Definitions, Conciseness, Win

(I wanted to make this a comment first, but it got too long, and in some way, it merits its own post. Definitely as much as Steam advertisement does…)

Nils is a very thankful target these days (sorry Nils!). First he spearheads the anti-panda movement, now he tells us definitions are bad. (I’m half-joking. Only half, but definitely a bit.) Specifically, that “casual” and “hardcore” are better left undefined.

I’m genuinely surprised. Nils studied, among other things, mathematics. In mathematics, definitions are immensely important. It doesn’t really matter how you define something as long as you do define it, preferably concisely and consistently. (One of my eye-openers was when I sat in two basic lectures, and one defined the natural numbers as including 0, one didn’t… but it was consistent within the scope of what they did.) But even the “lesser” sciences need concise definitions. Max Weber‘s most lasting legacy was his body of definitions that helped to give sociology a foundation of basic terms that was used and widely accepted by many important researchers after him.

Without definitions, there is no way to discuss properly. If we discuss about “huduhadugugu”, and to me it means “the feeling of despair over the cruelty of the world”, but to my discussion partner it means “the feeling after eating 72 chicken wings”, we will not be very productive. And if you look at the factors that can play into the terms “casual” and “hardcore”, they don’t seem to be much more specific that “huduhadugugu”.

Originally, at this point in the post, I wanted to lay out some ideas of dimensions that could create a possibility space for casual–hardcore. For example, the original Bartle types use two dimensions, acting–interacting and player–environment, with a later added third dimension of implicit–explicit, which gave you four or eight types. (The first four are the well-known explorer, socialiser, achiever, and killer). Some ideas for spanning the casual–hardcore space were time commitment and state of mind (as in serious–flippant) during play. However, I stumbled across Incobalt at Tobold’s blog, an his list of related work ground my efforts to a halt, at least for now. He reminded me that you should always be aware of what other people do before you start with something that will take longer than a couple of hours. As I could have imagined myself, there has been a lot of work in the field of definitions and categorizations. Research didn’t stop after Bartle published Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades. Because I’m too dense to figure out how to link to a specific comment on blogger, I’ll just quote Incobalt’s great comment in (almost) full:

In 21st Century Game Design, Bateman and Boon use Myers-Briggs typology to define four player types, which were each broken into hardcore and casual (The DGD1 model, though there has been a DGD2 model and the newer BrainHex model). See also (Chris Bateman’s company related to his research).
In Playing Video Games: Motives, Responses, and Consequences (eds. Varderer and Bryant), Sherry, Lucas and Greenberg used the Uses and Gratifications model to show player motivation (“Video game uses and gratifications as predictors of use and game preference”).
Kallio, Pauliina, Mayra and Kaipainen looked at why players play games and found three groups (each with three subgroups): social players, casual players and committed players. They found this using surveys and cluster analysis. (“At least nine ways to play: Approaching gamer mentalities.” In Games and Culture Volume 6, Issue 4)
So there is work being done, but a *lot* of it is based on the original four Bartle types (and ignoring Bartle’s later work), as well as examining how players play existing games (which exclude a lot of personality styles).
I realize this is a bit off topic from the original post, but I would say that, if you’re going to use Bartle types, perhaps try taking a peak at other kinds of typing, or Bartle’s work after “Hearts, Spades, Diamonds, Clubs: Players Who Suit MUDs” (specifically, Bartle’s Designing Virtual Worlds, and his chapter in Bateman’s Beyond Game Design). there may be newer, better insight in them.

(In case you’re wondering, the original post didn’t have links either. However, most of the stuff should be easy to find, though good luck getting the full texts if you don’t work/study at a university.) It seems I have some reading to do. Might as well add another field of science to my portfolio of areas in which I’m up to the rank of dilettante.

In conclusion:

  1. You see how many efforts there have been to define terms and categories in different areas of game-related science. That’s for a reason. Definitions are the foundation of good research.
  2. Thank you Incobalt for some nice related work!
  3. Maybe there is a reason that Bartle types are considered lacking in some respects when it comes to describing social interactions and the micro-sociology of MMOs. Bartle made it very clear his results are only applicable to virtual worlds (see also his talk at Multi.Player’11). Maybe we have problems with Bartle types in WoW, or what we call “themepark MMOs” because they’re not virtual worlds any more, but “just” games?

5 thoughts on “Definitions, Conciseness, Win

  1. Definitions are useful for mathematics. But they aren’t as useful for the everyday life. If I wanted to ‘prove’ somethind with my post, I should try to define ‘casual’. But if all I want is to encourage people to think, writing a 4000 world TL;DR monster post – or an entire series that introduces 10 types of ‘casuals’ is contraproductive.

    I also appreciated Incobalt’s informative comment.

  2. I still disagree. 😉 You can get away without definitions if there is an intuitive understanding of the terms that you use as a foundation. But “casual” and “hardcore” are fuzzy as well as loaded.

    The definition can be very concise, if all you need is to fill something into the term that you use. You could define casual as “time-poor”, as “comparatively less invested into the game (and prone to change horses at any time)”, as “using games for relaxation”, even as a combination of them. No need for many words.

    But saying “something caters to hardcore people and not to casuals” is meaningless if you don’t define the two terms.

  3. “loaded” is great. It makes people engage with my post. :).

    Of course, it also makes it susceptible to people who want to argue against it, but the point of a 560 word post on this topic cannot be to convince people who don’t want to be convinced. The post is still on my front page for a reason. It generates a hell of a lot of traffic.

    I could never achieve that with a scientific analysis – not if most of my readers are non-professionals.

  4. I don’t want you to write a peer-reviewed journal article. The only thing I would’ve liked to see is a short, one- or two-sentence definition, of what “casual” and “hardcore” means within the scope of your post. In effect, your post would have the same expressiveness if you replaced “casual” by “herp” and “hardcore” by “derp”, because everybody will read different concepts into those words anyway.

    The only reason you would want terms that ambiguous is if you were writing poems. In which case I’d scold you for not writing a sonnet, or using distiches. 😛

  5. If I gave this definition, my post wouldn’t work. First, because, I already use different ‘definitions’ of casual in my original the post. Many of the points only work for one ‘form’ of casual. Second, because peole would start to talk about my definition of casual and how it is wrong, even more so than they already do.

    The post is effective, because different people think of different things when they read ‘casual’. That’s why a lot of the paragraphs make sense to them. A few do not, but that does not invalidate the entire post.

    Well, unless you only read the post with the goal to find a weak spot. Some commenters do this – but I wouldn’t be able to convince them no matter how many more words I used.

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