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GameMasterY: Types of Gamers

Updated on August 16, 2013
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My hobby is World Building. Unusual, but rewarding. I wish to give of my learning and experiences.

Types of Gamers

It has been said that there are only ten types of noses in the world. (Leonardo Da Vinci) And then someone else comes along and says that there are fourteen or maybe thirty-seven types. (online search: "How many types of noses?").

Cataloguing people by any criteria is much the same sort of effort. Not only will people argue the results, but they will argue with the criteria. Nonetheless, it is very useful to judiciously use archetypes and stereotypes in order to better understand a given situation and to suggest possible courses of action therefrom. Thus it is with gaming. It will be found that gamers (and in the case of roleplaying, game-masters), will at times behave in archetypal and/or stereotypical fashions over the course of their gaming career.

Some Definitions:

Game - an activity defined by rules which a group voluntarily participates in for social interaction, entertainment, and/or personal challenge.

Gamer - any participant in a game, player or GM.

Player - a gamer who is playing the game, but is not taking on the role of being in charge of the game. See Game Master.

PC - stands for "Player Character". The virtual person / personality being played in a roleplaying game by a player. Usually defined by a listing of characteristics on a sheet of paper.

NPC - stands for "Non Player Character". Refers to and and all characters which are played by the gamer in the position of the GM.

Game Master - in certain kinds of games, especially roleplaying games, one of the gamers that is assigned to be 'in charge' of the game, and may fill any number of roles including, but not limited to: administrative record keeping, storytelling, adjudication, cartography, artist, writer, actor, mentor, and gamer.

RP, RPG, RPGs - Respectively means "roleplaying", "roleplaying game" and the plural thereof. In this article the system-neutral term GM will be used by preference.

GM, GMs, DM, DMs - Respectively means "Game Master", "Dungeon Master" (a game master specific to the D&D game) and the plurals thereof.

...and Caveats:

A) People do not always behave the same in-game as out-of-game. On the other hand, some unfortunately do.

B) People usually change eventually. As such, most people will not remain a particular stereotype or archetype for long. Indeed, most people will be able to identify with more than one stereotype and archetype at any given time... which mix will change with time and experience.

C) People are easy to predict and manipulate in large groups. (see Politics) However, in small groups and as individuals, they will continually surprise one. Count on this.

Picking Which Ruler to Measure With:

There are many different ways to catalogue gamers. As with specialized fields and niche genres and sub-cultures which each spawn unique vocabulary and references, so also do different forms of gaming yield game-specific terms and concepts. Terminology specific to RPGs will be used here, but terms from other systems will be included towards the end for comparative purposes. The concepts following will draw from many different sources and will differentiate using apparent goals and motivations as opposed to the more traditional behavioral deliniations.

Socially Backward:

One of the most common stereotypes of a gamer is the socially awkward or backward individual who has trouble relating to other people, especially of the opposite gender. Over the course of topic research, it has been noticed that much of the advice and recommendations given for "handling" or "dealing with" specific gamer types is equally socially backward. Indeed, much of the advice is morally and ethically counterproductive and would actually result in deepening or multiplying the problem as opposed to actually addressing and resolving the matter.

This does not help gamers as individuals, as a group, or in the public eye. Such comments and advice given here will attempt to suggest possible courses of positive action, while acknowledging that each situation, and individual, is unique; requiring a tailored solution in every case. Also, the maturity and perception needed seem unfortunately rare traits, being completely unconnected with age... and are not always connected with experience either.

"The real goal is...."

Nijineko setting a goal. © Nijineko
Nijineko setting a goal. © Nijineko

The Goal:

In discussing the various types of players, it is all too easy to lose track of the real purpose in doing so, as is all too evident from even a cursory search of the internet with regards to player types. Most discussions of gamer types consist of a few "favored" player types which are praised or otherwise lauded as THE type of player you want, while the others are dismissed, degraded, made fun of, or otherwise written off. The real goal here, is to enhance fun for an entire group of people, partially by achieving understanding.

Contrary to other lists you will find, this list will attempt to identify both positive and negative aspects of the major types of gamers - as defined by the apparent goal of the person in question. Please keep in mind that while these archetypes and stereotypes exist for a reason, individuals are seldom only a single archetype or stereotype, they have feelings, and they may not always be fully aware of why they are doing what they do. It is not uncommon for reasons to exist behind the apparent reasons as well. Understanding is simply one step along the path to a great game. What is considered fun is also very different from to each group and individual.

Because it is so very important, I will repeat the two salient points:

Point One: the real goal of an RP group is to spend time with people who are enjoyable to be around, and to have fun playing one or more games together.

Point Two: Fun does not mean the same thing to every group or individual. Communication and agreement on what will be played and how, is critical.

The Types:

What type are you currently, or mostly? (See below for details...)

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Entertainer: the motivation and goal of this type is the entertainment of others or of themselves.

Pros: this person can be a great boon to the group, making horrible puns, cracking occasional jokes, and interjecting related anecdotes to the action and story making a given gaming experience one to remember and talk about for years to come. They can also be fun and surprising role-players doing the unexpected and obscure, which can be quite the fun adventure when it is pulled off. Lastly, you will find some of them to be the introverted entertainer sort, not taking the lead, but ready to engage in whatever plot twist or interesting phenomena being presented by the GM; there to be entertained.

Cons: This person can be a great hinderance to the group, always seeking the laugh or groan, even at the expense of the other members of a group. Interrupting story flow and breaking concentration, some versions of the entertainer are there only to amuse themselves or to be seen as amusing through the eyes of others. This sort can be dismissive or even contemptuous of those who desire to 'stay on track' in-game, as that is contrary to their desires and goals. Some inverted-entertainers are even on a crusade to deliberately sabotage what they view as "bad-wrong-fun" or in other words, to prove that "you're doing it wrong". The rare extremists of this stripe can be found among all three of the "narrativist-gamist-simulationist" theory of believers, though the narrativists seem to be the most vocal about it.

Reasons: The reasons for this behavior vary. A few have insecurity issues which they seek to displace by creating an artificial social position for themselves. Occasionally, it may be self-worth / self-image issues which they seek to displace by creating an artificial worth, image, and/or a sense of self through humor or through emotional and mental abuse of self and/or others. For some, they think that they are being funny, and may not realize that there is a line, let alone when they have crossed it. And some are simply funny people with a quick wit and a sharp perception.

Options: There is no one solution. As each individual is different, so will possible approaches. Some possibilities include simply being a friend by quiet example. Affirm the person as opposed to their gaming skills, or their attempts at humor. Speak up and share how the humor makes you feel in simple and honest terms - before one gets angry. Avoid accusatory or retaliatory language. Some groups may even need to make an agreement to avoid certain subjects or topics in conversation and/or humor. Most groups establish some kind of rule about off-topic talking, humor, and activities in an effort to maintain immersion and game-flow.

Creationist: not to be confused with the belief, a gamer of this type is there to build something. This something is not always supported by the existing rules.

Pros: this person can be an excellent support member of a gaming group, more experienced versions being typically being well versed in the rules. Regardless of system-rule familiarity, the spark of creativity and the hunger to make something new can lend fresh vigor to a gaming group, and can yield some excellent explorations into fringes of various system-rules, genres, and roleplaying of a particularly vibrant type. There are seldom better developed niche characters than those created by this type of player. Some will go so far as to create new rules to cover a particular aspect that the system-rules fail to cover, or even design entirely new games. Outgoing versions of this type can be some of the best support players you can find as they take joy in helping you accomplish your creation goals.

Cons: this sort of gamer can be obsessive about whatever their particular goal is. This goal can be story, character, system-rule, or even roleplaying related. Some versions of this type seek to develop a specific concept of character, irrespective of how well the rule set supports the concept in question. This can yield juxtapositions of rules that were perhaps not intended or even thought of by the original designers of the game. Some of these can be useful, others are labeled "game-breaking". Many will at some point try their hands at designing; quality and skill, however, tend to be divorced from sheer desire. Their obsession can impact game play and player relationships as they may tend towards a lack of interest in anything that does not represent progress towards their specific goals. This is the classic scenario wherein the gamer has a nail, and so orders the universe to become a hammer to suit.

Reasons: these types are frequently right-brain dominant, though you will also find occasional left-brain types, especially in numerically heavy game-systems. They all seem to have a drive to make something specific and/or new. The exact reasons behind that drive are as different as the goals in question, but all share the common characteristics of a tendency towards tunnel-vision, obsession, and a disregard for opposing factors (like the rules of the game, or sometimes the GM crying 'underpowered!', 'overpowered!', 'game-balance!', or 'realistic character build!').

Options: Enlist them in your goals. Make their goals part of the game plan. It is not necessary to reveal plot secrets, but it has been frequently observed that if the GM sits down with this type and makes out a game plan with them wherein they know that their goals are being taken seriously, and can be accomplished eventually, they become much more open to supporting all the intermediate stuff (like plot, other GM and gamer goals, and so forth). Accruing in-game advantages can also suck them into the rest of the story (if they are the game world's sole inventor of something-or-another, then that opens all sorts of plot angles where they are consulted, rivaled, opposed, supported, thieved, etc.).

"The goal of a Creationist is to build something."

Portal to a Lonely Isle  © Nijineko
Portal to a Lonely Isle © Nijineko

Collector: this type seeks to have the most / all of something. This may be some article or item, perhaps a complete set of some thing, it may be gaining the mo

Pros: they usually are quite knowledgable about their particular goal and related subjects. These goals are usually quantifiable and can be fun to work into and enrich thereby a plot thread or campaign arc. Supportive versions of this type extend their abilities to helping other gamers in the group to accomplish their goals as well. The exact collection goal varies, some may collect kills, specific sets of items and/or abilities, conquests, governments overthrown, missions completed, one of everything in the game, and so forth.

Cons: this type can also obsess to an extreme about whatever their collection goal is. One popularly decried version of this type is the one who seeks to collect as many powers and abilities as possible into one character making an uber-character that is as nigh invulnerable and unbeatable as possible. Depending on collection habits and methods, this can detract from the abilities and time other characters of the group, or even interfere with the players directly, lowering the amount of enjoyment the rest of the gamers can draw from the group and gameplay.

Reasons: as usual, the exact reasons vary, but compensation issues seem to be the most common with obsession trailing just behind. It is important not to mistake the minority of those gamers whose reasons are different from the common causes. Sometimes, someone simply thinks something is really, really cool - like that gentleman who gave fruitcakes to everyone because he liked them so much, and was most disappointed when he never received any in return. There is also the "I-Win" flavor of this type whose goal is to collect "wins", however that may be accomplished in their mind.

Options: for the lesser versions of this type, incorporating their goals into the plot is usually the best option. Discuss options and sub-goals for achieving their desire, and take a stab at making a goal beyond the initial one. Combine their sub-goals into goals for other players as well. For the more intractable versions, finding out why that is their goal may be illuminating. Perhaps they suffered at the hands of an "I-Win" type who was in the role of GM and defined "winning" as killing off the players in as many unique gruesome ways as possible, (a practice called "Killer-GM" and sometimes "Player-Rape") and now over-compensates by trying to cover every way they could be abused. Others have some picture in their head (an anime, comic book, tv-show) that they are trying to replicate. A rare few are simply repressed megalomaniacs... if they can handle the stress of potentially losing, this last sort of gamer make great guest villains for your campaign. Be creative and flexible in how this type is approached.

Tactician: this type finds joy in the nitty gritty of a situation be it a tense negotiation with multiple elements or a difficult puzzle or a complicated combat

Pros: most often associated with combat specific scenarios, do not overlook the occasional social tactician. When an activity comes up in the course of the game which falls into their area of expertise, they can give superior advice and will perform in said activity well above average. Looking at the old anecdote about the forest and the trees, they focus on the trees and know just where to put them. Short term planning and point-of-contact responses tend to be their forte.

Cons: if not careful, this type can overwhelm the rest of the group single-handedly in their area of expertise, effectively rendering the rest of the group pointless or minimally effective. Some are not skilled at sharing their knowledge and tend to put off everyone else by giving out reams of what is usually perceived as orders. A few extremes view their abilities as the hammer to every bolt, nut, nail, and clasp and will actually try to force the game and GM to comply with their views. The worst seem to be those that think they are skilled, when in fact they are not.

Reasons: these gamers seem to fall into two main camps: Been-There-Done-That, and Armchair-Generals. The former are usually those who have actually been exposed to real and sometimes dangerous tactical situations, be it street combat, warfare, or intense live-action simulation-training. They frequently find it a stimulating way to play, or perhaps simply an effective way to deal with a simulated situation. The latter are those who happen to have been born with natural talent that is untrained, those who have achieved game-system or rule-method mastery, and those who think they know what they are doing.

Options: sharing group leadership among the various players is one possible way of handling the varied strengths and weaknesses likely to be found in a group. When it is time for combat, give the combat tactician the lead. When it is time for social interaction, give the social tactician the lead. Another option is to take turns, let the gamer take the lead one time, and rotate it among those interested in doing so. This can be effective with the more difficult and less capable gamers in the tactical area. In cases where intense tactical situations (be they combat or diplomacy or puzzle-based) is desirable, but there are those who are less capable, then post situation critique and feedback is a good option to aid in developing new tactics for future encounters. Written anonymous feedback allows pre-discussion revision, which is great for editing language and emotional content which would tend to provoke instead of edify. There is no one most effective approach. Each must be tailored to the particular group in question.

A tactician always has you in their sights.
A tactician always has you in their sights. | Source

Strategist: this type is rewarded by wielding and manipulating multiple threads in a complex interaction to achieve a desired set of goals.

Pros: gamers of this type are the ones who will pipe up and remind the group about critical pieces of information and NPCs that have yet to be followed up on. They often take notes or have near-eidetic memory. Referring again to the old anecdote about the forest and the trees, they focus upon the forest and look to the long term. Long laid plans and investments into the future are hallmarks of this type. Gamers who are capable strategists tend to make excellent GMs.

Cons: these gamers can become frustrated with those who cannot see or do not care about the long view, and especially with those who ruin a carefully laid plan. Even worse are those which think their plots and plans make sense, when in actuality they do not follow commonly understood methods of logic, common sense, or belief, nor maintain internal consistency. If they are ignorant or self-delusional about their capabilities, or are the type to complain or whine incessantly about failures (actual or perceived) rather than learning from them, this type can make some of the worst GMs ever.

Reasons: the simple fact is that most people do not have talent, skill, or training in this area. It is not an easy thing to learn, and including other people in the mix (such as in an RP group) tends to blow up plans as frequently as the military maxim suggests: no (campaign) survives first contact with the (players). Even fewer people also possess the complimentary flexibility in thought processes to deal with and adjust to sudden changes in plot flow and player choices that fall outside of expectation. Such flexibility is usually gained only through much trial and error, something that most people also do not possess the patience and discipline for.

Options: If they have ability, and they are not already the GM, give them a turn every now and again. Switching GMs about can be very invigorating for a group. Some groups actually maintain two (or more) GMs running different campaigns and multiple sets of characters so that they can play whichever storyline they feel like that particular session. This also helps deal with attendance issues. If a capable gamer is already the GM, give them a break and try taking on the GM role - as previously mentioned, most have to learn by doing, by trial and error. It can help them recharge. In cases where ability is lacking... probably the best option is, again, to offer gentle constructive criticism (something else that most people do not have a feel for) and feedback. As previously mentioned, it is often useful to take the time to write criticism and praise down, and revise it a few times. This can strip the tension, stress, and other emotional content from the feedback, allowing the person to take it in on an intellectual level, instead of an emotional level and getting defensive, angry, and offended. If the group uses electronic formats, and prints them off without identifying information, it can be a great tool to improve the gaming quality of the group. This sort of thing should not be done during a game session, but during the rest of the week, which gives people time to process and visualize new approaches. As always, people are all different, thus the only way to be fair to everyone, is to treat everyone differently. Any given exact approach to including strategist types will vary based on the individuals in the group.

Methodist: not to be confused with the sect, this type seeks perfection in their favored ideal concept or simply has found what they like the best and will almo

Pros: they may be a one-note gamer, but there is a method to their madness. This gamer has found their zone, and wants to stay in it. This may be a particular personality type that they always play, or a specific class or occupation that the character will invariably possess, or even a narrow theme outside of which they seldom if ever stray. They typically play this role very, very well, and have excellent in-depth knowledge of their chosen niche. They can lend a depth and verisimilitude to gameplay as they will think of almost everything that such a character would actually do in real life, and bring it into game. This is your quintessential "X" type of gamer. In the role of a GM, they can usually portray one or two genres very well, which can make those adventures quite memorable.

Cons: the gamer that always, always, ALWAYS plays that annoying kleptomaniac shorty, or that dual sword wielding dark skinned fey, or that noble mix of warrior-healer-tracker, or the seemingly weak but mouthy teen that is a mighty power slinger in secret with some twisty past just waiting for someone to step over the line. Was that laughter? If so, that is because most people have run into, or at least heard of one of these. Like myths, folklore, and legends, tales of these single-minded gamers make the rounds of the gaming community persistently. When done poorly, they not only detract form the archetype or stereotype they are trying to play, but from the group as a whole. Sometimes, they are so busy trying to play "THEIR CHARACTER" right, that they don't even seem to be playing the same game as the rest of the group.

Reasons: Sliced bread. Great idea, right? To most of these types, their area of focus represents the next thing after sliced bread, good or bad. For some, it is an obsession, or even a desire to be just like that character. A rare few border on objectophilia. For others, it is simply that after having tried different options, they find this particular one matches their capabilities and preferences the best. Other gamers will find this narrow focus admirable and/or annoying as is their wont.

Options: Finding ways to allow them to express and "be" their character in the natural course of plot and game, while preserving other's chances to shine, seems to work the best. As a GM, design the occasional plot thread, encounter, or adventure around some of the key features and abilities and goals of the character in question. (Ideally, this is something the GM is doing constantly for every character.) As a player, find out what that gamer likes to do best, and have your character seek out and request support in the area of expertise to allow that player (and character) more opportunities to "be" the character.

Narrator: this type wants to either tell a story or be told a story. Some prefer specific types of stories, genres, or interaction. Not to be confused with the

Pros: a skillful raconteur will tell an engaging and entertaining story, be it through traditional storytelling, acting a character role, or presenting scenarios as a GM. Plentiful detail, well imaged characters and scenarios, and engaging plots and backgrounds are all hallmarks of a talented narrator. Many are gregarious, and can be quite enjoyable conversationalists. More secretive sorts will astound you with sudden revelations.

Cons: some narrators will not stop going on about their masterpiece, whatever it may be. At any unfortunate action resembling the drop of any object vaguely resembling a hat, they will deliver a mighty discourse about every little flaw, emotional twinge, tragic backstory, cosmic power, itty bitty living space... in fact everything about whatever the current creation may be. A few even have reams of notebooks or a tome or two about the subject matter. Others will take it into reality with costumes and props apropos. When among those who do not share their inclinations or interest, this can detract from gameplay, slow down sessions, and irritate friends, family, and strangers.

Reasons: some narrators have story ideas bubbling within and just waiting to burst to the surface. Others are simply skilled at presentation and recounting a tale in an enjoyable and engaging fashion. A few are looking for validation of self, of worth, of image, or of the handiwork of their hands. Some prefer the anonymous interaction and relative lack of rules of an online freeform chat, or live-action roleplaying activities to other forms of roleplaying, both of which emphasize storytelling by default.

Options: If possible, harness their talent. Let them read or even act out the large blocks of descriptive text to set the mood. See if they will be willing to undertake the research and write up backgrounds for PCs, NPCs, towns, regions, and countries. Make opportunities for them to tell tales, as GM or as a player. Some might even be willing to take notes during the game, and write up a short narrative piece describing the exploits of the group.

Narrators almost always have a few more stories they haven't related yet.
Narrators almost always have a few more stories they haven't related yet. | Source

Chaoticist: this type seems to act randomly, but occasionally you will find one that deliberately, even maliciously, acts for maximum entropy.

Pros: change is one of the few constants in life, and the rare positively oriented chaoticist embodies this. They will be the ones that finds the third path from the fork in the road, they will do what seem crazy and disconnected only to have it turn out for benefit, they will ask the questions that makes people stop and realize that they have been overlooking one or more possible angles to a situation. Children excel at this, as they do not yet know what is impossible, and still believe in what cannot be seen or proven. This will also occur with people who are very new to a particular game system, rule set, or setting.

Cons: much more common, or at least more commonly talked about, the negative version of this type brings chaos and discord to their surroundings. Gameplay might halt at the outrageous actions suggested, immersion can be broken, and it may be felt that they are not paying attention or even care about any of the other gamer's efforts.

Reasons: Some have had life experiences such that they do not feel comfortable without a certain threshold of negative emotions present in any given situation. Others may find it amusing to provoke reactions, while still others are perhaps bored, inattentive, or lazy and react whimsically to make things happen that seem interesting and/or funny on the spur of the moment.

Options: for the positive types, one possible route is to try to tap into their creativity outside game time and make use of it. Have them suggest random plot twists or brainstorm with them to get over creative blocks. With negative types, attempting to discover the reasons behind the behavior is iffy and really depends on the personality and the willingness to communicate of the gamer in question. If there is a resolvable issue, and it is within reach of the resources of the group that is always the preferable path, but in the rare case of an intractable individual the group may be facing difficult choices.

De-stressor: this type is there to get rid of built up emotion unrelated to the game. Most people have an occasional day of being this type.

Pros: much like a short can create a new circuit with a new effect, the venting of tension can lead to an intense game session.

Cons: all too often, emotional overload seeks the path of least resistance, leading to a somewhat singleminded and narrowly focused determination get rid of it in whatever fashion that has occurred to the gamer in question. When it does not match the intended plan of the GM, it can cause more stress than it relieves, pulling down the quality of the game session for all gamers.

Reasons: sometimes people have a day where they just want to hit things. Other times, they want to feel power over or superior to another. And occasionally it is just the desire to succeed at something, even if it is only in a game.

Options: people need to vent, and friends should be sensitive to this. Using creativity to work the plot and events around to at least partially enable the person, can be a great way to help out a friend in need. Other times, gaming may need to take a back seat to the more important task of helping a person out.

Socialist: not to be confused with the philosophy, this type is purely there for social reasons, and may or may not participate.

Pros: regardless of the degree or even lack of actual in-game participation, this type can help support a game group in many ways. This support can range through hosting, food, moral, creative offerings and insights, affecting group dynamics and personalities, tolerance, and more. Do not underestimate the impact of a supportive but otherwise personally uninterested significant other on a gamer or group.

Cons: horror stories are told of this version of the type; some groups completely ban the presence of non-players while others ban intra-gamer relationships which can sometimes lead to similar problems. One of the more common type of story involves the significant other who does everything (subtly or otherwise) to make the gamer in question focus on them rather than the game, even during gameplay.

Reasons: a few people are willing to participate in activities based on the strength of a friend or partner's interest. Others are not. Some are tolerant of the time and effort involved in gaming but do not have a personal inclination or interest towards gaming themselves.

Options: supportive types need support back. Be sure to be sensitive to the situation and even volunteer to assist so that they never feel taken advantage of. Non-supportive types can sometimes be negotiated with. It is always worth making the effort to reach a compromise.

In Conclusion:

There are other types and sub-types that can be identified, as well as other methods of cataloguing types of gamers. Each individual situation and group dynamic will be different, and thus requires a different solution to resolve it. There will be occasions where a specific aspect of a situation may be irresolvable. No matter what type or types a person may match, they will eventually change, and so will the approach to preserving a great gaming group. And at the end of a gaming session, the real important question is, "did everyone have fun?"

What is your favorite type of gamer? (Comment about why below!)

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Which type do you dislike the most? (Comment about why below!)

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Other Systems of Gamer Types:

Here are some links to other lists of types from around the web:

The 28 Types of Game Masters, by Scott Butler and J.D. Frazer

Pen and Paper: The Types of Dungeon Masters, by Eric Mikols

Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering: Player Types, by Robin D. Laws

Breakdown of RPG Players, by Sean K. Reynolds

Role Player Types List, by Elliot_Kane

The 25 types of RPG Players, by AL][EN

The Ten RPG Player Types, by Challenger RPG

Player Archetypes

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