Last week we had an interesting thread where we played around with and discussed a Myers-Briggs style personality inventory targeted at identifying what type of gamer a person was. While it definitely seemed clear that the design of the test was flawed (or at least needed a few more rounds of iteration to begin to be useful), it certainly brought to the top of my mind an interest in finding new ways to classify the basic drives that cause us to have differing tastes in games.
So this morning I was listening to an interview with N'Gai Croal on the Brainy Gamer podcast and among many other very interesting things they briefly mentioned a series of blog posts by Mitch Krpata from earlier this year called A New Taxonomy of Gamers.
The basic gist of the series is that the commonly used categories of "hardcore" and "casual" used to classify games and the people who play them are inadequate, and that new vocabulary would be useful when people make an effort at understanding both the tastes of gamers and how games work to appeal to them. While Krpata doesn't attempt to formulate a comprehensive personality inventory like the Myers-Briggs thing from last week or a comprehensive anything else for that matter, he does suggest a new set of descriptors that I found to be rather insightful.
The basic thesis of his essay is the following:
There are two fundamental reasons people play games. They're not mutually exclusive, but they are separate. Some people play to master a game -- to perfect its mechanics, to explore every inch of the game world. Some play to "see the sights" -- to hit the high points and not get too caught up in the minutiae. Let's call these groups "Skill Players" and "Tourists."
He later further breaks down the "skill player" descriptor in the following way:
It may be that Skill Players themselves, while broadly similar, have different motivations for playing games, and can be further classified into two more similar but distinct groups: Completists and Perfectionists.
And finally, he adds a finance/value axis to his set of descriptors setting at one end of the spectrum "wholesale players" and "premium players" at the other:
Any bad game is a waste of money (although you could argue that many games become more attractive in the bargain bin). Not all good games provide an equal value for your gaming dollar -- but your idea of value depends on the worth you ascribe to your own time. Someone who levies the "good and too short" criticism wants to minimize his dollar cost per hour, and considers value through that lens. A 10-hour game that retails for sixty bucks is worth $6 per hour. A 40-hour game at the same price costs only $1.50 per hour -- a relative bargain.
That calculus only works if your time is worth similarly little. That's not meant to sound as brutal as it does. It just means that a person who has forty hours to commit to a single game is selling their own time in bulk, and can afford to charge less for it. Consider now the person for whom gaming time is at a premium: it may be a better value to them to pay more per hour of gameplay, because otherwise they're not actually getting what they paid for -- they may play half of a $60 game, or $30 worth. We'll delve a little more deeply into this matter in the next case study. For now, we need to think of what to call these people.
Again, while he doesn't endeavor to provide an exhaustive new language for describing gaming tastes and tendencies, he does do an excellent job of showing how using and understanding the implications of these descriptors can go a long way towards understanding differences in opinion that may otherwise seem intractably perplexing. For example, I personally am equal parts tourist and completist, with sensibilities leaning towards the premium side of his value axis. Recognizing and understanding this put a fine point on the differences in tastes I have with folks who I regularly game with who share an equal level of tourist tendencies but lean towards perfectionism rather than completism, and wholesale rather than premium values.
Anyway, give it a read -- I'm sure many of you will get as much out of it as I did.