As previously discussed, a great variety of games exist within mainstream popular culture and far more in the gaming sub-culture.  As one can imagine, each game attracts players of various attitudes, motives, and beliefs.  Each of these archetypes can vary based upon the games that they partake; and even within those games, the player-archetypes differ from one another along subtle lines. Each of the primary archetypes and their permutations evolve naturally from the plethora of games and from the individual personas that are encouraged by those games.  As a brief example, athletes are competitive and physically driven players as sports encourage and reinforce competitive play, but athletes, on the whole, understand the importance of teamwork and coordination.  Seeing how the average person would be greatly aware of the nuances and characteristics of the athletic archetype, there is no reason to further explore the archetype at this time.  However, not everyone remains cognizant of the many gaming-specific archetypes.  The following is merely cursory examination of those archetypes, with commentary arising from personal and vicarious experience and observation.  Note: the majority of the following archetypes arise most commonly in role-playing games, but players of other game types can be any of these archetypes.  Also, almost all of these archetypes not exclusive; a player can exhibit traits or tendencies toward any number of archetypes.

 Outside sports, the first player-archetype to emerge is the Old Schoolgamer.  The Old Schooler comes out of the oldest role-playing games, Basic Dungeons and Dragons.  The game was originally designed to be played by children and children indeed played it.  To understand the Old Schooler, one must understand Basic Dungeons and Dragons.  The game first utilizes a Dungeon Master, or DM, (i.e. a Game Master) and pits the players against the twisted wiles of the DM.  As a result, the strongest players (i.e. the ones who survived most games against the DM) developed methods to weather the evils of the DM.  The methodology can be summarized as such: do not trust the DM; and sometimes the other players.  Yes, the mentality of the Old Schooler is basically that of a child who has burned themselves one too many times on the same burner. However, for whatever reason, many Old Schoolers maintain that mentality of paranoia and mistrust well into their gaming-adulthood. This can be problematic for certain role-playing campaigns as some games encourage the Game Master and the players to work together. So, an Old Schooler can be detrimental with their obviously childish gaming habits.  The Old Schooler does well in one regard: they can play the old school games (i.e. players vs. GMs) better than others.

From the game worlds of the Old School comes the Hack ‘n Slashers.  If the name was not blatant enough, the Hack ‘n Slash crowd derive their name from their favorite past time: hacking and slashing their (imaginary/fictional) enemies to pieces.  While these gamers savor the victory over enemies in the heat of combat, this does not mean that they like violence nor do they enjoy real-life fighting.  In fact, some are very laid back, easy-going, and very calm and collected individuals.  Their joy from the game derives from the fact that they do not fight in real-life; they prefer their violence to be fictitious and not real.  Because of their simple needs, they are not difficult to appease, if a fight can be incorporated into the game somehow.  Also, they are most likely to be the players to make the combats most interesting for everyone in some fashion.

 A step up from the Hack ‘n Slasher is the Tactician.  These players sit wonderfully across from another players and trounce their opponent into oblivion at strategic games such as chess, checkers, and most miniature games.  They live, breathe, eat, sleep, and [insert redundant commonplace activity here] strategy and tactics.  They seem to love the ability to command troops and/or orchestrate the flow of conflict from either side of the table (e.g. as players, as GM’s).  Tacticians can make combats extremely challenging as the actual fight may either be too easy for them or too difficult for the other players. Also, if the Tactician is running everything in the fight, than it may not be as much fun for the other players simply because the other players might as well be watching someone else play the game.  Note: this does not mean that every Tactican is a control freak, although that personality trait is prevalent in some Tacticians; but not all of them.

Where is a game without rules?  The rules shape the play of the game and provide it structure.  As the world has buildings and their architects, fascinated with the shape of those buildings, games have Rules Lawyers.  These players can run the gamut in terms of stress on the other players; the Rules Lawyer can be a pain in the arse with their constant bickering about how “this” is not legal and that “this” is how it is suppose to be played; or they can be a godsend to GM’s and players as they know exactly how everything should work and point out how it works when there is doubt and sometimes can even site page numbers.  Rules Lawyers examine the games they play from the rules.  They know the rules so well that they can manipulate the rules to fit the situation.  The basic mentality, whether they know it or not, is that everyone agreed to play the game with these rules in mind, so they better know the rules.  Rules are obviously important to the Rules Lawyer because without rules to the game, it would not be a game; it would simply be anarchy and lawlessness just seems to irritate some Rules Lawyers.

Once one starts down the path of memorizing rules to better play the game, one must beware the dark side: beware the Power Gamer.  Power Gamers are all about the games they play and the sense of power they derive from playing said games. The typical consequence is that the Power Gamer ultimately wants to accumulate greater power within the game and, if taken to the penultimate logical conclusion, ultimately be the most powerful within the game.  In a PG-13 sort of way, Power Gamers are akin to drug addicts, except their drug of choice is a fictional power trip in playing games.  In role-playing games, Power Gamers attempt to create the most powerful character with an undefeatable combination of abilities or endless tricks up their sleaves for any occasion.  If a Power Gamer is immature, they might lord over the other players with how their characters are unstoppable; they have more maturity and subtlety about them, then they may simply step in when needed and win the day for the other players, basking in how they could do what the others could not.  Almost by their nature, Power Gamers are very competitive; if one one-ups them, then they will do what they can to show-up the would-be “usurper.”  The great danger of the Power Gamer is that they could end-up breaking the game; in other words, make the game either unplayable or remove the desire for others to play the game.

When Power Gamers go too far in their pursuit of power, they risk adopting the another archetype; they may turn into Munchkins.  Munchkins are very similar to Power Gamers: both crave power within the game, both will want more power for a bigger trip, and, in RPG’s, both will attempt to make a character that is nigh-invincible and/or the ultimate bad-ass.  However, they differ in that Power Gamers may stretch the intention of the rules or bend the rules, Munchkins may outright break them; Munchkins may cheat, lie, and even apply double-standards to the rules.  For example, a Munchkin may agree to a ruling of a certain situation until that ruling applies negatively towards them.  Another example of a munchkin-like habit, conveniently “forgetting” certain rules that would preclude certain options that the Munchkin wanted to employ.  Because of their detrimental gaming habits, the actual term “munchkin” remains somewhat of an insult in the gaming community; however, there are gamers who find the derogatory term complimentary and bear the brand with distinction.  Note: players of the game series Munchkin are not necessarily Munchkins.

The next major evolutionary step of gamer archetypes eludes definative description.  One could call this archetypes Drive archetypes because the players drive (re: adhere) more closely to a specific aspect over certain others.  As a result they seek out and foster that aspect over others, but are not opposed to development in other aspects of the game.  Note: this archetype revolves almost exclusively around role-playing games.  The first drive of players are the Action/Adventure-driven players.  These players enjoy either exciting adventure or the thrill of a good action sequence in game.  They differ from Hack ‘n Slashers and Tacticians in that action does not always mean combat; it could be a car chase or a race across a slippery rope-bridge over a volcanic steam vent.  Character-driven players desire growth and development of their, and sometimes the other players’, characters.  The games they want to play in will be more centralized over the actual characters and less about a grand plot; the story requires those specific characters and not just any other characters.  Finally, the Story-driven players concern themselves most with the overall story/plot that involves the characters.  The characters are the big stars, but they are nothing without a good storyline to follow.  As one could imagine, each drive is important in order to have an interesting, entertaining, and potentially educational game/campaign.  So, the challenge is to strike a good balance between the three drives that syncs with the players involved in order to make the best game possible.

 More from personal observation and research, a new trend of gamer archetypes emerge.  This new wave includes a revitalized outlook on the gaming community and establishes a more cooperative paradigm.  The New Schoolplayers, as their name implies, differ quite greatly from the Old Schoolers.  These players look at the games as games first; activities from which entertainment and enjoyment are derived for everyone involved.  As such, they no longer take an oppositional stance to the GM; instead they establish a relationship of co-determinacy with the GM in an attempt to ensure that the GM enjoys themselves during the game as much as the players do.  Along with the New Schoolers’ outlook towards the game, Dynamicplayers emerge who adopt even more laissez-faire attitudes.  Essentially, they follow the flow of the game and the players without necessarily imposing any particular viewpoint.  Unfortunately, some non-Dynamic players end up abusing this easy-going style and get what they want without regards to the Dynamic player.  Of the new wave archetypes, the extremely devil-may-care attitude arises with the “Wild n’ Crazy” players.  Supericially they are similar to the Dynamic player, but they differ in that these players often emphasize having fun over any other aspect of the game; in a sense, they are the extremists of the new wave.  Their methods may be chaotic, their stories cliched and thrown together, but one can be assured that they will have fun playing with a “Wild n’ Crazy” player.  As with the drive-archetypes, the lesson here is one of communication, flexibility, and cooperation and striking a good balance between the three that suits the playing group’s personalities.

A final personal observation of player trends: certain players do not simply play the games that they play, but instead calculate and run the numbers involved in the game.  These Number Crunchers seek out patterns and formulate stratagem based on the mathematics of the game and/or the situation of the game.  In card games, this habit was refered to as counting cards and has been looked down upon; in dice games, this is playing the odds and is viewed as playing smart.  Using math to help develop strategy or tactics in any game is using one’s intellect creatively to have the most fun (everyone wants to win).  However, as with many of the archetypes, applying no effort to moderate this intellectual habit can be detrimental; yes, one can think too much.

Wizards of the Coast wrote in their Dungeons and Dragons book, Dungeon Master’s Guide II, about player styles and expectations that bears mentioning here.  The Wizards’ authors discuss the broad-strokes of certain player archetypes, their expectations, and how to appeal to those expectations.  Of the numerous player styles mentioned, the four discussed here have not previously been mentioned.  While Wizards refer to these players as Puzzle Solvers, they can be generalized as Challenge Seekers.  These players know their limitations and actively seek out challenges to push those limits.  Wizards’ suggestion is to provide a challenge to these players; as they write about Puzzle Solvers, a puzzle or riddle can be included to challenge those players.  Setting Explorers wish to explore, obviously, and understand the game setting into which their characters are thrust.  Setting Explorers are not unlike Character-driven players because in a way the setting itself is a character that is worth developing.  Movie Starsare the players who desire to be supercool, to use Wizards’ vernacular, in the game.  The danger for these players is that characters in movies fail when it is convenient for the plot of the movie or to help with the develop of the characters in the movie; but players fail more often than others do in the movies and sometimes for no reason what-so-ever.  Rather than try to stop any ego bruising, describing the failure in a manner that would be fitting of action-movie heroes will allow for failure without any emotional blowback.  Finally, Wizards talks about a player style that is personally uncommonly encountered: the Lurker.  Lurkers are essentially empty-seats at a gaming table; they do not contribute greatly to the gaming experience directly, but do partake when prompted.  Wizards suggest patience and acceptance with these players as they may contribute socially outside the game (e.g. ensuring the attendance of other players, remaining outside tense heated discussions) and may yet “come out of their shells and blossom into more active players.”

 As previously mentioned, players may not fall into any single archetype.  If anything, it is rarer for players to fall exclusively into a single archetype and into no other.  Also, the above descriptions are broad and best thought of as spectra rather than categories.  Individuals can vary within archetypes on either just being on that archetypal spectrum or as being the very embodiment of a player-type.  Understanding the person helps understand that player’s archetype and subsequent expectations and desires in terms of the game.  Logically, the inverse can be true: understanding the player’s archetype, expectations, and desires provides insight into that person.

 

Dungeons & Dragons Supplement: Dungeon Master’s Guide II. J. Decker, D. Noonan, C. Thomasson, J. Jacobs, R. Laws; Wizards of the Coast; 2005

Hollow Earth Expedition. J. Combos, B. Baugh, B. Boren, P. Bradley, E. Cagle, J. Carl, S. Winter; Exile Game Studio; 2006

 

P.S.- Again, my apologies for the lateness of this entry.  Thank you all for your patience and understanding.

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