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Game Design to Learn: The Player

The Gamer Brain (2010)

"Character Archetypes: Enriching Your Novel's Cast." Now Novel. N. p., 2017. 
Pang, Chirlien. "Understanding Gamer Psychology: Why Do People Play Games? - Sekg." Sekg. N. p., 2017.
Understanding User Psychology: Thinking Like A Game Designer.Medium. N. p., 2017. 
You Are Who You Play You Are? – MIT MEDIA LAB – Medium." Medium. N. p., 2015.

What type of person are you designing for?  Consider these
Types of Players

The Player The Collector The Competitor

Daredevil, Survivor


Are your players looking to have some fun?  To be inspired? These players prefer

  • games based on luck
  • risks
  • quick success and retries
  • simple rewards



Do your players want (or need) to achieve a goal?  These players like to:

  • collect (objects, badges, etc.)
  • level up
  • monitor their progress



Do your players seek recognition, status, or even influence?  These players look for:

  • leader boards
  • face offs (duels, ratings)
  • earned options
The Scholar   The Collaborator  The Creator 



Is your player someone who wants to think? This player would enjoy:

  • puzzles
  • strategy-based moves
  • logical conclusions

Socializer, Networker


Do your players want to make contacts? Communicate? Enjoy the privileges of belonging? These players like features like:

  • chat
  • mentoring
  • communities

Seeker, Explorer

Does you player like to have creative control?  This player would like:

  • character customizations
  • opportunities to explore
  • choices/multiple paths
  • open-endings

Player Mechanics







An avatar, token, or other device that represents the player.

  • How will the character be represented?
  • Who is the character and what are their motivations?
  • What sets the character aside from the other non-playable or opposing players?

The character drives the narrative of the game.  The characters decisions, successes, and failures shape the outcomes of the game.  Non-story driven games do not require a narrative.  Players work to move their character toward completing the main objective.

  • Master Chief (Halo)
  •  Arthur Morgan (Red Dead Redemption)
  •  Thimble (Monopoly)
  • Kratos (God of War)



Opportunities for players to control some aspects of their character.

  • Will changes improve your player?
  • Are changes visually pleasing?

Customization encourages both creativeness and ownership. Too much freedom to customize can be distracting or result in dispute.

  • "Skins"
  • Armor
  • Gadgets
  • Equips



Tangibly represented (such as currency, land).


  • Will initial allocation be equitable?
  • Will inequitable initial allocations be randomized?
  • How will inequitable allocation be established?

Wealth can enhance satisfaction with play, but it can also increase frustration with hoarding and loss. 

  • Health
  • Gold
  • Dollars

Skills / Traits

Abilities, traits, etc. of the character

  • How are each player's traits/skills determined?
  • Are they chosen or earned?
  • How much customization will be allowed?

Differentiation of skills will make replay unique. The acquisition of skills can be used as a reward but they can also unbalance an economy.

  • Magic
  • Powers
  • Intelligence
  • Strength



Tools or objects that act as a source of power for the character

  • What equipment or tools are associated with a player?
  • Do these items add special skills or abilities?
  • Can this equipment be lost, during play?


  • Web Shooters (Spider Man)
  • Leviathan Ax (God of War)
  • SCAR (Fortnite)


Vanity Items

Objects attached to a character that have no power.

  • How do players obtain vanity items? 
  • How are these items displayed to other players?

These types of items can satisfy the collector's need for reward, the collaborator's need for belonging, and even the competitor's need to display status. They can also appeal to the curious if they are used for customization.

  • "Skins"
  • Clothing
  • Costumes


Elite Items

Rare items, usually earned or purchased at high cost.


  • How do these items become available to players?
  • Are they available to all players?
  • What advantages do these items offer a player?

These items are difficult to come by and convey significant status in the game.

  • Master Sword (Zelda Series)
  • Dragon Scale Armor (Elder Scrolls Series)


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