No Man’s Sky and Four Gamer Types

A game by the name of No Man’s Sky is coming out “soon,” and I’m really excited about it.  I may be borderline obsessed, actually.  I haven’t been this excited for a game since I was a teenager.

Here’s a trailer video:


My enthusiasm for this game has been so great, in fact, that I’ve been frequenting the No Man’s Sky subreddit.  That’s a sign of true obsession, really.

The idea of No Man’s sky was presented a couple of years ago, and has been shown at E3 for the last two years.  It’s gained a lot of attention, and the anticipation is acute to the point of being painful.  The game is being created by Hello Games, with lead programmer Sean Murray at the helm.  Sony is treating the game like it’s a triple A title, but Hello Games remains in full control of the production and release schedule for the game.  And, they’re playing many of the details of the game close to the chest, including the release date.

Let me try to describe the environment in the subreddit.  A game featuring 18 quintillion, procedurally generated, beautiful worlds has been teased to gamers that are hungry for this kind of entertainment.  The news cycle for the game ebbs and flows, so the fans are wound up, then disappointed, over and over.  This last weekend, Sean Murray was a guest on Stephen Colbert’s show.  He also presented the game in Tech@Fest in New York.  Hopes were high that we would get a release date, if not the game itself.  That didn’t come to pass, and some people were noticeably frustrated.

I decided to post something there a little more substantive than the different variations of lamentations over a lack of a release date.  I wrote about Bartle’s Four Types of gamers, and how I think it might apply to No Man’s Sky.  At my wife’s suggestion, I’m cleaning it up and reposting it here.


In 1996, a man named Richard Bartle devised a theory and a test for classifying gamers. The test was specifically targeted at classifying players of MUDs, but has been applied to other games. Some argue that it doesn’t apply to all game types. Others continue to keep it in mind when designing their games.

While it is a simplification, I believe it is a handy guide to gauge what type of player is going to enjoy or be engaged by a game.

According to the theory, every gamer can be placed on a chart. The opposites ends of the first axis is “players” versus “world”. The opposite ends of the other axis is “acting” versus “interacting”. For purposes of this discussion, “acting” can be thought of as conflicting, and “interacting” can be thought of as cooperating. This forms four quadrants, or player types, which every gamer falls into: Killers, Achievers, Socializers, and Explorers.

Killers want conflict with players. Socializers want cooperation with players. Achievers want conflict with the game world. Explorers want interaction with the world.

Again, this is an oversimplification, and gamers can shift type. In general, gamers have a dominant preference, but it’s not unusual for someone that typically enjoys social interaction in their games to also enjoy PVP elements from time to time.

What does this have to do with No Man’s Sky?

I’ve watched all of the footage, and I’ve lurked on the subreddit for awhile, and I can confidently say that No Man’s Sky will appeal to a gamer type that is not usually targeted: The Explorer.

Console games are typically targeted at Killers and Socializers. Killers are going to gravitate towards games like Call of Duty for the rich PvP elements. Whenever these games have a co-op mode, Socializers will find appeal, working with their friends against a common goal.

Achievers can be found across all genres, but I think the games that target Achievers the most are the “casual” games. Farmville, Animal Crossing, most of the games that were popular for a while on Facebook. Achievers want to acquire badges and unlock content. They also like the single player campaigns in games like Metal Gear.

Explorers want to, well, explore. Sandbox games are where you’ll find explorers. And they’ll do things that seem a little crazy, like drive around the streets in Grand Theft Auto without any apparent goal. Explorers are the ones wandering off into the wilderness in sandbox games and MMOs, just to see what’s there.

No Man’s Sky is unique, in that it caters to the Explorer gamer type first, and the others second. Socializers and Killers won’t even see the point of the game. They’re going to ask questions about meeting up with players. They’re going to ask questions about how to destroy a planet, so that it impacts other people. Socializers and Killers are not well served by No Man’s Sky.

Achievers may be well served. The creatures and sentinels that we run into may serve the need to find conflict with the world.

It’s Explorers that are served first and foremost, and that’s rare. There will always be another horizon to reach for the Explorer in this game. There will always be more places to go, new things to discover, something else to see.

Will the game be fun? If you can enjoy being an Explorer type, then absolutely. If you are most comfortable as a Socializer or a Killer, then you probably won’t find much fun in this game. This isn’t going to scratch the same itch as Call of Duty. Socializers aren’t going to feel connected in this game, the way they do in an MMO.

As for me, I think I’m going to have fun. I’ll need other games, because sometimes I need to be a Socializer or an Achiever. But this is the first game that I’ve seen where being an Explorer comes first, and that alone makes it revolutionary.