Anna and I are both notoriously risk averse in games. (And in almost anything we do in life, but that’s an entirely different subject) We wondered if grouping everyone we know into those categories would tell us something about the games we enjoyed, but we quickly realized that there are a lot of other factors. We already think of ourselves in terms of social gamers versus individual players, and so the seed of an idea started to develop into a more complicated theory.
This isn’t one of those tongue in cheek “the 5 types of people who play boardgames” articles. This is a serious attempt to examine some aspects of personality and how they can help you find games. As with all good personality tests (Meyers-Briggs, Voight-Kampf) we have named this assessment after its creators, and dubbed it the Levan-Rutledge Game Personality Test. Our goal is to be able to apply this to games and people to help match games, players, and designers.
A Brief Overview
There are 5 dimensions we identified (the concepts are firm, but the personality types could use some work.)
Interacting players are interested in how they can work with (or against) other players to accomplish their goals. Solving (Reactive) players are more interested in finding a better way to accomplish goals than other players. This is “social” versus “independent”, but independent players don’t necessarily want to play alone.
Building players like growth and creation, especially creating an engine. Conquering players like to defeat enemies, other players, or the game rules. The natural opposite for “building” would be “destroying”, and while we feel this difference definitely exists, we wanted to eliminate the negative connotations.
Intuitive players make the moves that feel right without figuring out the consequences completely. Analytical players studying their moves and options in order to make sure they have the right decision. If you suffer from analysis paralysis, you’re analytical.
Planners create a plan and remain confident in choices when the situation changes. Adapters change their plans quickly and frequently to best react to the situation. This is similar to the intuitive-analytical split, but is more about how you make strategic decisions, while intuitive-analytical is more about how you make tactical decisions.
This was the hardest for us to define. What we eventually settled on is that it reflects your overall outlook, when looking at a cost-benefit balance, risky players prioritize the benefits while cautious players prioritize the cost.
So why isn’t there a Tactical-Strategic dimension? This was a hard one, but we eventually decided that while games tend to favor one or the other, you rarely choose to ignore an entire aspect. So it might affect what kind of games you enjoy, it isn’t a good measure of how you actually make the decisions. Using the intuitive-analytical and planning adapting will provide a more interesting and useful examination of personality type.
How can this be used?
The goal is to group games by “personality” so if your letters are close, you can be reasonably sure that the game will be a good fit for you. (It’s not guaranteed that you’ll like it, since there are more factors involved, but it’s a good beginning) Let’s start by applying this to a few very widely played games, and seeing what kind of personalities fit them. In the future, I’d like to actually be able to select games for each option. (That’s 32 games, so maybe we’ll have to group some together.)
Ticket to Ride. Definitely interactive, because players are competing directly for routes. Building because the game awards points for constructing routes and completing routes, while blocking is a much smaller part of the game. Either Intuitive or Analytical seems to work. Executing a strategy depends on both planning your routes, and adapting to others’ plays, and risk is difficult to manage, but there are some techniques, so looks like it ends up as IB***, with a slight lean toward IBndr. (lowercase meaning weakly). Its flexibility makes it a great game to pull out with almost anyone, and because it is interactive and building, it is a great gateway game to involve others.
Catan is interesting because setup has more emphasis on Solving, Building, Analytical, Planning, and Caution, but once you get into the game, it is more Interacting, Adapting, and Risky, with elements of Conquering. Perhaps this dual nature reveals why it is so widely enjoyed.
Agricola is mostly Solving, Building, Planning, and Cautious. Intuitive and Analytical are about a toss-up. SB*PC
Carcassonne is Interacting, Intuitive, and Adapting, but suits both risky and cautious. Various expansions and sway the game between building and conquering, but more importantly, the base game is more building with 3+ players, but slightly toward conquering with only two, which becomes a bit more tit-for-tat.
We don’t have a test yet, but do a self assessment and see where you fit. Get others to do an assessment of you, too, and then compare the results. It is often hard to see ourselves clearly, because you focus on the things that you have to work at, and not the things that you do naturally. I come out as a SBAPC. Anna is more of a SBNDC, because she is more intuitive and adaptive than I am. I’ll revisit this again with some ways designers can use these dimensions to see their game from other angles.