· 14 min read
Understanding Your Audience – Bartle Player Taxonomy
We all know that every player is unique and special, with their own motivations for playing any given game and developing a personalized approach to its ecosystem. However, it’s nearly impossible to assess and cater to each type of personality with every aspect of your game, so it’s necessary to step back, organize, and plan things out a bit. And that starts by understanding what you’re dealing with in regard to your site’s community.
Hence the need for a taxonomy and some kind of assessment system. The Bartle Player Taxonomy or Bartle Player Types are based on character theory and player behavior; the classification is meant to establish player personality types based on behavioral patterns and their goals and motivations for playing the game.
Note that no player fits into one particular category; rather, most players overlap more than one of them. In fact, the graph shown above displays the common overlaps and the behavioral patterns associated with each of them. To go into further detail, these are some of the common characteristics, and the basic activities, behaviors, and playing styles for each type:
- Killers: These players enjoy creating chaos and challenging authority by attempting to alter the functioning of the game’s world and and trying to affect the experience for other players.
- Achievers: Their goal is to accumulate status, loot, and points by winning the various battles within in the game; they tend to follow the game’s rules (unlike the killers).
- Explorers: They want to discover the systems that govern the function of the game world, understand their technicalities and uniquenesses, and learn how to take advantage of them.
- Socializers:They want to form connections with other players by telling stories,sharing tactics, and working together within the game.
Let’s go into a little more detail about each player type.
These are the hackers who want to watch the world burn. Also known as the ones who live to see chaos, and they don’t tend to be too considerate of other players’ experience as long as they win in the end. Defeating bosses, raiding other players, and even figuring out loopholes that let them take further control of the game is the goal.
They don’t care about connecting in the game, unless that serves them particularly well and furthers their agenda. Games that allow for raids, coordination to defeat enemies, and offer abilities to exploit things via cheat codes, easter eggs, and extra loot tend to work for them. They’ll respond to monetization – and anything else – if there is something in it for them. They are driven by the desire to dominate the world around them.
What You Need To Know About Killers
Killers are always looking for bugs to exploit and loopholes in your game, so don’t give them an added advantage unless it’s planned and beneficial for your game otherwise. Beat Killers at their own game with ad formats that they will use in order to gain loot that will give them advantages over other players.
They don’t tend to be the most lucrative players or the best members of the community (they’d rather find a trick or a loophole rather than grind things out or make an in-game purchase), so making a game targeted towards might be interesting but perhaps not financially sound. There’s also so few of them compared to other types, so it would be difficult to build a community.
These players enjoy nothing more than building maps and discovering all the boundaries of any given game. They prize elaborate virtual worlds and enjoy having unique knowledge of a game’s ecosystem that no one else has, creating unique maps of the game and mostly socializing in order to discover more new things and the secrets and intricacies of the world around them in the game.
Explorers are the ultimate insiders, and they don’t tend to care as much about points or winning battles. In their minds, making new discoveries is the prize and goal in and of itself. They enjoy surprises and hidden features like easter eggs, and tend to be the type who will wander around in the game world for hours in search of secret items and experiences.
What You Need To Know About Explorers
Explorers love discovering the unknown and knowing things about the game that no one else does – they are the ultimate insiders! Giving them ways to uncover secrets like new levels, new dimensions or areas of the gaming world, and even loot to unlock will make them connect with your game on a personal level.
Explorers tend to be good members of the community and often share their secrets, maps of the game world, and other tricks with the greater gaming world. These are usually the ones creating tutorials and helping out newbies if there is any way to socialize or communicate with other players.
They can be a profitable aspect of the community in that sense, as well as in the sense that they tend to spend a lot of time in game and wandering around. They are less likely to make in-game purchases – they’d rather discover loot and such on their own rather than spending their way to a massive collection (as opposed to achievers, who will augment their own efforts with cash at times). They tend to be part of the game’s extended social community on forums and social media as well.
These are the teacher’s pets of any given game; they want to be at the top of the leaderboard, collect more points than anyone else, and otherwise having the highest score at the expense of all else including socializing, exploring, and winning battles. It’s all about the status,
In fact, the leaderboard might be the biggest indicator of a game that achievers will be interested in, but a close second will be their own points tally and collection of loot. Achievers can easily be incentivized to view ads, go on long quests (as long it means they get something no one else has), or otherwise grind it out to be at the top of the leaderboard. All they want to do is win!
What You Should Know About Achievers
These players just want to win, whether that means collecting more points, more loot, or being at the top of the leaderboard. The best outfits or the most interesting loot might be valuable to them, but the overall numbers matter most.
Achievers tend to be good players to have in your game’s community, because not only does the aforementioned incentivization work, they tend be pretty consistent about their playing if only to maintain their status as top dog.
Socializers just want to make a connection and all other aspects of gameplay are lesser, especially if they can connect on private channels or through direct messages, or even through social network integration. Socializers tend to make up the vast majority of games in the casual gaming realm; perhaps the biggest and most classic example is Facebook’s Farmville, but many popular mobile games fit the bill as well. Socializers have a lot of empathy for other players and spend a lot of their in-game time chatting and engaging with their fellow players, and less time interacting with the game content itself.
These players derive their primary motivation from interacting with other players and they enjoy collaborating to accomplish quests or build things that they couldn’t on their own. They’re not uncompetitive but they lack the singular drive of the achievers.
What You Should Know About Socializers
Socializers want a way to connect with each other above all else, so in-game channels (probably the best for monetization in most cases) like newsfeeds, friend chats, and contact lists. Make it easy for them and they’ll love your game. They also tend to buy cool outfits and gear – much like we do in the real world, we wear clothes and follow trends to fit in with our peer groups.
Further Defining The Types: Content Versus Control
But what’s more important than understanding the different player types, their characteristics, and how they overlap is understanding how they fit into your game. And that can be learned by understanding the primary interest of each type. To quote Gamesutra, there are two types of primary interest and these can be defined as “content” and “control”.
Players who are primarily interested in content tend to be focused on the actual universe, style, and theme of the game itself, regardless of the actions they can perform in the game itself. On the other hand, control users are more interested into what they can do in the game, and the style and content itself is secondary.
The vertical axis in the Bartle Player type chart above shows the prioritization of control versus content, or acting versus learning about the game’s universe and connecting with other players, and the horizontal axis shows the prioritization of engaging with other players versus within acting or controlling the activity within the game itself.
Keep in mind that no one is completely one type, although most players tend to have a dominant or primary side. And no game community is primarily one type either. It’s been said that Socializers make up 80% of the average game community, and the rest is comprised of 10% each for Achievers and Explorers, and a neglible amount of Killers. This chart lays it out:
|Explorer||10%||Discovery, Helping Others|
Understanding The Origin Of The Bartle Player Taxonomy
In order to fully understand the thought process behind the Bartle Player Taxonomy, you need to understand how it was created. So let’s go back to the beginning – the concept was initially created as the result of the Bartle Test on Gamer Psychology, which was created in 1999 as a way to test out Richard Bartle’s player types theory developed as he created MUD (multi-user dungeons).
A group of players took a randomized thirty question quiz that was designed to assess their goals and motivations for playing the game and behavior within the game itself. It has a 200% scoring system with no one category scoring more than 100%; for example, one player could be 80% Explorer, 60% Socializer, 30% Achiever, and 30% Killer. This test has been taken hundreds of thousands of times by gamers. Curious about which player type you are? Take the quiz yourself! Or watch the video to get more background on Bartle types.
Are There Ideal Bartle Player Types For Your Game?
There’s not really one correct answer when it comes to deciding how the Bartle types and player personalities affect the growth and success of your game; on the contrary, you likely need a mix of player types for the game to have a healthy ecosystem or community. And furthermore, players tend to belong to one primary category, but float in between the other types as their mood changes or the game play situation shifts. Each player tends to generate a different type of interaction within the game, as outlined by Amy Jo Kim’s social interaction matrix:
There’s no one-to-one connection between the social interaction matrix and the Bartle Player Type Matrix, but there are certain commonalities. The Explorer aligns with the Explore cluster of behaviors, the Compete lines up with Achievers, Collaborate with Socializers, and Create somewhat aligns with Killers, although the actual behaviors are different (creating chaos is still creation after all, but Killers aren’t exactly decorators or designers).
Also keep in mind that these categories cross-pollinate, like the Bartle Player types. For instance, explorers tend to collaborate to share their findings and make new discoveries, while Killers and Achievers both like to compete. No single player’s behavior will fall into any section of this matrix either.
The Types Of Games That Attract Different Player Types
That said, there are certain types of games that tend to attract the different player types, and the ability to fine-tune and monetize a game through personalized on-boarding experiences, retaining each type by directing towards the playing experience that they find the most meaningful, and by carefully calibrating the balance of different player types in the game’s community. And again, remember that there is a general balance of player types in the gaming world, and the breakdown is as followers.
- 80% Socializers
- 10% Achievers
- 10% Explorers
- 1% Killers
Since the vast majority of the gaming world is there to socialize, connect, and accomplish things together, it makes sense to focus on the socializers and the rest of the types will follow naturally (although maybe catering to the killers is either a very good or very bad idea, depending on your game). And naturally your community will likely be made up of mostly explorers anyways.
What The Bartle Player Taxonomy Means For Your Game
So what does this all mean for game developers? Playing attention to the different personality types and what works for them within your game is key to properly using the knowledge that you get from understanding Bartle Player Types, and it’s a logical part of community building in general, whether it’s game-based or not.
For instance, points gained and leaderboards obviously tend to work for achievers, while a social media connection might resonate with socializers. Explorers are a little more difficult to cater to, since they want to explore a broader universe and are not necessarily as reward-driven; this means they might not be as satisfied with casual gaming that’s based on achievement (standard gamification) and spending time “grinding” to collect points or another reward.
On the other hand, achievers will be fine with that, and socializers and killers might be as well, especially if they can just buy the rewards our points (in-game-purchases) that achievers usually prefer to work for. Killers might be the wild card in this case though since they thrive on chaos and destruction. But that said, for some types of games this can work well! It’s very much a game of knowing your audience and applying ad formats to monetize your game accordingly.
The Relevancy Of Bartle Player Taxonomy For Different Types Of Games
Simple casual games tend to work for achievers and socializers (for the latter, they need a social connection after all); while more complex games are favored by explorers. In fact, going after the former two types and primarily socializers probably makes the most sense if you’re building a casual mobile game. Killers tend to be attracted to wherever they can create the most chaos, after all, they crave change whether it’s positive or negative. You probably don’t want to generate a crowd of Killers, however.
On the other hand, the more complex your game, the richer the fabric of the tapestry that makes up your community needs to be. And also keep in mind that no one’s personality is made up of only one type – like in the real world, our gamer personalities have many facets. In fact, as mentioned above, no one is 100% any one type! Overwrought metaphors aside, variety is the spice of complicated gaming life, but understanding the various Bartle types and how they relate to your community is essential for today’s game development world.
On a related note, what is your Bartle type? Take the quiz and share in the comments!