I appreciate a well-structured typology, but only if I find it useful. So, it was a bit of a battle to justify yet another one to myself. But I managed, and so I present the Ludic Spirit Players!
Based largely on observation of my own kids over the last 16 years, as well as other work in the field of play by those such as Bernard Suits and Bob Hughes, these “types” are specific to the way I am forming this Ludic Spirit stuff and Play – not Games or Gamification, so it is not an all-encompassing list of play types or types of player!
Also, keep in mind; that no one is one type in any taxonomy; they are often all types in different measures at different times. These are just lenses for you to look through when building playful solutions to help answer the question “Will this resonate with XYZ” or “What is in it for XYZ.”
Of course, there is a little bit of RAMP in here – I mentioned that in a previous post; I’ll let you figure out the connections though 😊
Play vs Games
Very quickly, I want to offer a quick way for you to see how I separate games from play. Play is freeform and has very few system-based rules. In other words, play is engaged in for the sake of joy and play. Games, on the other hand, are more rule-based; there are set goals and rules that hinder your ability to hit those goals.
As a simple example: You are playing with a ball, just enjoying the movement and practising tricks. You are playing for the sake of play. Your friend comes over, throws his jumper and coat on the ground, makes a set of goals, and shouts – “Come on, see if you can get one past me and score.” Suddenly there is a system rule in place. You need to score a goal. You are no longer playing for the sake of play; you are playing for the sake of the game. It is still intrinsically enjoyable, but the rule of “You need to get the ball in the goal” makes it more of a game.
With that out of the way, this is where I have ended up so far. As ever with my work, there is a chance it will evolve as I use it more and understand it more.
The adventurer is all about experiences and pushing the boundaries. They play to discover, driven by curiosity and a desire to explore their world. They are the sort of person who asks “Why” a lot or “What if.” They are the sort of person who climbs a mountain just to discover what is at the top or push the red button just to find out what it does – despite any potential consequences. To thrive, they need to be able to explore and discover at their own pace.
Creators like to make things. Sounds obvious, but it is not just about building with bricks (though they probably love LEGO). It could be anything, from building new worlds in their imagination to painting to creating characters. Their joy comes from the creative in all of its forms. If you think about it in terms of The Sims, they would want to create the world that the Sims lived in but would be far less interested in what the Sims did in it. They will often spend hours setting up a scenario, and then let others play it out. In a game of Dungeons and Dragons, they are far more likely to enjoy being the dungeon master than an Elf in the game!
An actor is a bit like the missing piece when you look at the Creator. They are the players who will act out the creations of the Creator, be it the characters or within the worlds and scenarios the Creator has built. They are interested in imaginative play, but more from a role-play perspective than a building perspective. They will bring life to a character and love to “act” and play with others to live out new fantasy worlds.
The learner, unsurprisingly, plays to learn. There can be many ways in which they will use play, be it practising a movement until they feel it is perfect, to working with others (or against others) to increase their own personal skill levels. It is all about self-improvement. A simple example would be playing with a YoYo. They will initially play by themselves, learning how to get it to go up and down. Then, they may play with others, learning new tricks from them. Then, to challenge themselves to improve or to test their current skill level, they may compete. All of this helps them to continue to learn and cement their skills. Ultimately, though, they are playing with the YoYo because they find it intrinsically enjoyable.
My daughter looked at this list and said, “But what about those kids who are just chaotic?” I asked her to explain. “There are kids at my school who enjoy just destroying things or upsetting people. If it was a game, I would call them Griefers, but I think in your thing here it may be Chaos player or maybe Anarchist.” She is 11 and far brighter than I will ever be! As I looked into it, sure enough, there are the anarchists, people who get intrinsic joy from disrupting everything. In my HEXAD, they are, of course, the disruptors. Here, the Anarchist is a little different. They just don’t want to be constrained by the rules of society and norms, let alone the rules of games. So they do the unexpected. They are the ones who when playing Rock, Paper, Scissors introduce Bazooka!
They are not inherently bad; they are just a bit chaotic! Remember the kid who would build a tower, just to smash it over his head? That said, there was always the one that would just enjoy smashing other kids’ sandcastles – so handle them with care. Not all that dissimilar to Adventurers, but slightly different motivations.
There is a lot of crossover here, as I say – people don’t fit into neat categories. For instance, there is a Venn diagram where the Creator and Actor cross over to become Observer. Where they set up the fantasy world and then enjoy watching the characters they have helped create playout their own story (Think Sims). But that is a tale for another day.
Until then, I hope this is useful or at least interesting and do let me know what you think!
- Play, games, toys, playfulness and gamification
- A framework for creating play-like systems
- Keeping it Real in Fantasy Worlds
Also published on Medium.