Monday, February 24, 2014

Gamer Archetypes according to Dr. Richard Garfield ...

Gamer ADD does it exist?

Having read a really cool article from of all places Vice Magazine with Dr. Richard Garfield the creator of Magic the Gathering (go read the interview it's good) I started thinking about "gamer ADD" that dreaded curse which can afflict a gaming group/club.

One of the interesting points Dr. Garfield brings up is this notion that there are three types of gamers; innovators, honers and champions.

The innovator is someone who tinkers with the rules, enjoys learning what a game can do and then experimenting with those rules in an attempt to innovate. Presumably though at a certain point though these people sort of hit the maximum amount of "innovating" potential and move on to other games.  Garfield's quote in the article that sums this up is "I take pleasure in trying to think outside the box in games," the innovator in a nutshell.  Figuring out how to use the rules differently or make the game play/feel different, etc.  
The honer, hones the rules.  They aren't so much concerned with the innovation part of things but more with complete rules mastery.  They seek to perfect the rules and master the game.  It seems like there is certainly overlap with the innovator, but I see his point that they are not one and the same.

Speaking of being one and the same, the third archetype Garfield lists is the champion can presumably combine both the qualities of the innovator and the honer to learn to both innovate with the rules but also master them.

I'm probably 90% an innovator, 5% honer, 5% champion.  I've had a few flashes of game honing and even combining the two and reaching the champion level with a game.  What I mean by that is back in the day with Warhammer 40K for example, and no I don't mean I just was a champion at tournaments.  I was incessantly reading the rules creating army builder lists, looking at the rules from every angle, practicing the game (playing as many as a dozen full games a week, etc.).  But my general MO is that  I get bored once a game gets to the honing stage and move on to other games.  It isn't that I can't continue to enjoy a game, it is that I need to have new challenges beyond just grinding out that last 10-15% of proficiency with a game.  Some people live for "honing" out that last big of game mastery and that is cool but just not my cup of tea.

This article really gets to the core of what many people see as gamer ADD.  For some people who can't play the same character in an RPG for more than a session, or people who just endlessly bounce from thing to thing ... yes there really is a gamer ADD.  But that is probably more a case of clinical ADD.  For me I do not have that (though if there is a powerful vector ... I can catch the contagion) with games so much, I think if a game is good and well designed it will hold my interest for a reasonable amount of time.  But I usually see pretty quickly if a game is deep enough to allow for some extended "innovation" and if it is it can hold my interest for months or potentially even years.  If the innovation potential is quickly exhausted though and I reach what I perceive as a "grind" ... in order to master this game you need to "practice" ... I'm out.  I don't like to have to do that with games, I just get bored at that stage.  Its is the same regardless of the game, from video games (RTS, MMOs, etc.), mini games, RPGs, or board games when I hit the honing stage I get bored.  

So open ended RPGs where things are really open and up to interpretation (Vincent Baker games are a good example, FATE is another example) tend to hold my interest.  Big mini games with regular releases does as well because the games constantly change but also there are other opportunities for innovation.  Even the elements of modeling, painting and creating terrain become opportunities for innovation.  So those hold my interest as well.

All this got me thinking about my own early involvement with games, particularly around the 5th grade I think, I played chess very frequently, I was pretty good, I'm not claiming I was the next Bobby Fisher or anything though.  I just won almost every game I played.  I was the chess champ of my school, I went to a regional competition and won.  When I hit the state level (Oregon) I got bored, I didn't want to practice and learn historical chess matches, learn individual opponents, etc. So I played in the one state level event way back in the mid 80's and then just quit (I did well actually though from what I recall, somewhere I have a little certificate) and just remember I really disliked it. I always wondered why I did that.  I really don't give up easily on things, I always stuck things out in sports, gods know I do that with academics ... I get obsessed with completing a course, degree, etc.  to such an extent I have two masters degrees, I'm heading into a third one soon and then I will finish out with my PhD.  I get obsessed like that.  I never knew why with games though I didn't seem to have the same attitude.  Well after reading this interview I think I do now understand it.  I like how he put things, a very interesting breakdown of different kinds of ways gamers see games.

Anyway great article it was really an epiphany for me.

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