Game Player Types and Crypto

An analysis of the narratives in crypto through Bartle's Taxonomy of Player Types

Play games well. Be a good winner. Be inclusive to people entering our space.

A thread about what I like about games (including losing them), and what playing them with you tells me, in the context of the latest crypto bull market.

You may or may not be familiar with the Bartle taxonomy of player types, which I'll use to help categorize types of people in this space, and the games I suspect they're playing.

If you're not, there are two axes: Horizontal represents player prefer for interacting with one another versus the game, Vertical represents the prefered goals of the player, to act upon, or else to collaborate with. (it's 30 questions:

Players who prefer player interaction and aim to act upon others are "killers". A killer wants to beat others. When a killer loses, they may ask the question, "how do I get better than them?" When a bad killer loses, they may blame or accuse others. When a killer wins, they know that they have demonstrated they are the best. When a killer wins poorly, they may gloat.

Players who prefer player interaction and aim to collaborate with others are "socializers". Socializers want to be well regarded by the group or else increase social capital. When a socializer loses, they may ask the question, "who should I have interacted with or manipulated better"? A bad socializer demonstrates social insecurity. Good or bad, wins or lose, socializers ask, "What do they think about me, and what is the group dynamic now?"

Players who prefer world interaction and aim to act upon the world are "achievers". Achievers want to grow in competence. When an achiever loses, they may ask the question, "am I not good enough?" When an achiever loses poorly, they may blame others. or else draw excessive attention to their own failures, seeking compliments or attention. Like the killer, when an achiever wins well, they need only demonstrate modesty, but a bad achiver may offer excessive or unsolicited advice.

Players who prefer world interaction and aim to collaborate with the world are "explorers". Explorers want to do interesting things. When an explorer loses, they may ask the question, "why can't I do this?" When an explorer loses poorly, they may blame better explorers for "wasting their time/resources", or simply ragequit. When an explorer wins poorly, they lord their discoveries over others or push others to do what they have done. When an explorer wins well, they share.

Not every game supports each of these play styles equally. Explorers tend to have a secondary type in table games (exploration in table games is learning new games, and playing with their rules).

Besides considering the player types, it's also often useful and relevant to think about a game in three other directions: complete information, teamwork, and randomness. As general rules:

Incomplete information games tend to enable or force greater player interaction, as gathering information about other players becomes part of the game. Non-teamwork games may become teamwork games under conditions where opportunity for player interaction is sufficient. Common team-archetypes include Cartels (high power alliance), Unions (low power alliance), and Puppet-Master. The effects of randomness are hard to generalize, but tend to lower the skill floor to play a simple game, raise the ceiling at which it can be played and understood, and increase the spectrum of viable ways to play the game.

Time for some game examples.

Catan is a game of near-complete information, pseudo-teamwork, and randomness. It supports all styles: killers compete for the best real estate; socializers may aim to get the best resource exchanges; achievers shoot for longest road or largest army. Chess is a game with complete information and no randomness. Teamwork in chess occurs exclusively outside the game. Chess mostly supports killer (focused on beating opponents) and achiever (focused on improvement) styles. Poker has incomplete information and randomness. Opportunity for teamwork inside the game is very limited, despite being a highly interactive game. Poker supports killers and achievers, but also explorers to the extent of playing diverse styles and hands.

Crypto is a game of pseudo-complete information (if I can de-anonymize you, I see your on-chain moves, but not your off-chain ones) and randomness, and a diverse set of possible goals. The room for exploration is massive. The opportunity to "be the best" at development, investment, and entrepreneurialism, web2 v web3 competition, and web3 v web3 competition provides a massive space for "killer" and "achiever" play. By nature of decentralization, most of the socializer play appears to occur over Twitter, in Telegram groups, and at conferences.

Take a moment to reflect. What attracted you to crypto? Why are you still here? What does that say about your Bartle type? Everyone plays every style at least some of the time.

People who I know entered the space for at least one of the following:

  1. Potential investment returns

  2. Potential entrepreneurial opportunity

  3. Novelty of new technology (overrepresented in Ethereum-world)

  4. Libertarianism, esp wrt economics and Bitcoin ingroup community ("Be your own bank")

  5. Distrust of Modern Monetary Thry and/or Keynsian Econ

  6. Distaste for centralized {government, monetary policy, corporations, wealth concentration, service providers, …}

  7. Interest in privacy and anonymity

  8. Darknet drugs

  9. Interest blockchain-enabled mechanism design (ie Gitcoin, Radical Markets)

  10. Defi Degens and Finance Bros

The cross sections I'm most exposed to on twitter tend toward 1(KA), 3(ES), 6(S), 7(S), 9(ES), and 10(K). Our mainstream projected image through bull markets vastly tends toward exclusively 1, a Killer and Achiever dominated segment.

For those of us trying to make a social phenomena of economic liberation around decentralization, we should be wary that our primary impression on the world not be formed by Killers and Achievers.

"Number go up." "If you don't believe me or get it, I don't have the time to try to convince you, sorry." "Have fun staying poor."

Now, as the world turns its attention to our corner of the internet, as we enter our bull market, I hope we can play better games and tell our stories well, or at least better than these.

PS. Retweet Evan, @evan_van_ness. Don't let newcomers fall into our unfortunate zombiechain parallel universes.