The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology is a multiple-choice test that categorizes players of online games according to their gaming preferences. The classification can describe players of both multiplayer online games (including MUDs and MMORPGs0 and single-player video games. This test, based on a paper by Richard Bartle titled Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs, was created by Erwin Andreasen and Brandon Downey. A version of the test is located at GamerDNA.
The Bartle Test gives its result as four percentages (corresponding to Bartle's four gamer types: Achiever, Explorer, Killer, and Socializer) that total to 200%. The maximum percentage for any one gamer type is 100%. Results are typically abbreviated by giving the first letter of the category in order from highest percentage to lowest. For example, an "AKSE" would have "Achiever" for his highest score and "Explorer" for his lowest.
This classification of gamers into various categories has the possible effect of pigeonholing gamers into following certain stereotypes in-game, and an incorrect test result could change how a user would otherwise play the game. In other words, there are various ethical considerations that arise from the Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology. (Back to index)
The Bartle Test was developed from a paper, titled ‘Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDS’, that Dr. Richard Bartle wrote in 1996. The paper described a player personality type classification system. In addition to identifying the four gamer types discussed above, the paper also incorporated two axes of interest, (‘acting vs interacting’ and ‘players vs world’). The following categories were then defined to be:
1. Killers, interested in acting and players
2. Achievers, interested in acting and world
3. Socializers, interested in interacting and players
4. Explorers, interested in interacting and world
In his paper, Bartle crafted questions with A or B answers in order to uncover which game-type category a player associated with. The identification process works similarly to the Myers-Briggs personality test. With further development, the test was converted into digital forms, and it is currently available at gamerDNA.com. 
Bartle describes players using a two dimensional graph. They fall into his four categories according to how much they prefer acting on things rather than with them and how much they prefer to interact with the "game world" as opposed to "other players."
Achievers have fun acting on the virtual world. They see virtual worlds as games, and they put the game-like aspect of the virtual world to the fore. They like doing things that achieve defined goals, thereby progressing their character through the world's built-in ranking system.
They believe the way to win in a game is by getting the most of something, whether it is points, levels or any other comparable measurement. They like comparing themselves to other gamers, and they love stat padding. Their aim is to improve and advance in the game environment. When they get rewards for their accomplishments they feel even better about themselves and their achievements.
According to Bartle's empirical observations, having more achievers in a game environment leads to having slightly fewer socializers and more killers. Having fewer achievers leads to slightly fewer socializers and fewer killers. Killers like to pick on achievers, so there is a direct negative correlation between these two populations.
Explorers have fun interacting with the virtual world. They see virtual worlds as pastimes, much like reading or gardening. The ultimate delight for Explorers is increasing their knowledge about the way the virtual world works. Their joy is in discovery.
They love finding out every piece of information available in a game, as well as every secret area, item and enemy available. Their joy comes from discovery and furthering understanding, and they get the most fulfillment from finding the most secretive of secrets and so-called [[Wikipedia:Easter egg (media)|"Easter eggs"].
According to Bartle's empirical observations, explorers and killers tend to be negatively correlated in that having more explorers in a game environment leads to having slightly fewer killers and vice versa. Explorers generally keep to themselves, so the amount of explorers in a game environment does not greatly affect the number of other player types.
Killers have fun acting on other players. They see virtual worlds as a sport, or, if the game is large enough, a team sport. They are people who want to dominate others; the classic way is through attacking them or otherwise making life difficult for them, but it also can manifest in less overt fashion, such as politicking, rumor-mongering, pedanticism, or guilt-trip maternalism.
Killers are not necessarily JUST people who go around killing other users. They do, however, still include the category of individuals called griefers or those who enjoy griefing. Bartle describes the griefer-type killers as "Bullies prepared to use force or other unpleasantness to get their way or be noticed." Killers are not always soulless, and most of the time they are in it for pure competition and sport. They like finding new ways of winning against other users simply for feeling the accomplishment of having "beaten" someone else.
According to Bartle's empirical observations, having more killers in a game environment leads to having fewer achievers, slightly fewer explorers, and far fewer socializers. Having fewer killers leads to having more achievers and far more socializers. Killers like to annoy the other player types, so increasing the number of killers will decrease the number of every other type. They particularly like to feed on socializer prey; the socializer population is most affected by the number of killers.
One ethical question that arises is how closely online gaming identity and behavior reflects real world behavior. Anonymity in online environments, can impact the morality of players, increasing the number of gamers of the killer type. Additionally, players may view destructive actions in virtual environments as inconsequential. An alternative to this viewpoint, is the viewpoint that online behavior impacts moral development, which later on influences real world behavior. Another counter to the non consequentialist viewpoint, is that other players identify as their online avatars, and so they are harmed by violence to their online avatars.
Socializers have fun interacting with other players. They see virtual worlds as entertainment. They are people for whom the greatest reward is interacting with other people through the medium of the virtual world.
These are players that play in online environments simply to socialize. Their main goal is to meet other users and chat about anything, whether it is about the game or out of character. The game's missions and exploration is secondary to these players. Because of their socializing behavior, they stay away from single-player virtual environments because there is no point for them to participate in them.
According to Bartle's empirical observations, having more socializers in a game environment leads to having more socializers and more killers. Having fewer socializers leads to having fewer socializers and fewer killers. "Socializers are in an amplification loop with themselves-the more/fewer there are, the more/fewer will come/go."
The simplicity of the Bartle Test is a cause for criticism. Each question has two answers to choose from and the intent of each question is fairly transparent. Because of how obvious the player assignments of the answers to the questions are, a test-taker wanting to bias his or her results to achieve a more favorable or flattering profile result will have little trouble figuring out what the "right" answers are to accomplish this goal. Switching the possible answers from binary to a Likert Scale would reduce the ability to "game the system" and would give test-takers a wider array of possible choices for each question.
Not only a test of gamer psychology, the Bartle Test also has incredible commercial value for video game companies. As a survey, the Bartle Test reveals a lot of detail about the gaming tendencies of a large number of gamers. If conducted properly, it could serve as a survey of some of the most prominent and popular gaming tendencies of the members of the gaming community. From that information, corporations can tailor video games to some of the more prominent Bartle Test gaming personalities. It can also help players identify their personality type and then seek out games that are identified as optimal for users of that particular Bartle Test personality type. In many ways, this can be seen as another method of identifying a specific market or customer base that a business can then tailor their products to as a means of product targeting
- Anonymous Behavior in Virtual Environments
- Behavior in a Virtual Environment
- Online Identity
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