Personality And Play Styles: A Unified Model

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God of Gaming
Numerous models of gamer psychology have been proposed and debated over the past couple of decades. One of the earliest and simplest has proven to be one of the most referenced and most enduring: the Bartle Types. I believe this is because the Bartle Types are a functional model of human personality in a game playing context. In other words, the Bartle typology works because it's a subset of a more general personality model that works.

In fact, several of the best-known play style and game design models share many conceptual elements. So I'm also proposing here that the Bartle typology, the play style models of Caillois, Lazzaro, and Bateman, and the game design models of Edwards and Hunicke/LeBlanc/Zubek are all variations on a single Unified Model of play styles.

While no model of human behavior can ever be considered perfect, the practical question is only whether a given model provides sufficient explanatory and predictive power to allow game designers to communicate usefully about what gamers want, why they want it, and how to give it to them. By that measure, I believe the Unified Model I've suggested, with the DGD1 model of Chris Bateman superimposed, produces an overall theory of gamer preferences that does offer good explanatory and predictive power.

Some will naturally object to this or that aspect of the Unified Model, or to the entire concept of any personality model that "puts people in boxes." For others, I don't imagine this model will be considered a surprising revelation. Many of the individual associations have no doubt been observed by others, such as Ethan Kennerly's exploration of the similarities between the Bartle Types and David Keirsey's temperaments (brought to my attention by Richard Bartle from a MUD-Dev post by Kennerly in 2005). Christopher Bateman has also made linkages among many of the playstyle models detailed here in his DGD typology.

The table below compiles information about each of the four styles expressed in multiple ways. Not only does this demonstrate the very close conceptual ties between each of the four styles as seen by the different model creators, it can serve as a guide for designing gameplay elements that satisfy specific playstyle requirements.


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