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A board gamer’s career, personality and how they play

2010 August 14
by Michael Schroeder

The guy sitting on my right doesn’t speak much. His moves aren’t bold by any means, and he doesn’t take risks very often. The guy sitting on my left is quite boisterous and loud. He is quite confrontational and makes taunting remarks while laying down a tile. He makes bold and risky moves that could easily cost him the game early on, but it’s a gamble he figures, “why not go for it?”

What does the guy on the left (the loud one) and the guy on the right (the quiet/reserved one), do for a living, I wonder? What were they like growing up? Was the guy on the left the one that was instigating fights in school? Or is a salesman by trade? Is the guy on the right, the one that was being picked on in school? Maybe he’s a engineer or scientist?

These are all questions that I think about after a night of board gaming. I know what all my friends do for a living and I know their personalities. So I thought it would be interesting to discuss the connection between how board gamers play their games, what they do for a living, and their personalities. I’d love to also hear from you readers, about connections you were thinking while playing with a stranger, and later to be correct, and say “A-Ha!”, when your buddy tells you later on, “oh ya, Jeff, he’s an accountant.”

My wife and I were playing Cleopatra and Dominion with our friends a couple weekends ago and after the night was over, I was discussing this topic that I’m now writing ,with Jill. She commented on how we all played, in terms of methods of doing things, upon which – I agreed with her.

How did we all play that night?

This may seem to not be a big deal but during Cleopatra, when Umberto would lay down his cards or victory chips, he would audibly announce what he had. “So what, big deal” you may say. Well, he’s a elementary school teacher. Doesn’t that sound like something you’d see by a teacher in an elementary school? He is announcing and in his method of announcing, he could be subconsciously teaching or “making us aware” that this card is X or Y, and this is what it’s doing. Sure, we can all be doing that, if we’re not teachers, and we announce our cards or values, but is a teacher more prone to doing so?

Our friend, Beth is a physicians assistant. When she was playing Dominion, she would, in a manner that was almost careful, announce everything that she was doing, while doing it. I’m going to place these cards here, and take this, etc etc. Now those of you that are familiar with Dominion, and have played it a lot, that we (at least I) often lay down the cards and just make moves fast, without saying a word. If any words are spoken often, it’s just, “give me that card.” Now audibly speaking aloud what your money is, and what your taking may be in the rules (I forgot), but I know when for instance, when Jill and I are playing alone, we almost don’t say a word. Now it could be that Beth is just speaking her way though the game as it was her first time playing. I can’t leave out that fact. But I’m leaning towards the opinion, that people’s methods of playing games, can often reflect what they do for a living, and their personalities in general. I wonder if anyone has done studies that link these things I’m discussing?

As far as my wife goes – she is a child and youth care worker. So she does behavior modification, counseling, and conflict resolution with at risk youth in schools. My wife needs to be on her toes and not sit too long about thinking of decisions – she has to act. And that is exactly how she plays her board games. She likes to have things moving quickly and doesn’t have analysis paralysis. While she does think about her moves, she quickly eyes her choices and makes a move, and is confident of the choices she makes, regardless of the outcome.

Now for me, personally when I play a game, I think I don’t do anything noticeable or out of the ordinary. I plan my move in my head, I don’t spend too much time on it, and I throw down what I need to. Jill commented on how when I play something, she says I take a minute to think about it, then bam bam bam – throw down my cards/chits, etc. I don’t think that is anything out of the ordinary – I think that’s quite normal. Now, I am a web developer. How can that effect how I play? One may think that I may be quiet, and just plan things out in my head and do it. But that’s the normal way to play a game…isn’t it? Developers and programmers have to be detail oriented. Personally, I didn’t think I was much of a detailed person, but it seems over the past year or so, after reading these thick game manuals and playing these games, that I am becoming more and more of a detail focused person. I find that I’m becoming a stickler for rules and that my focus and memory has improved. At the same time, I feel my skill set in programming has become better. It could be from the tons of books that I have, and actually doing programming as a living, but I really think I have had a raise in focus on detail from playing all these games!

So I really do believe that you can get some sense of what a person’s personality from the way the play games and might even be able to get an idea or direction on what they do for a living. Is the person very organized and good with numbers when playing a game? Try guessing an accountant! So in conclusion – sure, this isn’t black or white science, but I do think there are trends and methods of gamers that can be consistent based on their personality and the career.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. August 18, 2010

    Interesting article, and something that I’ve thought about before. This would make a fascinating extended study. Maybe you should apply for a government grant! 🙂

  2. August 18, 2010

    Not only do I agree with your hypothesis, but I would take it one step further: The way that a player plays games can also tell you a lot about /how/ he does his job. While teachers or designers might be more likely to behave in a given manner than others, there are still great differences between teachers and between designers and a good deal of that can be detected from their play-style.
    I’m a developer by day and much like a web designer, a developer must be detail-oriented and must be able to plan things out pretty far ahead, but some developers are more logical and take their time considering all options, where I am more apt to figure out the heart of a problem and then just wing it from there. Some of that comes from lessons I’ve learned playing games: some problems are solved faster in your head and some are solved faster in your gut; if you know where you want to be and how to get around, you don’t need to plan the entire route to get where you’re going.
    So yeah, personality affects game-play style, occupation affects personality and game-play affects occupation. Interesting stuff, really.

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