What Kind Of Gamers Are We?

Earlier this week when he was talking about Skyrim's new house-building downloadable content Hearthfire, Jason brought up Richard Bartle's "Four types of video game players".

The Explorer, the Socialiser, the Killer and the Achiever. The names are rather self-explanatory: the Explorer loves to wander; the Socialiser loves to chat; the Killer loves to compete; and the Achiever loves to rack up points and trophies, even when they might seem arbitrary to everyone else.

That reminded me of critic/blogger Mitch Krpata's smart "New Taxonomy of Gamers" from back in 2008. In that series, Krpata argues that we should forget about "hardcore" and "casual" signifiers and focus on the real two types of gamers:

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".

"Skill Players" is a nice, literal designation that I think will make sense immediately. We're talking about people for whom the appeal of a video game is becoming an expert at it. People who hanker for high scores and unlockables. These are the guys who pursue achievement points long after beating the main campaign of a game, because, to them, completing the story isn't the real purpose of the game. Genre may be less important to these gamers than simply having a challenge to overcome.

"Tourists" is more euphemistic, but I think it carries the right connotations. Imagine somebody visiting France for the first time. They want to see the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, and the Louvre. They don't speak the language or know the streets, and they don't much care. As long as they can get where they're going, they're not interested in experiencing what a native might call the "real" Paris.

And when the trip is done, they probably won't be heading back to France any time soon to find some hidden gem of a crêperie. Instead, the tourist wants to go to China to see the Great Wall. The Tourist gamer is the same way: "beating" a game is more about checking off the big moments than earning a 100 per cent completion rate.

In the series, (which seriously, you should go read), Krpata elaborates on those concepts further. For example, a Skill Player goes for a high score on expert difficult in Guitar Hero, while a Tourist simply wants to play all of the songs. In a nice piece of observation, he sums it up by saying that a Skill Player activates star power by pressing the select button, while a tourist activates it by tilting the guitar, which is less precise but more fun.

I've been playing so many games recently (and over the past year while working at Kotaku) that it's fun to come back to Krpata's taxonomy and Bartle's four types and re-identify what kind of gamer I am. I'm definitely a Tourist, though certain games can inspire my inner Skill Player.

As I play Guild Wars 2, I don't care much about min/maxing my character or levelling quickly — I want to see as much of the world as possible, and my main motivation for levelling up is so that I can check out new abilities. The same thing goes for Darksiders II, Sleeping Dogs, Mark of the Ninja, and every other game I'm playing right now. I guess on Bartle's scale, I'm an Explorer and a bit of an Achiever. But I must say, the Achiever side has gotten more powerful over the past year, and a little bit of Killer has started creeping in.

It's fun to re-visit this question every so often and look at why we play what we play. So, what about you? Are you a Tourist Achiever, or a Killer who likes to Explore? Do certain games bring out a different side of you? And as time passes, do you find that the way you play games changes?

A New Taxonomy of Gamers [Insult Swordfighting]


    That header image is a little jarring and familiar. :P

    Well I enjoy looking for easter eggs. I considered myself an Eggster for some time. Maybe I should switch to the term explorer? :D

    Unless you play Halo. Then the "Skill Player" is the guy who removes 95% of the game and masters only one weapon.

      Yah, when you talk about competitive multiplayer there's only one goal, so the tree of exploration is replaced by refining everything down to being the first person to get to the sniper rifle.

    I'm definitely an explorer. I hate socializing in games, I don't really care about completing games (I don't want the game to be over!), and I couldn't care less about achievements, 100%ing and all that. I take my time with every game and just enjoy it and find everything around me.

    I thought this was TAY again and now I'm scared and confused.

    What if you play japanese pornographic eroge games?

    I dont feel i fit into any category.

    I don't want to be generalized into to a statistical '1-of-4' groups.

    I play my games in my own way just the way I like it (or as much as a game will allow me), and I'm sure many other gamers play their own way they want to as well.

      I agree. I feel that generalizing people in a way like this is silly for a number of reasons, the most striking, that I find most people play games, and play them how they want to for more personal reasons than these kind of thing implies, and I also reckon people change their gameplay styles depending on the game itself.

        Explorer, the Socialiser, the Killer and the Achiever.
        I play JRPGs to Achieve and explore
        W RPGs to explore and achieve
        Shooters to kill, and sometimes to explore
        RTS to kill explore, achieve and kill
        MOBA to kill and socialise
        Fighting to explore and socalise
        Platformers to explore

        I guess it does change according to game.

    Wow, I am legitimately all 4 of these.

    The explorer: This is my main quality. Sometimes I load up Skyrim and explore and take screen -grabs and soak up all the world. I love to wander every cave and place and see everything. When I'm playing Gears or Halo I'll stop and examine all the plantlife and interact with every part of the environment.

    Socialiser: Other times I cannot play unless connected to a party. I can spend hours chatting with mates. the first thing I do is check my friends list every time. My close group of online buddies coordinate and buy all the same games and play co-op as much as possible.

    The Killer: I am a sore loser. I religiously check my K/D and scream through the mic. I watch MLG vids and take time to get as many hints and tips as I can and we try really hard to coordinate our strategies in online games.

    the Achiever: I have platinum on every single track in Trials HD and Trials Evolution. I will play a tack for 4 hours straight to get a platinum, day in and day out. It burns me that I don't have the last achievement on Halo Wars. In some games I'll exploit and boost and do anything possible, even buy DLC, just to achieve 100% in a game.

    I sometimes play for story, I sometimes play for challenge and sometimes I play for other reasons.
    I don't really fit into any of those categories.
    Man, this is the second time I've been called a non-gamer on this site. =P

      You could say they are calling you an omnigamer. You are ALL THE GAMERS!

    Definitely a socialiser. These days I don't have enough time to explore every nook and cranny and as a result I get more enjoyment on Skype/mumble having fun with mates

    I'm the kind of gamer that doesn't need to label themselves as any kind of gamer.

    I am a skillgamer and I can't wrap my head around not using the tilt in Guitar Hero. I find trying to hit another button far too disruptive to trying to play the song. Whereas tilting my entire body over, I can continue to play like nothing's happened.

    I like challenging games such as Demons/Dark Souls. All it needs is to be easier. GEE THANKS FROM FOR THINKING ABOUT THIS IN FUTURE GAMES! /sarcasm.

    ((Also, 100% aware it was a 'mis-translation'. Hopefully after seeing the mess that idea created, they will never do it. Although, it still went to OC...))

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now