Who We Are and How That Affects How We Play

It’s simple really. Humanity is made up of many different types of people. Each person is different. We all have our own personality, and our personality affects how we interact in everyday situations. From greeting a friend in the hall to ordering lunch at the sandwich stand, our psychological personality comes out in every activity that we participate in throughout the day. It affects how we respond to all the stimuli around us. It should be of no surprise that our personality also affects how we experiment, learn, and play.

One of the big questions of life is, “Who am I?” Now we can have another blog post dedicated to that entire topic. So maybe we should just put that topic on the back burner for now. Maybe we will come back to that some other day. One approach to answering this question has been to take many many tests. These tests are sometimes psychological examinations that help us determine our personal preferences. These personal preferences, when analyzed by researchers, turn into data that we have labeled as “personalities.”

So what kind of personality do you think you have? Are you the calm, cool, collected, hero? Maybe you are the loose cannon cop who doesn’t play by the rules? Perhaps you have the quiet reserved personality type that prefers books and logic compared to the reality of the busy everyday world. In any case, society has some predetermined notions of some “top” personality stereotypes. But if you are interested and your curiosity pushes you beyond the cultural accepted stereotypes, then I encourage you to take this personality test here:


My IPIP results below: (Not meant to be seen as a model or to be judged. Simply an example.)


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The IPIP-300 is an in depth psychological personality test that is used by personality psychologists everyday! It is based around the “Big-Five” personality model of psychology, which is currently one of the most popular models of personality traits among psychologists. The “Big-Five” model categorises your personality in five distinct aspects (Openness to new experiences, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism – aka O.C.E.A.N) and also sub-divides those five into 30 more specific personality facets for a more detailed analysis.

Jason VandenBerghe, Creative Director at Ubisoft, argues that these “Big-Five” personality traits and the 30 personality facets translate into the “5 Domains of Play and the 30 facets of play.” I’m not here to spoon feed you his presentation you can read that here:

2013 Presentation: http://www.darklorde.com/2013/07/slides-gdc-2013-acting-like-players-applying-the-5-domains-of-play/

2012 Presentation: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1015364/The-5-Domains-of-Play

(Or if you are lucky enough to have access to the GDC Vault, then you can watch a recording of his presentation.)

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Okay, okay, what does all of this psychological mumbo jumbo mean? What is the bottom line Stan? Why do I care about this? How should we interpret this?

Well, it comes back to another question first? “Do we play for the same reasons that we live?” The answer is “pretty much.” We play to learn, grow, experiment, practice, and try out new experiences in ways that we simply can’t do in real life. So obviously our personality would, should, and does pour into our play styles.

Our personality tells us or at least hints at what types of games we like to play. This is certainly helpful to designers because it provides a good solid starting point when developing games. By understanding the human mind and the 30 personality facets, we can develop games that we enjoy playing because they reinforce the experiences that our personality wants to explore.

Jason VandenBerghe, provides some very relatable examples in his presentation. I encourage you to read it if you decided to skip it. There are example personality types, interconnections, and how everything is related. The presentation is definitely an eye-opener.

In conclusion, I believe that we play games for similar reasons to which we live our lives. Because of that assumption, if we understand the human mind through established psychological processes, like the O.C.E.A.N model, then we can provide ourselves with a good foundation and starting point to create games and experiences that we are intrinsically motivated to play because they complement our psychological personalities.

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