Mind your own game

From time to time a designer should look at making games from different perspective. Today we’ll do it from the psychology point of view. Video game is but a thing that actually plays in our head — we see a screen, we use controllers, but the key of the game is to influence our minds.

Let’s then correlate psychology types with game development.

MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) is an introspective self-report questionnaire designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. Eight letters creating 16 types show preferences of different personalities. Four dichotomies indicate one preference over another, as we have oppositions like Extraversion-Introversion, Sensing-iNtuition, Thinking-Feeling and Judging-Perceiving.

David Keirsey extended MBTI introducing KTS (Keirsey Temperament Sorter). He assigned every of 16 personalities of MBTI to one of four groups: Idealists, Artisans, Rationalists and Guardians and divided these four temperaments into two roles, each having two types, with the biggest difference between N (introspective) and S (observant).

Pictured on a graph it gives us a map of four temperaments and relationships between them.

Of course nobody is 100% N or 100% S, we all are a bit of both, but people with high N will not communicate well with people with high S.

For us, as game developers, there is another important classification: Bartle taxonomy of player types. Richard Bartle defined four types of gamers according to their preferred behaviours when playing the game. They are placed on a chart between the axes X and Y, where X shows preference to interacting with other gamers vs. exploring the world, and Y shows preference to act or interact.

It all depends on what motivates the players, for example Killers are acting on players, Achievers are acting on world, Explorers are interacting with world and Socializers are interacting with other players. It is correlated with what these types are looking for during playing games. Again, it should be treated as a map, because you can be 90% Killer, 40% Achiever, 30% Socializer and 40% Explorer.

So how does it correlate with MBTI/KTS?

When we connect psychological types with player types we realize that they unite in a one coherent chart. Let’s put them all in a one diagram:

Of course it cannot be 100% precise, like if somenone is an Idealist he’s always going to be a Socializer, but you can remember about that rule when designing your game, when your target group is, for example, 70% Idealists. Another, maybe even more important, thing is that most people in the world are S…

…while 90% of game developers and game designers are… N. We are about 5% of population, the rarest types!

So if you are making games for people, not for yourself, you have to understand people. If you are making games for majority, you have to understand the majority. When you are making games for the masses, be aware that masses do not think like you do!

What do different types of players seek in game? Let’s look at this simplified collection of activities:

When designing a game you can think about the features of your game regarding to a target group and its personalities. It is scientifically proven that these specific kinds of people are looking for these specific kinds of things. Let’s then start making games knowing how mind works! Make your first step by knowing your own MBTI type on https://www.16personalities.com and compare it to the target groups of your games!

/This post was influenced by Game Industry Conference’s (2016, Poznan, Poland) lecture ‘What happens in our brains when we play games” by Piotr Sobolewski.

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