A Genealogy of Gamers

I found this interesting post via Kotaku. It's an attempt to classify gamers and gaming styles into different types. The author, Christ Bateman, identifies nine types of gamers, but allows that the list is only tentative and could expand or contract. Further, he implies in his self-description at the end that the categories are not intended to be exclusive and that gamers can be classified as hybrid types.

I find the list fascinating, and am now inclined to read up on some of the theoretical material that he mentions at the start of the article and that I didn't really understand. Some of the categories definitely struck a chord with me as accurate descriptions of the way I approach certain games, while others that didn't necessarily describe what I experience echoed the sentiments I've heard from others in describing games.

What I find most interesting is that, while I would describe myself as a hybrid of several of the player types, I seldom think of myself as fitting more than one type for any given game. Thus, certain strategy and RPG games I will play as a Manager, where I'm less interested in the game itself than I am in the way that the game is constructed. But other RPGs, particularly Final Fantasy and similar Japanese RPGs, I experience as a Wanderer. When I play those games I'm more interested in the plot than I am in the actual gameplay, which I tend to view as an inconvenience on the road to more plot.

My experience with Final Fantasy X is a good example of two different way of approaching the same game. As you know, Bob, modern Final Fantasy games tend to be rigidly linear until the very end, at which point a vast array of entirely optional side-quests open up. At this point you have two options: Spend 100 hours trying to force your way through the final dungeon and complete the game with a barely-powerful-enough party, or spend 100 hours playing underwater soccer and hunting for treasures on giant chickens, thereby acquiring skills that make your party so powerful that it can blast through the final dungeon in minutes.

When I reached the end of Final Fantasy X I was primarily interested in seeing the end of the story. Thus, in the hopes that I would get lucky and break through that last boss without spending hours on underwater soccer, I tried to muscle through the last boss without any side questing. It took about a dozen attempts, but eventually I got lucky and finished the game. Some time thereafter my roommate played through FFX. He got to the end game and immediately started in on all the side quests, the soccer, the arena battles, the optional bosses that are 100 times more powerful than the final boss, the insane game where you have to dodge random lightning bolts 100 times in a row. Eventually he got everything, maxed out all of the characters, beat every optional boss... and quit. He never went through the motions of actually finishing the game, even though the ultimate battle of good versus evil would have only lasted two hits: Him hitting the boss and the boss hitting the floor. For him, the plot was entirely inconsequential. The meat of the game was the actual gameplay and the collecting element at the end.

What I really like about this article is that it puts into words something I've noticed before but never really articulated: the variety of ways that different players interact with a game. What's always struck me as interesting is the way that two people, similar enough to like video games and even similar enough to like the same game, can like that game for entirely different reasons and can approach it from opposite angles. When I played FFX I played it in Wanderer mode; my roommate played it in Hoarder mode.

What's also fascinating is that not only does a given game trigger different play styles in different players, but that the same player might have different play styles activated by different games. Building on my example: I enjoyed FFX as a Wanderer while my roommate enjoyed it as a Hoarder. But it wouldn't be accurate to say that that's because I AM a Wanderer and he IS a Hoarder. When I played through Zelda: Twilight Princess I became obsessed with completion, to the point where I finished the 100-level bonus dungeon in order to get a power-up that I didn't really need to finish the game. For whatever reason Zelda triggered my Hoarder type, where Final Fantasy X triggered my Wanderer type.

It would be interesting to see, if you had a gestalt game that can be reasonably approached from different angles, if it is possible to step back, recognize the different angles, and force yourself to make a gestalt switch. Could I go back and play FFX and appreciate it as a Hoarder? Can I dynamically alter my experience of a game as I'm playing it? Could I, for instance, play half-way through Xenosaga and then say to myself, "Well, this plot is utterly vapid. I'll resolve to go make myself a sandwich while the players talk and focus exclusively on the character development/collection aspects of the game" and turn it from a bad Wanderer experience into a good Hoarder experience?

In terms of how I would describe myself according to the types listed, I would say I'm mostly a Wanderer or Manager. I occasionally have my Hoarding instincts awoken by just the right game, and I also tend to unfortunately Hoardish tendences when playing Real Time Strategy games. Certain puzzle games put me in Zoner mode, as well as some side-scrolling shooters like Gradius V. Interestingly, while I tend not to be a Conqueror generally I enter that mode when I play old video games. Perhaps I'm reverting to a previous type that I identify with the games of my childhood. Finally, while the list is focused on video gamers I find that I'm a Participant when it comes to board games. I'm less interested in winning board games than I am in being around people who are enjoying a game.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on May 6, 2007 9:44 PM.

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