Dr. Richard Bartle is a respected academic and author on the subject of virtual worlds. The Bartle test is named for him. See: Bartle on Wikipedia
Yesterday’s post on Richard Bartle’s new unplayer matrix got me thinking once again about my quibbles with the original Bartle quotient, which won’t surprise anyone here, least of all Bartle himself, who’s expressed similar sentiments about his early work (and specifically the test it subsequently spawned).
One thing that always bugged me is how your score masked why you picked what you picked — why you do what you do in the game as presented to you. That wouldn’t matter if people treated Bartle’s theories as descriptive, but developers apply them prescriptively (for example, in WildStar) and tailor games to attract achievers, indeed turning most game content into achiever content. As I wrote a few years ago, a player who explores every last inch of a game map would be an explorer in a game without achievements, but in a game like Guild Wars 2, she’s far more likely to be an achiever on a quest for achievement points. An old-school World of Warcraft PvPer was just as likely to PvP for twink gear and titles as for an actual drive to slay other players as a “killer.” And so on.
All of this is to suggest that in a world where most games reward achievers with the best stuff, most of us are achievers. Are you? And if so, what kind of MMO achiever are you — were you born to competition and leaderboards and prestige-acquisition, or do you “achieve” to meet your goals in other parts of the game, like a roleplayer who raids for the best cosmetics?
Dr Richard Bartle, best known to MMORPG players for establishing the research that ultimately led to the admittedly flawed but widely quoted “Bartle test,” spoke at Gamelab Barcelona 2017 last week with research of continuing interest to gamers: a new model for non-player types, floated by him publicly for the first time.
His original model was “insular,” he argues. “It tells you why people do play, but not why they don’t, which is often more useful.” The new matrix covers what is essentially the developer’s quest for accessibility, the “sweet spot where the game’s depth matches the player’s insight,” on a quadrant of easy vs. hard mapped over shallow vs. deep. Like Bartle, I’m not sure “rock babies and opera zombies” will catch on, but he manages to apply it convincingly to explain who buys what and why in free-to-play MMOs.
The whole slideshow is worth a look (doesn’t load in Chrome, note), though I suggest you choose to read that font ironically! With luck we’ll get a video of the whole talk at some point.
Over the winter holidays, we wrote about game analytics consulting firm Quantic Foundry, which has published what it calls its “Gamer Motivation Model” — essentially, it’s an updated Bartle test for modern gamers that groups gamer types into three “clusters of motivations.” More recently, co-founder Dr. Nick Yee — yes, that Nick Yee — has discussed how gamer motivations align with personality traits.
In light of the fun we had taking the Bartle test a few months ago and the news that Bartle himself is publishing new books offering insight into our genre, we thought we’d take the Gamer Motivation test ourselves, share our results and our thoughts on the test, and provoke you to do the same.
“Father of MMORPGs” Dr. Richard Bartle, author of the pioneering research that spawned the Bartle test, is publishing two new books about our imperiled genre.
MMOs from the Inside Out: The History, Design, Fun, and Art of Massively-multiplayer Online Role-playing Games, the longer of the pair, will focus on MMORPG design.
“[It] speaks to the designers and players of MMOs, taking it as axiomatic that such games are inspirational and boundless forces for good. The aim of this book is to enthuse an up-coming generation of designers, to inspire and educate players and designers-to-be, and to reinvigorate those already working in the field who might be wondering if it’s still all worthwhile.”
MMOs from the Outside In: The Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games of Psychology, Law, Government, and Real Life will examine MMO research and educate readers on “how the world can change MMOs,” both for good and bad.
Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Online worlds researcher Dr. Richard Bartle didn’t actually write the Bartle test.
His original research explored, analyzed, and defined the four player archetypes — killer, socializer, achiever, and explorer — but the test based on that paper was created a few years later by Erwin Andreasen and Brandon Downey and named in his honor.
We’ve been talking a lot about Bartle’s ideas’ relevance to modern MMOs in the last month or two, so I thought it would be fun to ask the Massively OP staff and readers to take the test, share their results, and talk about what it all means in this week’s Massively Overthinking.
There are, of course, some caveats.