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The Seven States of Gamer Development
- Eric L. Rhea
Anonymity at its best
- Anonymous
Seeds of Inspiration
- Wes Platt
To P, or not to P (-Kill that is)?
- Ilya
Coping with change
- Selina Kelley
Just Give Me a Game, Please
- Jessica Mulligan

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The Seven States of Gamer Development

by Eric L. Rhea

There lacks in the gaming community any sort of lens through which to help better view or understand the development of a game player. There do exist methods to determine how gamers rank in types of personality [1] in comparison with one another, but that is a far cry from actually trying to determine the relationship to the development of the gamer personality. This short article introduces my concept of the seven fundamental stages of psychological development for the game player towards any game. By applying these labels, one may determine at what end of the spectrum they fall within a given category for a game.

Caveats of this taxonomy:

Taxidermy, not as pleasant

Detachable antlers!

  1. The system is only applicable towards a given game. It is quite possible for a player to be of types 4.5. in one particular game and be a complete stage 2. in another.
  2. These are not milestones or a sequential step of stages, but this is a system of a state of being. It is a system that measures progression of the psychological development of the gamer from their infancy within a given subject to a higher level of oriented play. Much like other systems, it is quite possible to be a member of state 3 and 4, to slip out of a state, or to simply jump from state 1 to 7.
  3. The system is highly subjective to the user experience and history.
  4. It may be possible to have these states carry between games that are similar in nature.

The seven states of psychological development for the game player:

  1. The Unwilling

  2. The Newbie

  3. The Apprentice

  4. The Strategist

  5. The Tactician

  6. The Designer

  7. The Creator

1. The Unwilling
The uninitiated player that has yet to decide whether they wish to develop their-self within this particular game state. This can be a precursor to actual selection of the game to play. This state encompasses all that prohibits the player from actually progressing with the game, as burn out is often a characteristic of this state.

Unique identifiers for this behavior include:

  • Lack of will to apply motivation towards a game
  • Complaints of "burn out"
  • Lack of play

2. The Newbie
The Newbie is a willing novice within the game state. They seek to explore the mechanics, analyzing how their avatar functions, and learning all that they can about the functional universe that they have involved themselves in.

Unique identifiers for this behavior include:

  • Someone who performs actions in an unshaped manner because of lack of experience with the system
  • Numerous questioning either through interaction with other players or through interaction with the game state

3. The Apprentice
The Apprentice has mastered the elementary mechanics of what the game offers and now appeals to models within the game state, either other players or components of the game state itself, to further their progression such that they may maximize their knowledge of the limitations of the system. Typically, members of this state will seek to join clans or guilds to enrich their knowledge of the game state.

Unique identifiers for this behavior include:

  • Typically a newer member of a larger, organized group
  • Will often work numerous quests, missions, or assignments offered by the game state
  • Will seek out The Strategist, The Designer, The Tactician, and The Creator for advice.

4. The Strategist
The Strategist has explored the system and now has a conceptually accurate representation of the limitations of what the mechanic can do. It is now their primary function to maximize their lead by exploiting their knowledge of the mechanics and game state to its greatest potency. The strategist knows the best quests or missions, which monsters and mobs drop the best loot, give the best experience, and knows the best way to kill x.

Unique identifiers for this behavior include:

  • Individuals who toil for hours on end to create a character, or spend as much time remaking characters to find the "best" combination
  • Individuals who seek to maximize their efficiency within the game state.

5. The Tactician
The Tactician is a master of planning and exercise of master strategy. They are organizers of larger events such as raids, god wars, and politics. The tactician has a fundamental understanding of the game state, of their self, and of the nature of other characters. Tacticians enjoy the manipulation of larger groups as part of the game mechanic. They organize because of limitations in the game systems that prevent them from doing this solo.

Unique identifiers for this behavior include:

  • Clan or guild leaders
  • Executes raids against otherwise unobtainable objectives
  • Accomplishes goals otherwise though impossible

6. The Designer
The Designer has had their fill of the world, cultivated the fruits from it, and decided to assist in the enrichment of the existing world with their knowledge. They selectively create systems within the mechanics of the game world that attempt to enrich the play of groups of other players.

Unique identifiers for this behavior include:

  • Creation of questions or missions within the system
  • Maintainers and creators of fan sites
  • Offering of utilities and services not normally provided within the system (marriage, holiday readings, cookouts, etc.)
  • Fan fiction and art work

7. The Creator
The Creator has achieved the highest possible level within the game state, having mastered the mechanic, given back to the community, and now finds that they are at a pinnacle state of achievement - perhaps considered even gamer enlightenment. The Creator often will slip into The Unwilling because of the lack of proper psychological stimulation - the same stimulation that propels the player throughout these states - occurring within the system. Typically, The Creator will take the lessons learned from one mechanic and construct their own, new game.

Unique identifiers for this behavior include:

  • Individuals who leave particular systems to create a new "better" game.
  • These are folks who are ready to build it themselves.
  • If the tools are available, they become builders of the world, expanding it in whatever capacity the game state allows.
  • Often writers of books or expansions

How to properly apply these states.

A label is an inherently dangerous thing when used improperly, however it is possible to have positive affectations. Here are some common types of personalities in games, broken down into my taxonomy.

Formal Definition:
A person who has motivated interest in the destruction of entertainment in other player's experience.
Classification: Tactician, Designer

Formal Definition:
A person who has motivated interest in achieving their game oriented goals, through application of their character.
Classification: Strategist, Tactician

Formal Definition:
A person who seeks to understand the core mechanics of the game system.
Classification: Apprentice

Formal Definition:
A person who has motivated interest in the direct competition with other player's in the game state.
Classification: The Tactician

Formal Definition:
A person who has motivated interest in the direct socialization process with other player's as a complimentary process.
Classification: The Designer

Formal Definition:
A person who has motivated interest in the causing of opponent (either player or non-player[2]) distress within the game state.
Classification: Tactician

Fan Contributor:
Formal Definition:
A person who has motivated interest to contribute works of the arts.
Classification: Designer

Game Designer:
Formal Definition:
A person who has motivated interest to create games, enhances existing, or expands beyond the current offering.
Classification: Creator

Formal Definition:
A person who has quit a game because of burn out.
Classification: Unwilling

[1] Reference:
Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit Muds [2] Do NPCs have feelings?