Stereotyping

Stereotyping is not politically correct nowadays. It can create hurtful divisions between ethnicity and creed, beliefs and common sense. There are, however, useful stereotypes, none of which have to do with these silly prejudices and do provide an insight into our world, the world of the gamer.

As the Age of the Massively Multiplayer descends upon us, many gamers jump from game to game, seeking that place we feel comfortable in, the place that means something to us. What makes one comfortable though? What is that thing that draws us to a particular game. By examining that comfort zone we can begin to identify archetypes and commonalities which can be mapped directly to some aspect of the game.

In Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, we find 14 character classes, each offering some unique view into the world. What view does one decide to look through? Why does he do it.

For those of us who travel from game to game, we often find that the people we know play similar classes regardless of which setting we find ourselves in. In fact, I’d wager that most of us do exactly that, we fill a role that we feel some level of comfort in.

Spanning Genres

While the Fantasy genre is prevalent in the Massively Multiplayer Online forum, archetypes and classes are not restricted to a game, regardless of their setting in time. The simple fact is that the core mechanic of game classes has existed since the first time Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax threw dice to determine a player’s hit points.

There have been games that stepped outside of the class structure, but I’m sure you would find the same thing. Regardless of the mechanism for advancement, players will choose to advance down the path or skill which they best want to represent them as a character.

When peeled back to a base level, classes or skills are basically just choices a game gives you in how you want to play the game. By giving variation, game designers are inviting a diverse crowd to experience the world they created in the player’s own way.

Roles

So, which one are you? A shadowy assassin, ready to ambush your prey in a moments notice or a noble warrior, protecting those weaker than yourself. Perhaps you are the healer, sacrificing combat prowess for the good of the party or the entrepreneurial crafter earning sacks of gold while providing arms and armor to hearty adverturers.

Often we look beyond the avatar in the game and we begin to judge those playing for their personalities. What we don’t realize is that without these archetypes that people identify with, we often lose a little bit of player created lore. That person in the black cloak, hiding behind a tree; He may define success by his ability to sneak up on people, this is his or her comfort zone. By allowing him to hone his skill, he has now created a fear of the dark, one not often realized for what it is.

By getting into our comfort zone, we define the roles assigned to us by the developers and not the other way around.

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The patient gamer, waiting for the perfect shot
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Craving more power, this gamer wonders what spells he may find inside

The Wrap-Up

To kick off my new column, I will be discussing each of these archetypes for the next few weeks and how they relate to game play and classes in the Age of Conan.

In the meantime, take it upon yourself to find your archetype. Maybe you know it already, or perhaps you’re trying to find it. Much research has been done on the subject and it can provide great insight even for the loner assassin or even the stalwart guild leader.

Below, in the Resources section, I have provided some information for you to continue the journey into the player behind the avatar. Perhaps you may find the class you never thought you would play, but fits you perfectly.

Resources
The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious by Carl Jung
Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding The Market by Sheri Graner Ray
Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

Until then, fight the good fight and I’ll see you there.

-Tiderius

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