Friday, October 23, 2009

Bartle, Keirsey, and Chris Bateman's DGD1 Gamer Demographic Model


On the advice of Richard Bartle, I picked up the book 21st-Century Game Design edited by Chris Bateman.

This book, in addition to later chapters on general game design, begins with a section that discusses playstyles. More specifically, it explores a "demographic game design" model (DGD1) of gameplay preferences and suggests how this model relates not only to the original four Bartle Types, but to Myers-Briggs personality types and Keirseian temperaments as well.

After working through the concepts, I believe I've been able to how the DGD1 model of play fits into the Myers-Briggs/Keirsey model of general personality. And if my notion that the Bartle types are an alternative formulation of the playstyle theories and models of Caillois, Lazzaro, and Edwards (among others), then the DGD1 model can be seen to integrate with those explanatory systems as well.

Before I go any further with this, I should note that I'm not forcibly wedging the DGD1 model into my own current articles of faith regarding a sort of One True Model of playstyles. Chris Bateman himself has provided the Myers-Briggs types and Keirseian temperament associations with the four proposed DGD1 playstyles -- in what follows, I am simply providing a visual representation of those claims.

Later on I'll have some comments that might fall into the category of original research; when that happens I'll clearly flag them as such.

The Demographic Game Design (DGD1) Model

Chris Bateman's DGD1 model begins by noting that certain Myers-Briggs types seem to cluster with respect to the behavior of players in games -- certain kinds of people like certain kinds of gameplay.

Based on demographic research, combined with the research of game publishers, Bateman's model starts with Hardcore and Casual players. From there, his model is expanded to recognize the existence of a second axis of play interests between freedom and what he calls "structure," and which he associates with the FP and TJ Myers-Briggs type combinations respectively. Finally, Bateman infers the existence of two additional styles associated with the FJ and TP type combinations.

The result of this data reduction is a model consisting of four playstyles, along with two general modes of play (Hardcore and Casual). Each of the four DGD1 playstyles is associated with four of the sixteen Myers-Briggs types, as well as with combinations of the four general temperaments defined by Keirsey. (Actually, Bateman uses the terms Tactical, Logistical, Strategic, and Diplomatic, each of which is treated by Bateman as an expression of playstyle associated with one of the four Keirsey temperaments.) And the Hardcore and Casual play modes are said to be associated with the Intuitive and Sensing preferences defined by Carl Jung, from whose work the Myers-Briggs types were developed.

In tabular form, the DGD1 model can be rendered as follows:
1. ConquerorINTJ, ENTJ, ISTJ, ESTJStrategic-LogisticalRational (NT) - Guardian (SJ)
2. ManagerINTP, ENTP, ISTP, ESTPStrategic-TacticalRational (NT) - Artisan (SP)
3. WandererINFP, ENFP, ISFP, ESFPDiplomatic-TacticalIdealist (NF) - Artisan (SP)
4. ParticipantINFJ, ENFJ, ISFJ, ESFJDiplomatic-LogisticalIdealist (NF) - Guardian (SJ)

The DGD1 Model Meets The "Big Model"

Based on these associations, it is possible to construct a diagram showing all of the elements that Bateman defined for his four playstyles as well as for the Hardcore and Casual modes. As I'll explain, the DGD1 elements fit naturally into the diagram of the four Keirseian temperaments as mapped onto the four Bartle types that I've been exploring, which (because I think the models of play developed by Roger Caillois, Nicole Lazzaro, and Ron Edwards are alternative versions of the same larger model of human personality) I've taken to calling the "big model":

The brief description of the DGD1 model, then, is that it neatly provides descriptions for the six possible modes of play formed by the six intersections among the four Keirsey temperaments -- or the four Bartle types and the other associated models of play if you accept my theory that all these models are analogous.

To say this another way, I believe the DGD1 model maps with extremely high fidelity onto my own four-quadrant "big model" that associates the four-quadrant original Bartle types with the four-quadrant general temperament model of David Keirsey (although my version of the four-quadrant temperament model is modified from Keirsey's version). In particular, I find it highly supportive of the suggested mapping of DGD1 onto the "big model" that the bottommost line on my diagram, which corresponds with the TJ Myers-Briggs type combination, is explicitly called "structure" by Bateman -- and that is precisely how I refer to that end of the vertical axis on my four-quadrant model. Similarly, the other end of that axis I refer to as "freedom," and Bateman seems to think of it in the same way, thus the DGD1 player "Wanderer" player type most closely associated with that FP type combination.

In a broader sense, the value of the DGD1 model (beyond any specific utility it can be shown to have in and of itself) is that it provides a direct response to one of the most common criticisms of the Bartle types model, which is that "no one is ever just one 'type' of player."

Without going into the details of why that charge is somewhat true and yet misleading (I favor a theory that most of us have one primary preference, two secondary preferences, and one avoided preference), the DGD1 model fills in the gaps between Bartle types. A player who knows that their preferred style of play is balanced between exploration and achievement, who was told they "didn't fit" the Bartle model, can now understand themselves to be representative of the Conqueror playstyle as described by the interstitial DGD1 model. Rather than invalidating the Bartle types, the DGD1 model helps to refine that model.

How the Hardcore/Casual Preferences Fit Into the "Big Model"

One final note regarding the DGD1 model (and this is where I get into my own interpretation of Chris Bateman's work, rather just giving an enhanced representation of what he provided in 21st-Century Game Design) concerns the Hardcore and Casual modes of play.

One of the most important distinctions in temperament theory is the difference between the preference for Intuition or Sensing. This preference describes whether a person prefers to check inside themselves (Intuition) or outside in the world (Sensing) for what really matters. So if the other elements of the DGD1 model are valid, then the assignment of the "Hardcore" players to the purely Intuition-oriented preference and "Casual" players to the purely Sensing-oriented preference can actually be read as relatively pure cases of Intuition-expressed gameplay or Sensing-expressed gameplay.

To test this, let's first consider the Casual gamer. These gamers, with their Sensing preference for what the world says, are likely to have world-oriented interests -- not only will their gameplay tend to be in shorter bursts because they have less time for games (because they're busy doing world-oriented things), when the conventions of society say that "playing games" is childish, Sensing persons are likely to accept that convention. Not surprisingly, then, Casual gamers take a casual attitude toward playing games out of concern that someone might discover their childish pleasure. Dipping only casually into games provides Sensing-oriented players with plausible deniability; they can claim that they never invested any real time or care in the game. Of all types, this is the one most likely to declare with utter conviction, "It's just a game."

By contrast, "investment" is precisely the word that best characterizes the Hardcore gamer. Where the Casual gamer is willing to "play in" a gameworld, the Hardcore gamer is eager to "live in" the gameworld. Where the Casual gamer objects to complex rules because it means they have to put in more time to learn the dynamics of game systems, the Hardcore gamer rejoices in complex game systems because they are interesting and feel more like a living environment. However, while Hardcore players may be willing to accept minor changes to the world of the game, they are much more likely to object strongly to major changes in the gameworld. Hardcore players put down roots; they come to understand a gameworld as a kind of home and invest in it as a familiar place... so if that sense of place is uprooted, the Hardcore player will never forgive those responsible, while the Casual player can shrug and move on to the next game.

One complicating factor here is that according to Myers-Briggs research, about 70% of the general population prefer Sensing. While this also supports the observation that the marketplace of Casual gamers is considerably larger than that of Hardcore gamers, this also means that the number of each kind of gamer is likely to be well-represented in online forums dedicated to particular games. This frequently leads to intense debates between Hardcore gamers who assume that their style of play will be respected by the game's designers and who expect the game to make intellectual and emotional sense, and Casual gamers who are equally certain that, because there are many more of them, the game's designers must cater to their interests which revolve around pure rules-based play: "it's just a game." Again, though, these arguments so often observed in game forums can be taken as supporting evidence for the existence of a Sensing/Intuition split among gamer attitudes that manifests as Casual or Hardcore expectations respectively.

Wait... Achievers Are Casual Gamers?

Having pointed out the apparent goodness of fit of the Hardcore/Casual divide with the Intuition/Sensing preference, there's one apparently glaring contradiction here: how can anyone say that an Achiever -- who usually has a strong preference for Sensing over Intuition -- is in any way a "Casual" gamer? Aren't these the people who will play a game for hours, weeks, months, until they've beaten it? Isn't that a form of investment?

I would say that it is... but it's not Hardcore investment in the gameworld, it's "beat the game" investment in generic competitive activity. In much the same way that Sensing-preferring individuals are more likely to enjoy playing team sports for the competitive challenge, while those who prefer Intuition -- if they enjoy sports at all -- are more likely to enjoy challenges that test their mettle as individuals. For example, while an Intuitive is more likely to enjoy climbing a mountain to enjoy the view from the summit, the Sensor is more likely to view the climb either as a race to see who can reach the top the fastest, or to see who can climb the most mountains.

In a gameplay context, this means that the Achiever who spends many hours every week playing the same game is not doing it in a Hardcore way because he feels a need to savor the experience internally -- he's doing it to beat the game, at which point (as a Casual gamer who doesn't invest in a game as a place) he's done with it. "Beating the game" may come in several forms for the Killers/Manipulators and Achievers on the Casual end of the spectrum. It may be literally reaching the end of a story-based game, or the end-game of a persistent-world game such as a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG). It may also be expressed through smaller competitive challenges, such as being the first player to obtain a particular rare item or to collect a certain number of such items; it may be to collect more of some item than any other player (such as currency); it may be to have the top entry on a leaderboard; it may be to "kill" new player characters until doing so no longer offers a sufficient adrenaline rush. In all these and similar cases, however, once the Casually competitive player's dominance has been accepted -- once the game of choice has been "won" -- the Casual player begins to lose interest and (unlike the Hardcore gamer) will rapidly disengage with that game, often without a backward glance.


In summary, then, while it bears repeating that no model of human behavior can ever be considered perfect, the real question is only whether a given model provides sufficient explanatory and predictive power to allow game designers to communicate usefully about what gamers in the aggregate want and why. Under that measure, I believe the combination of the Bartle/Lazzaro/Edwards+Keirsey model I've suggested with the DGD1 model of Chris Bateman produces an overall model of gamer preferences that does offer good explanatory and predictive power. The model adequately explains why different kinds of gamers consistently demonstrate specific kinds of preferences for certain gameplay forms. Although less evidence exists to support this conclusion, I believe this model can also reliably predict which large groups of gamers (not necessarily individual gamers) are likely to be attracted to particular gameplay forms.

Bearing always in mind that no model is perfect (and thus that perfect explanation or prediction are not reasonable standards against which to hold any model of gameplay preferences), this one seems sufficiently effective to me to warrant continued exploration. But as Richard Bartle says, if some other model can be shown to have better explanatory and predictive power, then I'll enthusiastically set this one aside in favor of the new model. What matters is not that I'm personally "right," but that all of us who are interested in making better games (and making games better) have the best possible tools at hand for that task. If someone can come up with a better model of gamer preferences, we all win.

Until then... this one seems to work.


  1. I read your article on Gamasutra about this and would really like to talk to you more about it. I would like to ask some questions as to how one might apply this model to make a video game review system.

  2. Hi, Evan -- thanks for the interest. I'd be happy to discuss these ideas with you. Please feel free to email me at flatfingers-at-gmail-dot-com.