Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Timmy, Johnny, and Spike Meet the Bartle Types

I recently noticed an article by Mark Rosewater for Magic: The Gathering in which he discussed player types (or, as Rosewater calls them, psychographic profiles).

This was a December 2006 expansion of a previous article, which proposed three types of playing styles -- that is, three player types -- for Magic: The Gathering: Timmy, Johnny, and Spike. As Rosewater describes these types in the updated article:

Timmy wants to experience something. Timmy plays Magic because he enjoys the feeling he gets when he plays. What that feeling is will vary from Timmy to Timmy, but what all Timmies have in common is that they enjoy the visceral experience of playing.
... Johnny wants to express something. To Johnny, Magic is an opportunity to show the world something about himself, be it how creative he is or how clever he is or how offbeat he is. As such, Johnny is very focused on the customizability of the game. Deck building isn't an aspect of the game to Johnny; it's the aspect.
Spike plays to prove something, primarily to prove how good he is. You see, Spike sees the game as a mental challenge by which he can define and demonstrate his abilities. Spike gets his greatest joy from winning because his motivation is using the game to show what he is capable of. Anything less than success is a failure because that is the yardstick he is judging himself against.
In the update, Rosewater goes on to further break down each of these three styles into four subgroups:

Timmy: Adrenaline Gamers, Power Gamers, Diversity Gamers, Social Gamers

Johnny: Uber Johnnies, Combo Players, Offbeat Designers, Deck Artists

Spike: Analysts, Tuners, Innovators, Nuts & Bolts

Reading the names and descriptions of these subgroups, I had that very familiar feeling of seeing another iteration on the four original player types proposed by Richard Bartle. Each of the four subgroups for all three MtG styles sounded very much like one of the Bartle types, simply zoomed in a bit to be specific to each of the MtG styles.

Based on Rosewater's effectively characterized descriptions of all twelve subgroups, it was surprisingly easy to see each one aligned with one of the Bartle types. (Naturally, that's "Bartle types as I understand them." None of this has been endorsed by Richard; all interpretations and extensions of his player types model described in this blog are my own and should not be blamed on anyone else.)





Goal of Play

Killer [Manipulator]

Adrenaline Gamers

Uber Johnnies


plays for the sensation


Power Gamers

Combo Players


plays for the win


Diversity Gamers

Offbeat Designers


plays for mastery


Social Gamers

Deck Artists

Nuts & Bolts

plays for self-expression

(Note that this chart should be considered an extension of Styles of Play: The Full Chart showing the deep correspondences I believe exist between several theories of personality and player styles.)

As always, it's possible that I'm seeing just what I want to see here. But considering how very neatly each of the four subgroups for the Timmy, Johnny and Spike styles matched up with the four Bartle types (at least to my perception), I have to wonder whether Rosewater deliberately drew from the Bartle types to create the various subgroups.

Whether he consciously adapted the Bartle types to his three-style psychographic model or not, I thought the juxtaposition of these models was interesting enough to be worth mentioning. There are many styles of play for many kinds of games and gamers; I'm fascinated by the possibility that there might be some utility in recognizing four deep patterns of play in particular.

Is Mark Rosewater's assessment of styles of play in Magic: The Gathering yet another confirming instance for this theory?

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