Gnothi Seauton – Why you play

About half of the pre-Socratic philosophers in Greece get the credit for coming up with “Gnothi Seauton” in one source or another, but it remains good advice: “know yourself”

It is a truism to say that people play Massively Multiplayer Online games such as Eve Online for a number of reasons.  One thing that startles me is that some people play for reasons that have very little to do with the online, shared space element of the game.  It surprises me because, if you want to enjoy a single-player game, then Eve Online can’t compete with, well, a single-player game.  In the latter, you are the focus of the universe, and will probably journey from insignificance to world-bestriding colossus.  Or at the very least, death-dealing ninja of terror.

In an MMO virtually nobody gets to bestride things like any sort of colossus.  Well, except maybe the Mittani.  But, in general, the best you can hope for in a massively multiplayer game is to be a nuanced version of a lot of other people.  To be richer than most people.  To have more kills than average.  To help run a moderately successful corp.  There are three or four hundred thousand characters in Eve and you’d almost certainly have trouble naming fifty that aren’t in your immediate circle of friends.  If you can, then welcome to the political game!

So why do people play MMOs?  Well, that’s a question that interests a lot of people, not least those in companies that make MMOs.  But it should probably interest you and I as well: if we know why we play then we can make better decisions about where to spend our time in Eve.  Fortunately, the grand-daddy of MMOs, Richard Bartle, created a framework to help find that out.

Bartle was the co-creator of MUD, in the impossibly early pre-history of 1978.  So he probably knew some of the ancient Greek philosophers personally, or was at least on nodding terms with them.  MUD stands for Multi User Dungeon, and was the precursor of Eve, World of Warcraft, Ultima Online and just about every MMO on the market.

Bartle also created the Bartle Test: a test aimed at discovering what motivated individual players in MMOs.  The Bartle test, in its original form, categorises players as Achievers, Explorers, Socializers and Killers.

Achievers play to win against the game, as a rule: to gain badges, levels, achievement points or other such concrete measures of success within the formal game structure.  The guy that wants to hit the level cap first on his server after an expansion?  Classic achiever.

Explorers like finding stuff out.  That may involve locations in the game. It may mean discovering new ways to play the game: inventive use of edge cases or mechanics.  It may even mean hacks and exploits in the game itself.  Someone who started wormholing when W-Space was launched and is motivated by the knowledge they found out about how to play there (including using tracking disruptors on their friends to grant extended range, Aperture Harmonics dudes!) would be a pretty definitive explorer on several levels.

Killers are probably more common in Eve than almost any other game.  PvPers of every sort fit this description.  I say “of every sort” because it varies from the person who loves “gudefitez” and who engages at bad odds, all the way through fleet fighters and gatecampers to griefers and (this is important) those whose defeat of others gives them satisfaction without even shooting or even undocking.  Aryth, a Goonswarm director, PvPs through the eve markets, and takes great pleasure in his victories.

Finally, socialisers range from the person who sits in corp chat and jabber all day, spamming hellos to every single person who logs in (and asking how their kid is doing) all the way to the politician, running a power bloc and never logging into the game.

To find out where you stand on each of these measures, take the Bartle Test yourself.   The retarded bot comments are not Bartle’s, of course.

Me?  I help run a massive, aggressive power bloc, try out every feature of the game, have thousands of kills across various characters but have never beaten level 41 in WoW.  Unsurprisingly I came out as Killer 73% > Socialiser  53% > Explorer 47% > Achiever 33%.