Od Studios -- The Different Types of Gamers
||The Different Types of Gamers -- by sector24, 2003-07-29
It is important to consider your audience when you are designing a game. If you make a game that no one wants to play, then you have wasted a lot of time. In order to make a popular game, you must understand the different types of gamers and what they want. The most common distinction between gamers is the level of commitment that they are willing to devote to a game. Those that are willing to play a game for extended periods of time (sometimes without food or sleep) are considered hardcore gamers, while the majority of players are considered casual gamers.
Casual gamers make up the majority of the game playing community. For this type of person, games are neither a passion nor an addiction, they are just a pleasant diversion. There are all manner of casual gamers, from people that will pick up a game and play it for ten minutes and never touch it again to people that really like games but can't find the time to play them. You will work hard on your game, making important design decisions and adding features that you think are extremely clever or innovative, but a casual gamer will not notice. The casual gamer will use a gut feeling to say they like or dislike your game. They may not even be able to adequately describe why they like or dislike it. "This game has cool monsters," or "This game is too hard," is what you are most likely to hear from a casual gamer. The driving force behind the casual gamer is entertainment. If your game is fun and easy to play, then a casual gamer will enjoy it. The term "casual gamer" is not descriptive enough to cover such a diverse community of players, so there are several subtypes of casual gamer.
The explorer wants to see and do as much as possible. It is not always a requirement for an explorer to actually finish the game, as long as they play enough to get the general feeling. Explorers will turn the difficulty down to the easiest setting if necessary, because the challenge is not as important as experiencing everything the game has to offer. Graphics and sound are just as important if not more important than the gameplay or the interface. To the explorer, a video game is very much like an interactive television. If the game is not interesting, then they will find a game that is.
Although there are many different types of hobbyist, they typically play the same game a few hours every night, or on some other regular schedule. They generally have real life time constraints that keep them from becoming a hardcore gamer. Although hobbyists cannot play games constantly, when they are not playing they are probably thinking about the next time they will be able to play. They may spend a portion of their time reading up about games and developing strategies for the next time they get to play. Hobbyists enjoy most of the same games that hardcore players enjoy, but hobbyists have unusual time constraints that keep them from playing certain types of games. First of all, hobbyists cannot play games that require large blocks of time. Usually the game must have good stopping points at least every hour or two. In addition, hobbyists generally prefer games with more content so that they have something to look forward to at the end of a hard day's work. If the game can be finished in just a few hours, then the hobbyist won't waste his time because he'll just have to buy a new game next week.
The socialist plays games in order to meet new people or interact with people they already know within the framework of a game environment. It is generally a requirement that the game be multiplayer, although it is possible for a single human player to have social interaction with the computer "people" built into the game. Socialists prefer games that are slower in pace, giving them time to talk between actions. Socialists prefer MUDs (Multi User Dungeons/Domains) and MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games). Socialists tend to be older, between the ages of 21 and 45 years old.
Some socialists play games as a way to bond with family or friends. In my days of playing Everquest I met many people who played because their child or friend played. Husband and wife teams were also very common. These people used the game as a way to spend quality time with a member of their family. For the socialist, the game is not as important as the people who are playing. If it were possible to have this sort of social interaction at the dinner table then there would be no need for the game. However, the game provides a new medium in which people can relate. It also provides a topic of conversation for when the socialist must interact in the real world.
Hardcore gamers make up a smaller portion of the gaming community, but it is usually more important to please a hardcore gamer because they are much more likely to spend their money on your game. Hardcore gamers will beat your game on every difficulty level. They will not rest until they collect every item and find every secret. They will read (and sometimes write) spoilers of your game on the internet. They will analyze the game code and use what they find to their advantage. They will figure out how to get the best items and they will find ways to make your AI (artificial intelligence) do something stupid so they can defeat it as easily as possible. If your game is good, hardcore players will play it for several hours every day. They will tell their friends about it and they will complain about all the features that should have been put in the game. You should not take these complaints personally, because hardcore players will always want more no matter how hard you work on your game. Just like the casual gamer, there are also several subtypes of hardcore gamer.
The achiever is a particular type of hardcore player that has a strong desire to complete every aspect of the game. Much like the explorer, the achiever wants to experience as much as possible. However unlike the explorer, the achiever will do whatever it takes to beat the game on the hardest difficulty setting. He will also try to get every item and unlock all the secret features of a game. He will read about strategies and tricks to beating certain portions of the game. The achiever will use cheat codes if necessary to beat the game. The achiever is interested in more than just the experience of a game. They want the privilege of saying that they have completely conquered every aspect of the game.
If there are any flaws in your game, the achiever will be sure to find them. If one particular aspect of the game is unfair or unreasonably difficult, the achiever will be frustrated. If your game is poorly documented or hard to figure out, the achiever will be unhappy (but they'll probably figure out how to play the game regardless). Achievers make excellent testers, because their experience with games allows them to communicate problems to you with clarity. If an achiever refuses to play your game, you have a lot of things that need to be fixed.
The perfectionist is a special type of achiever. In addition to conquering every aspect of the game, the perfectionist plays the game the "right" way. If a perfectionist uses cheat codes to beat a game, they will then beat the game again without them just to say that they could do it. Unless the design is poor, the perfectionist will play the game in the way it was intended to be played, and they will win. When it comes to games, I am definitely a perfectionist.
Exploiters revel in finding ways to beat the game that the designer did not intend. By skipping areas of the map or finding ways of getting around difficult situations, the exploiter will typically use any advantage to beat the game. Exploiters will find a loophole in your game, and use it constantly until you fix it or perhaps forever if you do not. Some exploiters will even look at the game code to find errors or oversights. If your game is well designed, the exploiter may be denied the opportunity to take advantage of flaws in your game, in which case they will play as an achiever or perfectionist.
The least desirable type of hardcore gamer is the grief player. Like the socialist, the grief player will only be found in multiplayer games. They will play the game long enough to figure out the best way to ruin the experience of their fellow players, then they will do that as often as possible. Grief players are often player killers, although it is important to note that not all player killers are grief players. The grief player does not necessarily care about the game itself, just the negative response they can generate in their fellow players. The grief player is maligned by both players and designers, but they exist and you must take this type of gamer into consideration when you design a game. When denied the ability to ruin the game for others, the grief player will probably move onto another game, although they may become exploiters.
Hackers delve deep into the source code to find security loopholes and poorly written portions of the program. They use this knowledge to perform illegal actions within the game. When necessary they will write external programs to accomplish their goals. Sometimes they will keep these programs for personal use, but they often distribute them to everyone they can for the recognition that good hacks bring. These programs will be quickly downloaded by other hackers and exploiters and used to destroy the intended balance of your game. When denied the ability to hack your game, the hacker will either try harder, or turn into an exploiter.
The killer plays your game for the opportunity to face off against another human in some kind of contest. Video games allow humans a great deal of exploration into areas that are prohibited in real life. Most common is the ability to fight each other to the death without the penalty of actually dying. Artificial intelligence is never enough for a killer, only another human can provide the satisfaction that they crave. While it is common for killers to double as exploiters, grief players, or hackers, there is a portion of the killer community that does not cheat. Legitimate killers make up a surprisingly large portion of the hardcore gaming community, so you should consider their needs when you are designing your game.
It is not always possible to please every type of gamer. When you design a game you have to make a hard choice. You may decide to try to please only a fraction of the gaming community with a game that appeals to only a few types of gamers. On the other hand you may try to put in features that will please all types of gamers with a more generalized game. Both strategies have been successful in the past, so do not feel that your game has to appeal to casual gamers to be a hit. Knowing your gaming audience also helps you plan the implementation of the design. It is unlikely that you will be able to prevent grief players and hackers from playing your game in an unintended fashion. However, being mindful of their existence can help you minimize the damage that they can do.
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