Bartle Archetypes as Developing Identities
By now, we’re all pretty familiar with Bartle’s player types: killer, explorer, achiever, and socializer. I’ve been giving a lot of thought about how those terms – whether a player is consciously aware of them or not – create a kind of player identity, and whether that identity goes through stages of development, as all other identities do.
I’ve spoken before about my identity crisis when I was no longer a desirable teaching candidate. When it became clear that no public school was going to have me, I faced a very dark time in my life. I was able to find a similar job, close enough, perhaps, to partially fill that void, but frankly I know deep down it’s not the same, and there are times I’m acutely aware of that and sit, going through old pictures, missing “my kids.” My identity has been forced back into a moratorium, where I’m re-examining formerly held beliefs about myself.
While there are, of course, different approaches to identity development, the most commonly referenced are Erikson’s 4 stages: diffusion, moratorium, foreclosure, and achievement. Diffusion means that a person has never really explored developing an identity. This can refer to children or adults who’ve never had to commit to anything, people in my generation I’d refer to as “30 year old teenagers.” Moratorium is a time during which a lot of self-examination takes place, and hopefully from which one exits, moving on to identity achievement, having a stable identity. Foreclosure is when a person takes on an identity from someone around them, often under duress.
At any time, a moratorium could again occur due to a change in circumstance. Plenty of stories are about this, a moment in a (usually) stagnant character’s life in which the character has to change. This Must be the Place is a recent movie about such an event, but there are many, many more; The Truman Show, Stranger than Fiction, and SLC Punk! are among my favorite.
I suspect that gaming identities develop over time, too, in much the same way. I suspect, too, that Bartle’s archetypes aren’t particularly stable “achieved” identities, either, as a player’s life changing even a little can shift their goals for game time. I’m a prime example. I used to be a hard-mode raider, an achiever, but once I moved, I didn’t have as many friends or as much satisfaction from my job, so I unknowingly shifted to much more of a socializer. However, I hit a hard resistance to it internally; at some level, I was foreclosing on myself, on my identity as a raider. I knew I should be playing the game a certain way, but I no longer really wanted to. Letting go of that took time, a time of “player moratorium,” so to speak.
I’ve found myself logging on to WoW specifically to talk to people more and more: Beshara, Navi, and some of my other non-blog friends. I always had times I just sat around on vent and talked while running or flying in circles around the world, using the movement and background as something for my eyes and hands to do while I was talking. I don’t do that nearly as much now, but mostly because my vent talks don’t happen as often. While I have recently started my new “Ray Smith” project, I think it’s mostly to have a reason to keep logging on to keep in touch with my friends in Germany and my various blog RealID’ers. My life and tastes have relegated WoW to the state of a former Zynga game. Still, my somewhat foreclosed WoW personality doesn’t want to just let it go.
At any rate, it brings up an interesting topic for further consideration: what are identity crisis triggers that occur specifically within game? I can easily look at my external change – moving – and see that it triggered both my in and out of game crises, but what about in-game only. I can throw one out there: guild break ups. What others are there, dear reader? What have you seen trigger a player identity crisis?
Stubborn (somewhere on the borders of moratorium and achievement)