We’ve got four different modes when making games. They’re roughly equivalent to Bartle’s Player Types, but they’re bigger and deeper than the killer/achiever/socializer/explorer model.
These are modes of operating, not personality types. You probably function heavily in one of these modes, but you are capable of being great in each mode. This is not a personality test where you find out which one you are: it’s a picture of the modes available to you, even if you use some of them little or not at all.
Now, let me introduce you to the Bard, the Warrior, the Wizard, and the Monarch.
The Bard loves life. He’s enthusiastic, loves people, loves good food and music, loves life. He’s an artist, a socializer, great with kids, and wants to spend all his time doing things that are fun and novel. He plays music for the team because he loves music, and he loves making people happy. He’s creative because he loves to play, and isn’t particularly concerned with time.
If you lean into the Bard, you might dip your toes in a dozen different projects. You’ll get excited about ideas. You might get really, really stoked about certain projects only to abandon them a couple weeks later. You love playing games, and love making games with other people. Social game jams are about the most fun you can have. The Bard is great fun, but kind of flakey because he doesn’t care much for being on time or details.
The warrior is productive, focused, and drives himself hard. He always needs a goal, and is always whipping himself to work hard towards the goal. He sacrifices everything to attain the goal. He’s able to sacrifice creature comforts, sleep, relationships, and anything else to hit the target. He utilizes energy and aggressive focus to reach his goal, and immediately starts looking for the next goal. The warrior’s not especially creative – creativity takes a wide view and the ability to play, not warrior’s strong suits.
But his singular focus on the target makes him blind to everything else. He doesn’t have a broad view – he doesn’t question if the target is the right target – he doesn’t really care what the target is, he just wants to hit it. If you lean into the warrior, you get a lot done – but you might be disappointed with your work, or the quality of your ideas.
The wizard is a master of his domain. He loves collecting information, loves learning, loves collecting new nuggets knowledge. He’s never happier then when he’s hunting down new information, putting it in boxes, and storing the boxes away in his mind. He loves arcane knowledge and he loves abstraction. He’s the expert, he has more domain knowledge than anyone else.
If you lean heavily into wizard, you are constantly learning and growing your knowledge base. You are knowledgeable and can come up with a collection of information from a wide range of subjects. You may not know how to use that knowledge, but you might not care too much – the collection of information is an end, not a means. You also might fall into analysis paralysis, worried that you don’t know enough to make a decision.
The monarch is an authority. He cares about people, but in a slightly removed fashion – he doesn’t get involved emotionally like the bard. He cares about goals, but doesn’t get caught up in the chase. He cares about knowledge, but doesn’t get stuck in his head. He’s got the widest view, and has vision. He acts as if he has authority, as if people should trust him and believe in him. He listens carefully and closely to people, and makes the best informed decision. He’s methodical and can see more than the other types. The monarch is detached from the other types and detached from the world. He’s connected to everything distantly, and nothing closely.
If you tend to function as a monarch, you probably see things at a high level, and don’t experience much intensity of emotion. You probably see yourself as an authority, and you probably are pretty clear-headed and good at giving advice. You might be a bit cold and calculating, and your buffer from everything might leave you isolated and aloof.
Remember: None of these are you. Depending on your personality and life experience you may be really good at one or two of these modes, and you are certainly weak in some of them. You have one mode which comes naturally to you, that you think of as your “natural mode”, but although you may function entirely in one of these modes, that doesn’t mean that’s who you are entirely. You’re capable of shuttling between these modes fluidly, putting your natural tendencies to the side and operating in a different way.
To be a fully realized creator, you must be able to utilize every one of these modes. They’re your toolkit: if you can’t do one, you’re not operating as effectively as you otherwise could. You might lean heavily on warrior, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a warrior all the time. Warriors are good at some things (hard work, aggression, sacrifice), but terrible at others (relating with people, making high-level decisions). Learning to transition between these modes will help you tremendously in your game development journey.
I’ll show you how over the next few weeks.
This is the first in a series of posts, on game developer archetypes. Here are the articles going deeper into each archetype (I’ll update the links as they’re published):