Elements of the Psyche

Does Myers-Briggs trump Bartle?

Ethan Kennerly

In September 2004, I posted to the MUD-Dev list on Bartle Types. This week, I see a rash of posts on USC's Interactive blog using Bartle Types to analyze game design (Andrew Corpuz, Mike Stein, Katrina Johnson). So I thought I'd throw a Joker into the deck to mix it up. Here's the original post, converted to HTML:

I have had a curiosity with Bartle types that led to an arcane opinion on player psychology. I failed overcome the laziness, so have not disproven my faulty opinion. Certainly not enough to study psychology. Instead, maybe I can just find a psychologist to beat it out of my head with much less work.

My curiosity began with the title: "Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs". These, of course, are four suits of cards. These four suits of playing cards were derived from the four suits of the Tarot deck. Correspondences being:


The Tarot deck was, among many things, a lexicon of medieval alchemy. These alchemists studied how to transform a leaden personality into a golden personality. That is, how to adjust the four elements in the persona, or the three alchemical essences of Sulphur, Salt, and Mercury, in order to change their motivation and improve character. Turn lead into gold, or as Foucault might call it, the technologies of the self.

Some alchemy included a theory of personal relationships, in which the ancient four elements were ascribed correspondences to personality types. These alchemical elementary personalities are:

ElementAlchemical personality
WaterEntertaining and emotionally subtle.
FireEnergetic and party-loving and emotionally dominant.
EarthTraditional, and intellectually subtle.
AirInvestigative, thought-provocative, and intellectually dominant.

There is also a correspondence from the elements to the Greek Gods, which the Greeks believed were origins of mortal personality. A Greek might say Apollo speaks through me, etc.

ElementGreek god

Which gives the correspondence to personality as:

Greek godAlchemical personality
ApolloEntertaining and emotionally subtle.
DionysusEnergetic and party-loving and emotionally dominant.
EpimetheusTraditional, and intellectually subtle.
PrometheusInvestigative, thought-provocative, and intellectually dominant.

Much of their utility comes in seeing how various elements interact, as tendencies for social and/or sexual chemistry. These were encoded into the Tarot deck, which gives us three columns of correspondences:

ElementTarotSuitGreek god

Carl Jung studied alchemy. From them he refined some proposals of personality attitudes and functions. From Jung, Myers-Briggs based the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which retains some correspondences from alchemical elements:

ElementMyers-Briggs (MBTI)
WaterIntuitive-Feeling (NF)
FireSensing-Perceiving (SP)
EarthSensing-Judging (SJ)
AirIntuitive-Thinking (NT)

Keirsey designated four temperaments of the sixteen in MBTI. These corresponsences continue:

ElementMyers-Briggs (MBTI)Keirsey

By knowing the origin and the original meaning of the tarot to the suit of a playing card, one may further correspond the tarot to the MBTI:

WaterCupsNF Hearts
FireWandsSP Clubs
EarthDisksSJ Diamonds
AirSwordsNT Spades

Rearranging suits to alchemical personality thus:

SuitAlchemical personality
HeartsEntertaining and emotionally subtle.
ClubsEnergetic and party-loving and emotionally dominant.
DiamondsTraditional, and intellectually subtle.
SpadesInvestigative, thought-provocative, and intellectually dominant.

This then is not a far cry from a correspondence between Bartle types and personalities:

BartleAlchemical personality
SocializersEntertaining and emotionally subtle.
KillersEnergetic and party-loving and emotionally dominant.
AchieversTraditional, and intellectually subtle.
ExplorersInvestigative, thought-provocative, and intellectually dominant.

So, this would imply the following correspondences:


A few years ago, I asked Erwin Andreasen about this correspondence (MUD-Dev-L/2001Q3/msg00794). He tabulated several results from an informal quiz on a Bartle Quotient, which he kindly posted. Aggregating these four temperaments and doing correspondences yields:


Normalizing from the total in each Myers-Briggs Type, we see the modal correspondences are:

NFSocializer (1.36)
SPKiller (1.29)
SJAchiever (1.31)
NTKiller (1.12), Explorer (1.09)

The correspondence suggests isomorphism, except for the NT temperament, Rationals. All but one match, and the one that does not is the least statistically significant, it is a difference of 1%. This shows bias in my opinion, the self-selected respondents, or the mapping of the questions. Probably my opinion.

A couple other interesting third conjecture comes to mind. That is that being online, which is dominated by NT in this test (46% !), which has a tendency for intellectual domination, could express this through cleverness online, which the test might detect any form of domination as killer tendency. Another is that some players may have a tendency to embody a separate online personality than offline. And another conjecture is that killers have more fun (Amy Jo Kim).

The conclusion of this weird belief, is my tendency to substitute (NT, SJ, NF, SP) instead of (E, A, S, K), since I'm more familiar with its use, history, and the relationships between MBTI personalities. Of course, any stone, with enough stock, can be turned into soup. I'm just pitching one more pebble in.

All that was a long-winding road to get to an answer of the question "wherefor in-game artists?": Therefore, a player could create art to entertain, dominate, trade, or provoke.

That's all in theory. In practice, I'm not sure what the distribution of artist personalities are in a computer-mediated community. I haven't encountered evidence to disprove the opinion, but haven't encountered evidence to prove it either. In my limited personal experience as editor of a library of player art and literature, I felt that various artists were doing it for different reasons and that their art, or literature, was intended to have these different effects: entertainment, domination, trade, provoke.

-- Ethan, September 2004

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