Navigation Styles | 2225

A world has to allow players to change their playstyle as they learn more about themselves in the context of the world.

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Navigation Styles

Last week I talked about the mechanics of certain kinds of worlds. A worlds mechanical properties can give rise to win conditions. Worlds without win conditions tend to produce lore and narrative as a result of play. 

Chess is a simulation – a world.

The goal or win condition is to check the King. But have you ever tried to play a game of chess with a different win state? For example, why not play out a story where checking a bishop is enough? Or play without a goal. Move the pieces around and see what unfolds.

Since it’s all worlds all the time over at thejaymo industries. I thought we could touch on player types this week.

Back in 1996, the father of all virtual worlds Richard Bartle – see episode 22-20 – published a taxonomy of player types in virtual worlds. A heuristic still deeply embedded in games design to this day.

It’s a classic 2×2 grid.

Simply Put: there are two axis. Action versus Interaction, and World-oriented versus Player-oriented.

This produces 4 types of players: Killers, Achievers, Socializers, and Explorers.

In 2003, Bartle expanded this 2×2 by adding a 3rd Dimension ​​Implicit/Explicit.

Are people navigating the world implicitly ie Brainwormed. or explicitly ie doing something with forethought.

Adding a 3rd dimension to the 2×2 adds 8 more player archetypes:

Planner, Scientist, Networker, and Politician, in the explicit category. Opportunist, Hacker, Friend, and Griefer in the implicit category. 

Which one best fits your online persona? Or has it change over time?

In code spaces people tend to switch arbitrarily between player types as they learn more about themselves in the context of the world.

It’s worth pausing and asking web3 folks what kinds of player or user archetypes are you building for in your DAOs? Are you making allowance for participants to switch archetypes as their understanding of the community matures?

Bartle’s framework is a good starting point for thinking about modelling types of participants in worlds.

In 2011 Jon Radoff introduced a new taxonomy. One which attempted to match the simplicity of Bartles original 2×2. But also incorporated findings in psychology on implicit and explicit motivation.

Giving us 4 new categories of world navigation styles. 

Immersion: stories, roleplaying, exploration, imagination, and a sense of connectedness to the world of the game.

Achievement: sense of progress, mastery of skills and knowledge, etc.

Cooperation: player involvement in activities where they are helping each other, through creativity, shared adversity, etc.

Competition: player involvement where individuals complete over scarce resources, comparison, and win/loss situations.

See also Radoff’s 2011 book Game On: Energize Your Business with Social Media Games. Its about how world design fused with consumer capitalism. A must read for anyone involved in web3.

So Competition, Cooperation, Achievement, and Immersion. Only one of these types of behaviours has a win condition. Social media tries to be a space for all four. But since all social media platforms are PVP servers, only one kind of navigation style is useful.

Permissive Web3 projects should consider player archetypes rather than user personas when designing communities. 

I personally prefer narrative gaming. I have done so ever since my first game of Warhammer back in 1994

For me a wargame is a simulation, within which a story unfolds. The events are contained within a world’s physics (the rules). Made both fair and unpredictable for participants by randomness and chance. You play the game, role some dice and a story takes place within the confines of the simulated world.

There are however, people who only ever play to win.

There is nothing more frustrating than playing the same game, or in the same world with someone who has a different play style. For example. At the start of a game I could say β€œthe narrative and context for this game in the campaign is X Y Z”. The other person would say β€œI don’t care about all that, the mission says I just need to do abc to win”. All shared worlds eventually address participants navigating by different styles.

In 2017 Games Workshop tried to formalise a solution to this problem. With the introduction of the concept of Three Ways to Play in Warhammer 40k 8th edition: Open, Matched, and Narrative. 

The core rules remain the same in all three styles. But meta level context advices players on how to approach play. Despite this you can still end up in a position where a highly competitive player still perceives a win condition inside a narrative game. Rather than using the simulation to find out what happens next.

This isn’t a new problem. It’s one that emerged in the very early days of DnD. The question of β€˜Are you playing against the world? or through it.’ Or rather: is the world adversarial or collaborative?

It’s revealing that early D&D games played at CalTech and MIT were notoriously punishing. Lee Gold, a collaborative player, wrote in her fanzine in 1975 that at CalTech: β€œthe dungeon master is playing against the players”. Which given the venue, elegantly sums up computer system design ever since. See episode 20-08.

In summary, it’s easier to allow participants to change their play style than it is to change the world. But more importantly. A world has to allow players to change their play style as they learn more about themselves in the context of the world.

Most techno-social systems we interact with today however, struggle to even consider this as a possibility.


The script above is the original script written for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the edit.

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4 responses to “Navigation Styles | 2225”

  1. […] the advertising engines of algorithmic platform capitalism as the database scheme will allow. The navigation of these vast techno-social systems dictated by ‘the algorithm’. Followers, likes, retweets and replies, a realtime chat […]

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