A Self of SenseDr Richard A. Bartle
20th June, 2003
IntroductionThis talk concerns those computer games known as virtual worlds.
They come in several flavours:
The same basic rules apply to all of these, so I'll simply be referring to "virtual worlds".
Warning: this talk contains twice as much material as fits in the time allotted. Strap on your crash helmet, we'll be travelling at speed!
An AssertionVirtual worlds are about the celebration of identity, hence the relevance to SELFWARE.
Academics noticed this in the mid-1990s
What they didn't realise is that virtual worlds are designed with this in mind.
Neither do most designers...
Similarly, players pass their cultural values from generation to generation
But...Doesn't this imply that earlier designers knew what they were doing?
It does, and they did:
Yeah, right... So tell me how it works
OverviewSo, I'm going to provide a theory of identity exploration for virtual worlds.
I'll be showing that:
The Nature of Fun
The traditional player types model:
A Third DimensionThe player types graph has two dimensions
My original data suggested a third dimension
Adding this extra dimension gives us 8 player types instead of 4
New Player Types Graph
Each sub-cube represents a player type
What this BuysIt explains the difference between griefers and politicians if nothing else...
Interactions between types can be explained with more fidelity
The biggest bonus is that it allows the uncovering of player development tracks
Player DevelopmentFrom the very early days, it was observed that many players develop in the same way:
In player type terms:
There are plenty of exceptions, though.
The Main Sequence
Visible without implicit/explicit dimension
The Socialiser Sequence
Player half of player/world dimension
On old graph, killer=>socialiser=>killer=>socialiser
The Explorer Sequence
World half of player/world dimension
Development TracksWhat we have here are 4 sequences
In general, players can switch arbitrarily between types as they learn more about themselves
No off-sequence changes to or from politician
Designers influence speed of progression
What the Tracks Tell UsEach sequence starts off implicit, then goes explicit, then returns to implicit
It's a learning exercise
Locate, discover, apply, internalise
It's how babies learn to walk
What the Tracks Give PlayersDevelopment tracks deliver increasing immersion
Levels of immersion:
Important: it's not a 1-to-1 mapping
This is unsatisfactory for players, though
Immersion and IdentityThe more immersed you are, the more you become your virtual self and vice versa
This is why people play virtual worlds
The development tracks represent a progression designed to instil a greater sense of immersion
Q: What do players find fun in virtual worlds?
Their (almost always unacknowledged) goal is to find themselves
The Hero's JourneyThis state of affairs isn't unprecedented...
Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces
Has been applied in many narrative situations
Has also been applied within virtual worlds
The difference here is that it's not a narrative for a character, it's a narrative for you
The match isn't perfect, but let's take a look
DepartureCall to adventure
Refusal of the call
Crossing of first threshold
Belly of the whale
Initiation (I)Road of trials
Meeting with the goddess
Woman as the temptress
Atonement with the father
Most developers don't want their players to leave, so don't give them a boon
In my own games, we do give them a boon
Return (I)Refusal of return
The magic flight
Rescue from without
Crossing of the return threshold
Return (II)Master of the two worlds
Freedom to live
ConclusionPlaying virtual worlds is a kind of hill-climbing activity through identity space
The Hero's Journey is a good algorithm for finding a local maximum, if not a global one
Players follow predictable development tracks as they pursue their personal hero's journey
This is reflected in increasing immersion
When your real-world self and your virtual-world self coalesce, your task is complete
Designers need to understand all this, or they're doing their players a disservice
23rd June :\webdes~1\ m.htm