Bartle Test

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    What is the Bartle Test?

    The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology is a framework used to classify players of text-based roleplaying games (RPGs) based on their gaming preferences and habits.

    It identifies four primary types of players: Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, and Killers.

    • Achievers focus on in-game goals and accumulating rewards.
    • Explorers enjoy discovering new areas and mechanics within the game.
    • Socializers value interaction with other players and building relationships.
    • Killers are driven by competition and the thrill of dominating others.

    This framework helps us understand player motivations and can guide game design to cater to different player types.

    A brief history of the term

    The term originated from Richard Bartle’s 1996 paper, “Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs.” In this paper, Bartle introduced a player typology for multi-user dungeons (MUDs), an early form of online multiplayer games.

    Over time, the concept evolved into the Bartle Test, a questionnaire that classifies players according to Bartle’s four main player types based on where they fall along two axes (players, world; acting, interacting). It has since become a standard for understanding gamer psychology in various online gaming contexts.

    Eventually, Bartle added a subset of additional types, based on whether players displayed certain behaviors explicitly or implicitly. This came to be known as the 3D Bartle Test, as it measures dimensions along a third axis (implicit/explicit).

    Where it’s used

    The Bartle Test is commonly used in the design and analysis of multiplayer online games. It helps developers tailor content to different player preferences and enhance overall player satisfaction.

    Community managers and researchers also use it to study player behavior and community dynamics.

    Types of games that use the Bartle Test include but are not limited to:

    Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs), Persistent browser-based games (PBBGs), Sandbox games, Social simulations, and their respective communities.

    Sample test questions from the Bartle Test, such as: "Which is more enjoyable to you? 1) Killing a big monster 2) Bragging about it to your friends"
    Bartle Test questions from Matthew Barr’s website.

    Examples of Bartle’s player types

    • Achievers in MMORPGs: In World of Warcraft, Achievers focus on leveling up their characters and collecting powerful gear. They aim to complete quests and earn achievements.
    • Explorers in Text Adventures: In Zork, Explorers enjoy discovering hidden areas and secrets within the game world. They take pleasure in solving puzzles and uncovering the game’s lore.
    • Socializers in Virtual Worlds: In Second Life, Socializers engage with other players, attend virtual events, and form relationships. They prefer activities that involve interaction and community-building.
    • Killers in Competitive Games: In PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), Killers thrive on defeating opponents. They seek the thrill of combat and aim to be the last player standing.
    • Balanced Players in RPGs: In The Elder Scrolls Online, balanced players might engage in crafting, exploring, questing, and PvP combat, showing a mix of the four Bartle types.

    Myths about the Bartle Test

    One misconception is that the Bartle Test pigeonholes players into a single category, limiting their gaming identity. In fact, most players exhibit traits from multiple categories, reflected in a percentage-based result.

    Another misconception is that the test dictates the only way players should enjoy games. While it offers insights into preferences, it doesn’t prescribe a single path of enjoyment.

    Lastly, some may assume that the Bartle Test is outdated and no longer relevant to modern gaming. While the original Bartle Test focused on MUDs, its principles are still useful in the design of modern games, and the test is still cited as being a foundational tool.

    However, it is worth noting that other frameworks have since emerged and that Bartle’s taxonomy of player types is not without its limitations and critiques.

    Bartle Test FAQs

    What do the four types in the Bartle Test represent?

    • Achievers are players who like to gain “points,” levels, or achievements within the game.
    • Explorers like to discover areas, create maps, and learn about hidden places.
    • Socializers enjoy interacting with other players, forming relationships and communities.
    • Killers thrive on competing with other players and exerting their influence on the game world.

    How is the test administered?

    The Bartle Test is typically administered as an online quiz consisting of a series of questions. Players choose answers that best align with their gaming preferences, and based on their responses, they are classified into one of the four categories.

    Where can I go to take the test myself?

    Great question! Where you go depends on what version of the test you want to take:

    Can a player belong to more than one category?

    Yes, most players show a mix of characteristics from different categories. The result is often presented as a percentage for each category, showing how strongly a player identifies with each of the four types.

    How can I use my results to improve my gaming experience?

    You can use your results to explore games and roles that align with your dominant player type.

    For example, if you’re more of a Socializer, you might seek out casual games with chat features and light roleplay. If you’re an Achiever, look for a game with an achievements system, custom titles, rare equipment, and other goodies.

    Can your results change over time?

    Absolutely. Your preferences can evolve as your circumstances change, and retaking the test can reflect these changes.

    For example, you might score high in the Killer and Achiever categories during college, then find that later in life, while working full time and taking care of a family, you’ve become more of a Socializer.

    For another example, see my test results at the bottom of this post. In it, I explain my latest test scores and explain how/why they’ve changed over time.

    How has the test impacted game design?

    The Bartle Test has influenced game designers to create more balanced experiences, catering to different player types. By understanding the diverse motivations of players, developers can design games that appeal to a broader audience.

    Is the test applicable to all types of games?

    While the Bartle Test was specifically designed for online multiplayer games, particularly MUDs and early MMORPGs, its principles can be applied to a broader range of game genres to understand player behavior and preferences.

    See also: MUD styles and player types.

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    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. "Be excellent to each other."