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These four player types will help you to identify your gaming audience

The Mill’s Creative Director and Head of Creative Technology explains how he categorises gaming audiences

Illustration by Julia Wytrazek

Kevin Young is an expert in games design. The Creative Director and Head of Creative Technology at The Mill’s London studio has worked on multiple award-winning projects, and is also one of the instructors for D&AD’s new online Masterclass, 'Enter the World of Gaming’. Here, Young shares his easy method to help you to identify your gaming audience. 

“With games, particularly as an interactive medium, there's no way of knowing if you've got it right off the bat,” Young explains. “It's the worst thing in the world where you've been living in your bubble, and you think you're crafting your masterpiece, then release it and… it's received with complete indifference.” To Young, it’s all about anticipating what the audience will want – and backing up that anticipation with rigorous research, focus groups, and repeated testing to get it right.

However, when facing down that vast task of structuring and creating a game, there are a few ways to simplify things and anticipate your audience better. One is to adopt a structure identified in 1996 by the game designer Richard Bartle, known as Bartle’s Taxonomy of Player Types. “It’s a really interesting framework,” Young says. “There's as many different types of games players as there are different types of readers. But what the Bartle taxonomy does is break it down into broad groups that you can start to construct things around.”

Spaces, Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs

Bartle’s Taxonomy of Player Types is handily mapped onto a deck of cards. Each card symbol corresponds with a particular type of player, who enters and interacts with the game with different motives and interests.

“You've got the spades, you know, people exploring and looking for things with their spades, the Explorer type,” Young explains. “You have the Achievers represented by the diamonds - people want to go out and find things and achieve things. You've got the Socializers, represented by hearts. [They] want to engage with other people. Social interaction in a game is very important for them.” And then there’s what Young calls the “somewhat more weirdly named Killer section” – clubs. “Actually, the club category is more than just killing,” he helpfully clarifies. “It's about direct interaction with players. That could be oppression or stealing or jumping on their heads. It's not necessarily all morbid, violent killing. It actually is more having that visceral direct interaction, or… moving against other players.”

So to recap, we have explorers (spades), socializers (hearts), achievers (diamonds), and killers (clubs). Young recommends imagining how each of these player groups might fit into a game. He uses the example of Minecraft, “which is basically a sandbox.” Before it became “a massive playground for kids,” he says, it was “really good, fertile ground for game enthusiasts to jump in and see how people were using it.”

He outlines how some of these different groups would approach the game. “The explorers would just pick a direction and run off. And that could be running across a mountain, or going into a lake, or digging into the mines and trying to find things,” he explains. “You'd have the other types who would say, ‘no, I want to try and build up my diamond collection’ Their personal achievements would be trying to find all the diamonds and create an immense wealth.” 

This is an exclusive excerpt from D&AD’s online Enter the World of Gaming course that you can do at your own pace. It aims to help agencies and brands navigate the mechanics and magic of the gaming landscape. You can also explore more online courses here, as well as upcoming in-person and online teaching here.

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