While writing Wednesday about finding inspiration in reality, I mentioned that making a game feel realistic was important for me. This got me to thinking about what exactly it was more important than. How do I rank the elements of gaming, and how does that affect my games?
Of course, I’m certainly not the first one to have considered that gamers have different priorities. In fact, I can think of a couple off the top of my head.
The classic groupings are Gamist, Narrativist, and Simulationist. However, just picking one seems overly simplistic. Also, there’s a lot of room in those categories.
Fourth Edition Player Motivations
One thing I thought was a cool addition to Fourth Edition D&D’s “Dungeon Master’s Guide” was their list of Player Motivations. This feature urged a DM to classify her players based on their gaming preferences into: Actor, Explorer, Instigator, Power Gamer, Slayer, Storyteller, Thinker, and Watcher (4E DMG, pp 8). I like that this system is more fine-grained. It also helpfully includes tips on how to engage such players in the game, and keep their tenancies from causing friction.
When I try to classify myself in any of these systems, however, I see pieces of myself in several of the categories. For instance, in the 4E system, I’d probably fall most under Storyteller, but I also gravitate toward Actor, Explorer, Thinker, and even a little Power Gamer. The more I think about it, the more I think that these shouldn’t be mutually exclusive labels, but a ranked list.
Also, it seems to me that player classifications are of dubious use. Even if I know for certain that a given player is a Narrativist, what do I do with that? I have to infer from the label what the player would enjoy.
Instead, what if we ranked the properties of a game that player prefers? This allows us to get at a player’s needs while avoiding the problem of classifying people into stereotypes that they’re inevitably going to exceed. It also (hopefully) gives us an immediately useful list of how to appeal to the player in question.
I’ve been brainstorming a list of things to prioritize. Some of them I’ve blatantly ripped off of the classification systems I mentioned above. This is a work in progress, however, and I’d appreciate your input in the comments!
|Accuracy||It’s important that the game mechanics depict the game world as accurately and completely as possible.|
|Achievement||Characters should do great things|
|Action||There must be action sequences and/or conflict|
|Challenge||You need to be challenged by the game|
|Character||It’s important to play the character faithfully and effectively|
|Exploration||It’s important to find out what’s around the next corner, and in the next valley.|
|Impact||The game should have an emotional impact|
|Plot||A game should have a solid and interesting plot|
|Power||The character should have and accumulate power|
|Verisimilitude||The story has to feel realistic|
How can the information from those rankings be useful? I find that I rank both Plot and Verisimilitude above Challenge and Action. As a player, this probably means that I’m going to put a lot of effort into the story, and not as much into combat. It also probably explains why I’ve never been especially good at running good encounters: I just don’t care as much.
Heading Off Criticism
I know that list isn’t perfect. In fact, I thought of several other possible options, such as risk and novelty. However, I wanted to narrow it down to ten so that sorting wouldn’t be too arduous. If you can think of ideas that you think are more important than those in the list, let me know!
Also, it’s pretty concise to say, “I’m a Gamist.” It isn’t quite so easy to give a list of ten sorted abstract ideas. I’m not sure how to get around that one, though. Any way you could convey that more simply also loses some of the accuracy I was looking for.