Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Art of Empathy - Gamer Style

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. In the business universe, this concept has been adapted into the Art of Empathy - a set of personality models used to assess and empathize with prospective clients as a way to ensure a successful business relationship. A personality model is simply a set of descriptors that combine to form a recognizable archetype. The Art of Empathy details a matrix of four personality models with the goal of identifying an individual's personality as a gradation between any two models in the matrix. Identifying a person's placement within this matrix allows the user to better empathize and support that person's needs within a business setting

This got me to thinking whether the same might hold true within a gamer setting - namely would it be possible to identify and empathize with an individual on the basis of where they would fall within a set of gamer archetypes. The ultimate goal with this concept is to create a better gaming environment by understanding your opponent in advance and tailoring your game direction and preconceptions to how your opponent understands the game.
The simple notion here is to identify the type of gamer based on this set of traits. The matrix is comprised of two sets of diametrically opposed traits. Someone who is strictly a Painter by definition cannot be a Player as he does not enjoy the play aspects of a miniature game and a strict Player has no desire to paint miniatures and is happy to play with any representation of game figures. A Formalist plays strictly within a game universe which means using only prescribed models and/or models developed specifically for a game system. In opposition, the Inventor takes pleasure in using whatever models/conversions as he sees fits, which could include models from other systems, extensive conversions to "count as" something else, etc. 

Having said all of that, very few gamers will fit neatly into any one of these four personality models. The gradient arrows in the graphic above represent a sliding scale of personality traits and I maintain that any gamer will exist within one of these gradients. For example, I find myself somewhere between the Inventor and the Player, with a general tendency toward the Inventor model. All of my miniature armies have some aspect of heavy conversion to them and I tend to use rules that show off these conversions to good effect. However, I still build lists that are intended to be effective in normal game play and do enjoy getting deep into the rules mechanics.

Where do you see yourself within this matrix? How about your friends? Would using this matrix to better understand how your opponent sees the game help you to adjust your perceptions and thereby have a better game? Did I miss the mark with these models? Are they nuanced enough to capture the type of gamer personalities that you have experienced?

As a footnote, the following are visual cues to identify a given type of gamer:

The Player
  • Models painted to a basic standard (or unpainted)
  • Proxied models that are being used to "play test" a unit or option
  • Multiple units that are identical, or nearly so, to provide list redundancy
The Formalist
  • Models painted within a specific theme including unit markings and identifiers
  • Army lists that are self-limiting in order to represent a theme "in game"
  • Will have a depth of models within a specific theme (i.e. every unit from a given army)
The Painter
  • Will have one of many different models
  • Will be painted to a very high standard
  • Will actually not be at a gaming table to game (i.e. is probably just entered into a painting contest)
The Inventor
  • Heavy use of conversions throughout the army
  • May be using a ruleset that "plays as" the intended theme of the army
  • Will have "counts as" options that are consistent throughout the entire army