My coworker Mark wrote an article on different player psychographics – that is, archetypes that fit the psychological profile of players of our game, Magic, but which I have found apply well to most experience-driven (game) design. The three psychographics are, in my paraphrasing of them:
- Timmy is a player who plays to experience something.
- Johnny is a player who plays to share and/or discover something.
- Spike is a player who plays to prove something.
In Magic, for example, when we talk about a Timmy card, what we are really talking about are the exciting moments and experiences that card is going to produce for players (a “oh my god, check out what happened…” kind of story). A Johnny card is one that enables a player to be creative and “show off” that creativeness to others. A Spike card, we often joke, is a really good card (in terms of game balance), but really I think it has more to do with feeling that the card enables one to demonstrate one’s prowess at playing the game, often by creating shared decisions or choices that allow the Spike to demonstrate mastery compared to other players.
You can see how these would apply to other games as well. Something like Longest Road in Settlers, or the Workshop/Garden strategy in Dominion, are possibly Johnny-esque aspects to those games. Catch Phrase is very much a Timmy game. The Spikiest of Spikes enjoy games that have a lot of mechanics in them so that their deeper understanding of strategy lets them perform well. I have found it very useful to use these psychographic profiles outside of just Magic, and in fact outside of games sometimes, to analyze “player” behavior.
You can see how these three profiles apply to many games.