How to stereotype gamers

Woah, hang on. Before we even start, isn’t stereotyping a bad thing? It’s supposedly a very narrow perspective that only close minded individuals adopt, right?

Now, imagine walking down an aisle in your grocery store. Then you realise that everything is not labeled or categorized – it’s just heaps and heaps of unrelated items stacked upon one another. Categorizing is one of the several necessary responses to the variety of which nature presents to us. Everything can be sorted, grouped and categorized. To make sense of the mess, we form categories that allow us to organize the world into arrays of information. They help us understand the world better and easier.

For the sake of discussion, let us define “stereotypes” in accordance with –

a simplified and standardized conception or image invested with special meaning and held in common by members of a group

Now, go back to that grocery store again. You’re on an errand to pick up some apples. Would you pick up each an every apple and examine them for their unique and special characteristics, while taking into account their sensitivities?

“But humans are no groceries!”

Of course they’re not.
But I still don’t think stereotyping is inherently wrong – it is the way it is being used that is causing problems. In dealing with humans, we should always try to gather more information on the subject individual first before drawing to conclusions.

Stereotyping isn’t always correct, but that does not mean we should stop doing so either.

Let’s say you’re walking home at 2am after a night-shift, and in the distance you spot a rowdy group of males sporting strange variants of hairstyles that’d never make it into the office. As they puff out smoke from their cigarettes and took a swig of what you presume was liquor.

What would you do?

Would you continue walking down the alleyway in-spite of what you witnessed from a distance? Or would you sort their behavior and appearance into arbitrary categories that hint at you to avoid them and take a different route home? Stereotyping is normal, but you risk diminishing an individual’s potential as you deny them any chance of redemption from whatever stereotype you just conveniently condemned them to.


So bear in mind that stereotypes are merely attempts to grasp phenomena that happen sporadically. Most of them, at their very best, are backed up with a some probabilistic inferences while others are just arbitrarily reasoned discrimination with questionable logical leaps.

I think I’ve sidetracked long enough, this is still a game oriented site at the end of the day. But I hope that, however complex both the question and my standpoint is, it would provide assistance to the points I’m about to propose.


Casuals vs Hardcore

For far too long have gamers fought amongst themselves – the wars between casuals and hardcore gamers wedged crevasses within our own ranks and drove our own apart from each other. We were broken, torn apart;all the while fighting for identity, it seemed like we have lost our own.
//End over dramatic narration.

Then again, how do we go about categorizing gamers? Are the labels “Casual” and “Hardcore” enough? Casual being consumers who largely spend their time playing Peggle Extreme and various point-and-click adventures, and Hardcore being those who play the most high-end AAA releases on their water-cooled PC.

But with most of the categorization finding itself being used in internet memes and lazy, sweeping generalizations, what good could categorizing gamers do?
I’m not trying to be pretentious or anything, but it certainly made my understand myself a little better.

So anyway…pretty please, keep on reading 🙂

Let’s get acquainted with the Bartle’s Model:

Bartle's Model, in discussion of gamer types.
Bartle’s Model, in discussion of gamer types.
  • Killers like to provoke and cause drama and/or impose them over other players in the scope provided by the virtual world. Trolls, hackers, cheaters, and attention farmers belong in this category, along with the most ferocious and skillful PvP (player versus player) opponents.
  • Achievers are competitive and enjoy beating difficult challenges whether they are set by the game or by themselves. The more challenging the goal, the most rewarded they tend to feel.
  • Explorers like to explore the world – not just its geography but also the finer details of the game mechanics. These players may end up knowing how the game works and behave better than the game creators themselves. They know all the mechanics, short-cuts, tricks, and glitches that there are to know in the game and thrive on discovering more.
  • Socializers are often more interested in having relations with the other players than playing the game itself. They help to spread knowledge and a human feel, and are often involved in the community aspect of the game (by means of managing guilds or role-playing, for instance).

You can take the test here.
I got SEAK, a pretty satisfying result given the limited answer choices we have.

Making use of this information

Bartle’s test implies that there are 4 different types of gamers. And how will this new found information help us? It’s not like I’m going grocery shopping, am I?
Apart from being a test result you can share around on Facebook and Twitter, the quiz is largely useless to consumers. But for game developers, it prompts the question – how can you design a game that appeals to all of the 4 types?

Consider an in game achievement, where you are rewarded with a special wearable headgear after exploring every single continent. But you can buy this headgear in the market, Now the Achiever and the Explorer’s efforts have been undermined. Or a game, where you can buy “popularity” (haven’t seen this one yet), what would be left to the Socialisers?

Or perhaps a MMORPG where everything can simply be done by a one person grindfest, and joining a party reaps no significant benefits other than companionship in itself, how would your game fare to socialisers?

Remains of the day

The theory of gamer types can serve as a guideline in designing your next game, and reminding you that at the end of the day, you’re still making a game for human players. Then again, don’t overstretch yourself by implementing features that have no appeal to your intended audience.

I don’t need matchmaking system, nor do I need to know how fast another player completed a game based largely around a strong narrative. And sometimes, multiplayer can be a cancerous growth.

Thank you for reading, and I apologise for my inability to articulate a coherent position here.
This is an article written by PP1MT
And is free for sharing, reblog and commerical reuses as long as due credit is given.
He is also very curious about your Bartle’s Test results!

13 thoughts on “How to stereotype gamers

  1. I like your intro a lot. Stereotyping is such a charged word that people don’t necessarily read into the context of it and think about the categorizing value of it. Because the word gets such an emotional reaction I try to stick to synonyms but it was cool to see you confront that idea.

    The test was pretty neat. I’m not an MMO player so it was a little hard for me since it was clearly geared towards MMOs but I had best estimates. It mostly was hard for the straight PVP style questions because that has a very distinct meaning and feel in MMOs that I would imagine I wouldn’t get that into, but without playing one it is hard to say.

    I like the idea of gaming frameworks a lot. My brother wrote a piece a bit back talking about core aesthetics as laid out in MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research, which has ultimately inspired our newest column where we try to rate games on these Aesthetics. My hope is to maybe make a similar kind of test simply by aggregating what games people liked and linking to this database of core aesthetics.

    One thing I would note in addition to what you said: you pointed out the concept of trying to appease all 4. I think in some cases this may be good, but also there is a lot of value in isolating which of the 4 you really want to capture with your game and then go for niche marketing. Make a game that is amazing for Explorers and Achievers, for example and really try to capture that market.


    1. Wow, sorry for the late reply. That was a very illuminating article! That Extracredits channel was very, very enlightening. I think I burned about an hour on it.

      Oh well, games like COD is designed and marketed to a certain type of gamers, and things have worked out pretty well for them. It’s not about pleasing everyone, right?

  2. I think stereotypes are perfectly fine if they’re not used in a bad way, but I’m glad to see you used more than the typical “hardcore/casual”. Those two categories are so broad and vague–and what if you’re both, depending on the situation? Good to see greater variety 🙂

    I got E.S.K.A. on the test. I was a little surprised that killer was before achiever, but then again, I do sometimes fall prey to a thirst for revenge. So I guess it makes sense after all 😛

    1. Well… to be honest, I still don’t think Bartle’s 4 types is able to answer for all types of gamers – which could be the nature of stereotypes itself. They will attempt to grasp the phenomena, but will never be able to capture it in full entirety and complexity.

      Haha yeah! My own test results came as a surprise to me as well. I couldn’t agree entirely, but I could still identify with the results.

      1. No, they probably aren’t, but I think all we can do is get as close as possible, and then just admit that there’s no way to account for everyone. Sometimes near-perfect is the only kind of perfect we’ve got.

  3. I got more or less what I expected (explorer>socializer>achiever>killer). Would like to see something more like the Big 5 test – this had percentages, which is good, but the more detailed the tests, the more we can get out of them =)

    1. Yeah, the Bartle Test had a whole wikipedia article up for them, and have been quoted a number of times on numerous ludology articles. I too expected the test to have more than just two choices, haha!

  4. EASK for me. Surprising, because I thought I’d be higher on the social aspect! Although it’s true, sometimes groups annoy me and I like to go after things alone. Very interesting post, as usual!

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