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Survey on the Styles of Games

Purpose of this post: To put together a “clean” set of survey questions that will be useful in determining what people (“Gamers” and “Non Gamers” alike) want in a game. One of the difficulties in creating a good survey is to have it speak objectively and not allow the writer’s biases creep into the questions.

Purpose of the Survey: I am then going to try to define the various types of Gaming Styles, based on the answers to this survey. Using that information I will try attempt to mix and match the styles to the various systems that currently exist. I am currently defining Gaming as Table Top, LARP and Board/Card games. I am not including sports or video games.

I am thinking about starting with essay style questions to allow a surveyed to answer in free form before they are boxed in by multiple choice questions later on. I am still deciding on whether to include the “which of these two is more like you”: IE

I want to be rewarded with more power.
I want to be rewarded with more options.

Any advice or suggestions people want to give me would be welcome.

I have a strong adverse reaction to binary choices in the vein of "which of these is more like you." What if neither of them is like me? I guess I'd assign a slim margin to one of them, and check that box -- but you have no way of knowing what that margin was.

For that particular bit of your survey, I'd go with 3+ choices, or work in a way to rate how much option A or B is more like you.

That can work if you have enough questions. If I'm close to the boundary line, I might answer enough on either side to show that I'm close to the line.

It's an interesting project to try to work these distinctions out by genre of game.

Man, this is an exciting post. It's SUCH a huge topic, though, that I can't give you a straight answer. :-)

First, I recommend some reading. In particular, these four essays:

- System Does Matter
- GNS and other matters of roleplaying
- Simulationism: The Right to Dream
- Gamism: Step On Up
- Narativism: Story Now

You can find them all linked from this page: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/

I know that's a lot to digest, but those essays represent a soild chunk of thinking about this topic, and I'm certain that they will inspire you on your own exploration.

The first two essays are a bit out of date, in terms of the most current discourse about RPG play styles. But they are a soild starting point.

If you blaze through the essays, and want to catch up on more current ideas, definitely check out Vincent Baker's blog, anyway. (it's linked over there on the right). Vincent has a knack for discussing hoary game theory ideas in an easygoing way.

This is a good place to start:
http://www.lumpley.com/toc.php?by=cats

These are great posts:
- http://www.lumpley.com/archive/156.html
- http://www.lumpley.com/comment.php?entry=23

So... uh. Yeah. All that stuff above? That's my response.

my first response is why?

This is not intended to be flippant, but the reasons for the survey will have an effect on the questions and the results gathered.

As a useful exercise in game design or game design theory, I think you will find it more effort than it is worth.

>My first response is Why?

Why is actually kind of complicated, but in a nutshell I think we all spend too much time on "bad games."

A "bad game" is a game that is not right for you. It is a game that is geared towards those aspects of gaming that do not either suit you or that you actually enjoy.

For myself, a refined test like this could reveal that while I enjoy "Getting a bigger sword" the reason I don't really enjoy D&D anymore is that I want more story driven plots. You may say, "well then your DM needs to give you more story" but if you look at the fundamentals of D&D it just isn't really designed that way.

Then I look at OrkGrrl who is by no means a gamer (although married to one.) She can not seem to get enough of Universalis, although, in concept, this game gives me the willies (I haven't played it yet).

Thus, we all play in games that we don't really enjoy because we are committed to them, even though they may not be what we really want.

Is a project like this much bigger than I expect? Almost assuredly. Is it useful? If you look at the explosive growth in Video Gamers I think you could see that there is an untapped market and if they only have "good games" then it could lead to the true main streaming of the "table top" culture.

OK, so that is divergent ideas, but you get the idea.

Bringing gaming or anything for that matter to the mainstream has very little to do with matching a game to the players. It has more to do with marketing - convincing people that the game or style of game is perfect for them (regardless of whether it is or not). While I agree that yours is perhaps a worthwhile and noble cause, it will not bring about the end that you desire - mainstreaming gaming. In fact the marketing strategy being used by WoTC is not bad for mainstreaming as it targets the younger audience, which if even a small percentage continue to play will lead to long term growth.

I also think that a survey may not actually match players to the games that they will enjoy the most, but rather will match them to the games that they think they will enjoy the most. I have noticed that people often think they will enjoy one style (and could even answer a survey to show that) they actually find that when they play a different kind of game it is even better.

From a marketing stand point, if you wanted to market everyone's "good game" you might want to consider bundling a few types together and get new groups/players to try the different ones and find the best fit for them. I don't know if it would make gaming any more mainstream however.

Aspect 1 - What will someone actually enjoy.

When it comes to any sort of personality based survey you have to trust in two things:

a) The person will answer honestly to the best of his ability
b) The survey is constructed well enough to get to the heart of the issue. Mind you, I don't know how to do that currently.

Is this a good question:

Upon completing an objective, would you rather be rewarded with:

1) An item that gives your character more power?
2) A token that allows the player to re-roll any die?
3) A clue or piece of information that builds upon the characters background?
4) Simply the satisfaction of knowing that you have advanced your objectives.

I don't know, but after you answer enough nuanced questions, a picture of you will begin to form.

That picture can then be used to determine what kind of gaming you would most enjoy.

Aspect 2 - Mainstreaming

Remember, that in order for something to be considered mainstream it actually requires a relatively small portion of the populace (of course you are still talking millions of people.)

Strangely, one of the elements that I would like to combat with a Mainstreaming of gaming is one of the elements that could lead to its rise, and this is MMORGS. Table-top is a social activity that strengthens personal bonds. MMORGS, I believe, only give the illusion of social activity, at until you start reach the highest levels of "community" involvement. But that is a point to be argued later.

I just realized that I have left my original point and topic and will post something on this in a new post (soonish).

Maybe I'm a problematic respondent. For your sample question, my answer would be "sometimes one thing, sometimes another" I like all kinds of games. Sometimes #1 is fun. Sometimes #3. I can't begin to say that one of those things is always preferred.

I've been thinking about your comments on cleverness. Cleverness does indeed come into every game that I like, but in very different ways. The cleverness in Universalis, for example, has little to do with advantage, and much to do with narrative coolness. In D&D, it tends much the other way. I think there must be some great games in the middle ground between the two. Maybe trollbabe: cleverness won't help you make your character stronger, but can help you gain an advantage in how you use allies and the like.

It is fine to sometimes like one thing over another, but most game systems are inherently better suited to one form of enjoyment or another. I know that if I want to "kick in some heads" I should probably be playing a BESM system (Like Hong Kong Action Theatre) over a game like Universalis.

Maybe a study of the games systems themselves would be something more useful in deciding what to play, over trying to psychoanalyze (yes I know) the player. Of course, I think analyzing the player is more interesting.

Remember, unless you are doing a lot of one shots, each with a very specific focus, then finding a game system that is suitable to your overall style is most important.

I agree that a study if the games systems themselves both as texts and in actual play, would probably be more fruitful.

Thus my huge link-o-rama explosion up there in the comments.

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