Why we play – introducing psychographs

You know how divided the 40k internet community is. How power gamers look down on fluff fanatics, and modellers look down on power gamers. How we have a hard time seeing other people’s perspectives. What is the spirit of the game? To win? To paint? To be a good sport? In Magic the Gathering the developers use a tool, described by the head designer Mark Rosewater here. Go ahead, read his column. I’ll wait right here. …   …   … Back already? Hope you didn’t skip the link, it’s one of the most important reads of your hobby life. The best bit Rosewater writes is this:

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?

Substitute “cards” for “miniatures”. Gets you thinking, doesn’t it? What is it that makes you tick? And what on earth makes other gamers tick, and why can’t they see things your way? If you follow Rosewater and the other Magic columnists, you’ll see that the three psychographs are integral to the way the designers think about new cards. One card that Timmy would like, Spike would hate. And that’s fine. None of these three extremes are playing the right way. They’re just different ways of looking at the game. This brings me to the illustration at the top of this post. I’d argue that there are three different wargamers as well. We could call them Jervis or Stelek or whatever, but I’ve opted for the slightly more neutral John, Paul and Ringo.

  • John likes miniatures. He loves to paint and model and only plays with his favourite minis, be it a Warjack in Warmachine or an Eldar Harlequin in 40k.
  • Paul likes to compete. He gets his kicks from pitting himself against an intelligent human opponent, whether it is in a tournament setting or casual play.
  • Ringo likes the background. He writes his own fluff, details the squad markings of his Imperial Guard regiment (the Saratosa XIV dragoons) and chooses his army according to the customs of the Orks of Garunda.

Note that all three of these play to win and to have fun. They just do it differently. And they all have problems understanding each other. Discuss! Am I right? Wrong? How do we use the psychographs to our advantage?

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