identify the motivations of players in games, making finding your own game’s player types a less daunting task.
While Bartle’s Taxonomy may be a good framework for identifying player types in MMOs, it’s not an exact science for all games. Even the players who match several characteristics of one of Bartle’s types may have other traits specific to your game.
I hope my informal observations can help designers identify player types outside Bartle’s Taxonomy in games they play and create. By doing so, they can learn how these games can be designed to better cater to the people having fun playing them.
- Bartle, Richard. “Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs.” Journal of MUD Research 1.1 (1996): 19. Web. 22 January 2022.
- Bartle, Richard. “Player Type Theory: Uses and Abuses.” Casual Connect Europe 2012. GameDaily Connect, 11 March 2012. Web. 22 January 2022.