Dr Richard Bartle proposed a classification system in his 1996 paper ‘Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDS’ which sorted players into broad types based on their interactive tendencies. The system ranks responses along an “acting vs. interacting” axis and a “players vs. world” axis. The four extreme categories (that is, those where responses lean heavily on one end of each axis) are:

  • Killers, interested in acting and players. Thrive on competition and favour human opponents.
  • Achievers, interested in acting and world. Focus on gaining concrete evidence of success.
  • Socialisers, interested in interacting and players. Seek to meet and interact with people or NPCs.
  • Explorers, interested in interacting and world. Look around at their own pace and discover aspects.

The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology is more useful as an exploration of the categories a game experience may fall into (or the experience a player seeks) than an informative personality test. Most players have no trouble categorising their own tastes. The system suggests an incompatibility between opposite ends of each axis, which speaks to the difficulty developers have in “catering to all tastes”.