The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology was created by Richard Bartle in 1996, first appearing in his paper, “Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Player Who Suit MUDs.” He set out to explore the four approaches to playing MUDs, which stands for Multi-User Dungeon or Multi-User Dimension (in more modern terms, you can think of MUDs as massively multiplayer online role-playing games or MMORPGs, like the Elder Scrolls Online or Runescape).
Bartle found MUDs fascinating, because they weren’t just games—many MUDs went beyond gaming, morphing into social environments that also delivered the same type of feeling you’d get from enjoying a hobby, sport, or any other form of entertainment. MUDs both replicated and expanded on life, allowing players to accomplish skills they’d never achieve in real life (from fantastical skills, like wizardry, to everyday skills, like archery or farming). Taking that one step further, a virtual setting and world lets players act however they want to act.
This complexity led Bartle to identify four things players enjoyed in MUDs:
- Achievement within the game
- Exploration of the game
- Socializing with players
- Imposition on others
Exploring the 4 Player Types
Acting according to these behaviors is what defines your player type: Achiever, Explorer, Socializer, and Killer. Each player type interacts with the world and other players in their own way. In short, here’s a quick description of each player type:
- Achievers: These players enjoy accomplishing tasks within the game. They love a game that feels like a fleshed out world, and they value immersiveness above all else. Achievers like playing with others, as it makes the world feel more realistic, though they don’t necessarily enjoy interacting with other players—they’re more interested in mastering the game as quickly as possible.
- Explorers: These players love being surprised by the game. They want to explore the vastness of a massive world to discover its secrets. Similar to Achievers, seeing other players in the world makes the environment feel deeper and more real, but they don’t go out of their way to talk to others. They’re more interested in knowing everything about the game and mapping out every inch of the world rather than building up skills.
- Socializers: These players love interacting with other players. They want to build connections with other players and learn more about their lives—which could mean creating IRL relationships or roleplaying within the game to develop their own unique character story. They’re less interested in skill-building and exploring and more interested in being around other players.
- Killers/Griefers: Easily the most ominous taxonomy, these players enjoy dominating other players. They want to show off their skills in player-versus-player scenarios and demonstrate their superiority. These players typically spend most of their time honing their fighting skills to climb the leader boards and be the best of the best.
If you’d like to learn more about the relationships between player types, I highly recommend reading Bartle’s paper. It will give you context into why you may clash with certain players and understanding into what you appreciate in a game—and chances are you’ll feel connected to your player type. It’s reminiscent of the DiSC assessment, if you’ve ever taken that.
The Couch Bandits’ Results
Here at the Couch Bandits, we thought it’d be fun for each of us to take the Bartle test and share our results, so you can get a little insight into our playing styles:
- Jake: I’m an EAKS: 87 percent Explorer, 47 percent Achiever, 33 percent Killer, and 33 percent socializer. This makes total sense to me. I often find myself attracted to games with huge open worlds, like Breath of the Wild and Xenoblade Chronicles X, and I spend a majority of my time just going from one side of the map to the next. I love unearthing secrets and learning shortcuts or prime areas to train. As for the Achiever half of me, I love collecting trophies and achievements, and I enjoy seeing a quest list completed in full. In 2018, I set out to beat as many games at 100 percent completion as I could, and it’s because I get such joy from crossing items off a list. I’m not much of a Socializer or a Killer, but give me the right game, like Runescape, and I love roleplaying…and I also love killing NPCs and trolling innocent players on a rainy day, too.
- Connor: I’m an KESA: 80 percent Killer, 53 percent Explorer, 47 percent Socializer, and 20 percent Achiever. I’d agree with this for the most part. I’ve always gotten a sick thrill out of killing innocent NPCs in games. That might sound bad, but it’s just so funny to me! I’ve always had that inclination to cause carnage and chaos in games, like Divinity: Original Sin and Oblivion. Hearing those Imperial guards yell, “SOMEONE’S BEEN MURDERED!” will always bring a smile to my face. I do feel my Explorer and Achiever numbers should be higher, though. I love uncovering new locations and secrets. Part of the reason I love returning to RuneScape is that, in the many years of playing that game, there are still portions of the world map I have yet to see. My Socializer number should probably be much lower, too. I love interacting with other gamers when it comes to games like Sea of Thieves—I think working together with strangers toward a common goal can be a super rewarding experience; however, I usually prefer to play alone or with close friends.
- Nick: My Bartle score is an ESAK: 87 percent Explorer, 53 percent Socializer, 40 percent Achiever, and 20 percent Killer. What stood out to me while taking this quiz was the fact it was made in the early years of video games, before MMOs as we know it, such as RuneScape and World of Warcraft. For that reason, some of the questions felt more like they would belong to figuring out the kind of player you are around a Dungeons and Dragons (or any other kind of table-top RPG) table. I definitely agree with the high Explorer alignment, as well as the low Killer alignment. In games with an emphasis on exploration, I always try and reveal as much of the map as possible early on—be that in Assassin’s Creed, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Divinity: Original Sin. In games that offer various ways of completing objectives, I favor diplomatic options, such as in Fallout: New Vegas where you can beat the main story with high persuasion scores or the Civilization series where cultural, scientific, and diplomatic victories are possible—as well as domination. However, I feel that achiever and socializer should be swapped in rank, as I have never been one to gravitate toward games requiring large groups of people. I enjoy playing with friends and people I know but not so much with random players.
Hope you had fun reading about our player types, and feel free to share your matches in the comments!
Want to try out the Bartle Test for yourself? Take it here. If you’d like to read more by Bartle, check out Designing Virtual Worlds.