The Bartle Test

I’ve been reading about the Bartle Test. It came up in conversation when somebody asked about player motivations. Turns out people have been asking similar questions for years, and after much discussion on the bulletin board of a UK “Multi-User Dungeon” Richard Bartle came up with a 1996 paper, outlining four gamer types.

A few years later, Erwin Andreasen and Brandon Downey came up with a web based test which players could take. So I took it.

Its a slow website, I gave up once, half way through, but eventually, discovered that I’m 93% Explorer, 73% Socialiser, 40% Acheiver, and 20% Killer.

I’m not at all convinced by the validity of the test. It’s a sort of disguised paired comparisons test, but unlike many I’ve taken, there were plenty of questions to which I wanted to reply “neither”. Also, in its current iteration least, the website comments with attempted humour as the participant selects their answer. I’d fear that this might influence some participants to change their answer before submitting their reply. But I can’t deny that I’m most like the “Explorer”.

Of course I don’t actually play MUDs (or the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, with MUDs have evolved into) as I’m more of a table-top gamer. (I was going to say “old-school” but actually table top RPGs preceded MUDs but only a couple of years). So maybe it’s not surprising that I didn’t feel I could genuinely express a preference for either of the choices in some of the pairs. Maybe, as a player I don’t “suit” MUDs, as Bartle’s punning title to his paper implies. And the fact that I don’t play maybe the reason why I’m not entirely convinced by the four types Bartle suggested in the first place. Bartle pretty much invented MUDs after all, so I’ll bow to his experience.

(An aside: Dave Rickey’s discussion of game designers subverts Bartle’s model to give us “types” that I do recognise.)

In fact Bartle himself re-configured his four type taxonomy to one which featured eight types: Friend; Griefer; Hacker; Networker; Opportunist; Planner; Politician, and Scientist in his book Designing Virtual Worlds. By it’s the four-type taxonomy which seems to have stuck. I don’t know why the eight-type has less traction, perhaps it’s because, as Bartle himself apparently said, the four type model is easier to draw. I’m also surprised no-one has attempted to create a Bartle test for this new taxonomy, or indeed to challenge the model itself. The only couple I have found are this one from Jon Radoff, looking specifically at player motivations but for more games  than just MUDs, and this one from Nick Yee (his Daedalus Project does look like an interesting read).

Perhaps there are other models but, given the multimillion (billion?) dollar industry that computer based gaming has become, perhaps the developers prefer to keep their player motivation models to themselves.

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