Player Archetypes

Introduction

Magic the Gathering, as most of you know, is the Gaea of Collectable and Trading Card Games. It was created by Richard Garfield, and published by Wizards of the Coast in 1993. The game, which has acquired its cult status before some of you were born, was the first to establish the genre we all love and enjoy today.

When talking about CCGs, Magic unavoidably comes up, if nothing else, due to numerous expressions and card related slang that originates from the game. Part of the reason for its success stems from the incredible design that allows each and every player to find something for themselves. While the archetypes of players were unknown at the time of Magic the Gathering’s conception, the developers inadvertently kept the players contented without knowing their profiles. This continued until Mark Rosewater, the current Lead Designer of MTG, defined them and began using them in the card design process.

The archetypes fall into two general profile categories; Psychographic and Aesthetic.

Psychographic profile explores why an individual player enjoys the game ~ the way he likes to play the game. It explores what motivates the individual to play. On the psychographic spectrum, players generally fall into three categories; Johnny, Timmy, and Spike.

Aesthetic profile, on the other hand, describes what about the game it is that the players enjoy. Where is it that they find the beauty in the game? Mark Rosewater defined the two types as Mel and Vrothos.

Before I proceed with the description and explanation of the archetypes, I would like you to answer a short questionnaire to determine your archetypes here: Gwent Player Archetype Test

The Psychographic profile of the player describes his or her main motivation to play the game. The archetypes are not mutually exclusive, but rather complement each other, so while the majority of players have one dominating archetype, they usually hold attributes of at least one other.

“After numerous years, we’ve come to the conclusion that there are three basic types of Magic players. The fancy term for these categories is “psychographic profiles.” A psychographic profile separates players into categories based on their psychological make-up. What motivates that player to play? What kind of cards do they like? What kind of things encourages that player to keep on playing?”
~ Mark Rosewater

Timmy (or Tammy for female players) are the players who are motivated by their inner child. They enjoy playing rather straightforward decks and win with big, flashy plays. They love playing large, powerful creatures and spells with grand effects. With Timmies, winning is fairly low on the list of priorities, instead, they prioritize having fun and socializing above all else.

They are the most social and numerous of the types and as such, any game designer must make sure the game is appealing to them. That, however, does not mean an average Timmy is a bad player. In fact, they can very easily reach the top, especially with well-balanced games, with a large array of viable deck archetypes.

It’s really hard to say exactly what sort of cards and decks would appeal to a Timmy in Gwent, as those same cards might very well appeal to another. Timmy will often take cards at face value. He will take one look at Manticore, recognize its strength, and be more than happy to play it. Witchers and Crones, sets of three silver cards that provide immediate 19 and 21 strength on the board, are right down his alley. In Gwent, Timmy will not be satisfied from consistently winning games by 5 strength difference, but will prefer to win every third game and dominate the opponent with a triple figure Commander’s Horn. He is driven by the journey, not the goal.

Johnny (or Jenny) is the creative gamer. He enjoys playing obscure, complex decks, with convoluted combos and interactions. They often choose ineffectual and suboptimal win conditions in order to satisfy their urge. Johnny will often go above and beyond the contemporary meta game to find a way to break a niche, or even “bad” card into it. While Johnny gains satisfaction from beating their opponents with their complex strategies, that is not his biggest motivation to play the game. It is executing intricate combos that will truly make a Johnny happy.

While Gwent essentially limits Johnny’s interaction potential with the one card rounds, that doesn’t mean it offers nothing to him. Johnny is the sort of player that gets all tingly inside when he sees The Bekker’s Twisted Mirror and all the potential it holds. He is the sort of player who will spend days on end concocting a deck that could break the meta with Kambi, and he is the one that will finally bring the ladder to its knees with Pavetta. Johnnies, while not necessarily the most efficient players on the ladder, usually find their niche in the tournament play. With a much narrower array of decks to build against, their intricate combos have a greater chance to surprise opponents and catch them off-guard.

Spike is the second most common archetype of the three. The archetype was the first known to MTG developers, and the last one to get a name. Before Spike, this type of players was only known as “tournament players”. Spikes are the most competitive of players, driven primarily by the urge to win, to prove they are the best. They will seek and find every advantage they can gain. Even though they often copy other player’s strategies or decks, the best Spikes will often build their own and refine them to perfection. They are motivated by winning, and their high is the thrill of competition. Spikes will prioritize effectiveness and sufficiency above all else.

We’ve seen  Gwent’s competitive develop incredibly during the closed beta, the competition peaking at the Challenger Tournament. What this limited experience has shown, is that Gwent is already popular amongst Spikes. Pages like GwentDB and Gwentify have sprouted up almost immediately, allowing them to share and develop their cutting-edge strategies. We’ve already had the first competitive team and rivals emerge, signaling the dawn of Spikes has begun.

Aesthetic profile

The Aesthetic profile is slightly different than Psychographic. It deals with what makes players tick. In words of Mark Rosewater, the aesthetic profile defines what it is about the game that individuals find beautiful. Players can generally fall into two categories;

Mel is a player who is focused on the mechanical aspect of how the game works. They will appreciate the intricate and delicate interactions between the cards, and will generally find cards with unique mechanics the most appealing. They are intrigued by the way cards function and how they work with each other.

Gwent, even in its infancy, is rather generous to those on the path of the Melvin. With a set of finely designed mechanics, such as those of Geralt: Aard, Arachas Behemoth, Nekkers, etc. CD Projekt Red are obviously well aware of the importance mechanics play in a card game.

Vorthos, on the other hand is the flavor player. Vorthos will generally look at the game from a different perspective. They will take on the game as a whole, the lore, the visual design and the art, and expect it to work together. They appreciate card art and mechanics that are faithful to the lore.

CDPR are really catering to the Vrothos amongst us. Cards like Roach, Grave Hag, Olgierd and numerous others, perfectly combine their lore with their mechanics, while the art truly complements them.

“The aesthetic profiles represent is how players can find beauty in the game. The label of “Vorthos” or “Mel” simply means you are high enough on the scale that you use the term to self-identify where you find beauty. It is possible to be both a Vorthos and a Mel, or to be neither. Also, being a Vorthos and/or a Mel doesn’t necessarily impact your psychographic, because each one can be applied alongside the aesthetic scale.”
~ Mark Rosewater

As Rosewater explained, the aesthetic profile does not represent two opposite extremes but rather works in two dimensions. One axis represents the Melvin and the other the Vrothos. A player can take on any value on each axis, or might not even be interested in either aspect at all.

There are several other player classifications in the game developers’ world. Everyone that has ever dabbled in game design is most likely aware of the Bartle taxonomy of player types, a model based on ’96 paper by Richard Bartle. Originally meant to classify multiplayer gamers, BTPT was set as a 2-dimensional system, with the horizontal axis representing the interaction vs. exploration, and the orthogonal dividing between interaction and unilateral action.

The system gained popularity fairly quickly, and although originally based on the multiplayer populace, was quickly applied to single player as well. If you wish to read up more on the subject, the original paper can be found at http://mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm, and one version of the test to find out your classification can be found at http://matthewbarr.co.uk/bartle/.

The reason I’ve chosen to describe the Rosewater’s categorization instead, is the ease of application on Gwent, as it was defined to help develop another CCG.

Applications

But why does any of this even matter? In truth, to an average player it really doesn’t. He will either enjoy the game or he won’t. On the other hand, some might, as nowadays people do, take issues publicly and write about it on the internet. That is a valid course of action, especially when the issue is legitimate. The problem arises when people tunnel vision and take their own point of view as the only valid one. Within one CCG community, these issues usually arise between the different archetypes of players. A successful Spike will most likely want the game balanced around the highly competitive play, while Timmy for example, would much prefer the game to be as fun as possible at every level.

If you’ve bared with me so far, and if you are to take anything from this article just consider this. Every developer is trying to satisfy their customers the best they can. They are in possession of data that you are not, and are probably making informed and educated decisions you are unable to. Next time, before you call someone on the internet a retard for disagreeing with you, try and consider where he is coming from. What might his motivation as a player be?

Gwentlemen

Gwentlemen
Supporting the growth of the competitive scene of Gwent

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Published on June 22, 2017