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PokkenZard

Player "psychographics" and growing the scene

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Posted (edited)

Today on Twitter there was some real talk about the state of the game’s competitive scene. I want to spend a little time unpacking it here, because I think these conversations can potentially set a lot of the tone as we grow the scene when we get DX. I think we have a pretty good thing going now, and I want to see us keep that going with an influx of new players.

 

I want to do that by introducing an idea I learned from one of my older gaming obsessions, Magic: The Gathering. You know Magic, right? Because the creators of Magic always want to sell new cards to more players, they spend a lot of time thinking about what why people play and why they like some cards more than others. The chief designer Mark Rosewater has a mental model for thinking about this, which he calls player psychographics. He usually identifies three player psychographics—three different motivations players have for playing Magic—and he’s even given them names. Cribbing from this article:

 

  • Tammy wants to experience something, an emotional or adrenaline rush from playing the game.
  • Jenny wants to express herself, using the game as a canvas for what she thinks or feels.
  • Spike wants to prove herself, by setting goal(s) and achieving them.

 

I think you find similar motivations in Pokkén and most other fighting games. Pokkén has thrills for Tammy, like close timeouts and tight footsies. It has opportunities for Jenny, like labbing combos and bringing a particular playstyle to your favorite Pokémon. And it has an official stamp of approval for every Spike: the Burnside graphic.

 

Again, this is a mental model. It’s useful for thinking about a playerbase in shorthand, but it also has limits. Probably the sharpest limitation is that there are plenty of players who don’t fit neatly into a single psychographic, but instead have a mix of motivations.

 

Me personally, I’m like half-Spike, half-Tammy. I will never be a top player. I don’t have the innate talent or the drive to grind it out. But I do want to see myself improve, and I know the only way to do that is to change myself. I set goals for what I want to improve and I track my progress on them. That’s the Spike in me.

 

But I might not have picked up the game at all if I couldn’t main Charizard. I love the big swings of playing as Charizard. The quiet patience required to get in, and then the big hits you land when you do. I watch vods of my matches, and I think to myself, “They had 400 HP, I had 1, and I came back to win it?” And it’s a thrill every time. That’s the Tammy in me.

 

So what does this have to do with the Twitter thread? Equipped with this mental model, you might say: that thread is a bunch of Spikes talking about how they wished the scene appealed more to them. And that’s cool! I hope everybody who plays Pokkén finds something to enjoy in it. If the pure Spikes can talk amongst themselves to find even more ways to enjoy the game, they should absolutely go for it.

 

But that doesn’t mean the whole community should only do what the pure Spikes want either. We will grow the scene more, and appeal to more players, if we have something for every psychographic. I want to encourage all of us to think of why all the rest of us are here, and when you can, give other players more reasons to enjoy the game on their level. That level might not be yours. But if you can bring them in, and give them reasons to stick around, they’ll probably bring in more players who match your own psychographic, whatever mix it is.

 

And related, recognize that just because someone doesn’t share all your motivations doesn’t mean they don’t share any of them, or that they’re opposed to them. There are plenty of opportunities to find common ground with others who have any psychographic overlap with you. And there’s no limit on the size of the scene. There can be room for all of us.

 

So I hope we as a community don’t just move the community tent in a single direction. I hope we grow it. That’s win-win for everyone.

Edited by PokkenZard
typo fixes
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There's a giant scope you're addressing here, and trying to discuss all of it might not be that fruitful. I do want to tackle one proposition in this post, and that's the concept of pushing for more tech or "higher-level play" alienates everyone playing either for fun or as a means of expression.

 

Note that "pushing the meta" is not the same as "telling others to play optimally." The latter is something that anyone can do to feel self-important and only demonstrates an actual alienating arrogance. But we can talk about such people in the community later and how to talk to others with the purpose of helping them improve.

 

The main reason the thread ever started is because of these "Spikes" you speak of. Many are doing nothing to do anything about the current state of the Pokkén Community, and they say the most empty things. The bottom line is that a person who is playing to win and does not properly utilize the general resources they have available or do not contribute to the current wealth of knowledge either:

  • Do not have winning as their first priority, to which we don't label this person as a "Spike"
  • Does not have the personal resources (such as time) to utilize what's out there, but then we can deduce that they don't have competitive Pokkén as their main priority and we go back to the first case
  • Do not care enough about improvement to utilize these resources

That's what the Twitter thread was addressing. It was address a number of "competitive" players that you can only rule out as just not passionate enough, at yet pretend to be. I genuinely believe that this is the specific subset of people within the community that the conversation revolved around, and your original point misses the mark here.

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7 hours ago, Zyflair said:

There's a giant scope you're addressing here, and trying to discuss all of it might not be that fruitful. I do want to tackle one proposition in this post, and that's the concept of pushing for more tech or "higher-level play" alienates everyone playing either for fun or as a means of expression.

 

Sorry, I definitely did not mean to suggest that, and I think you're right that I muddied my own message by trying to take on a little much in one post.  Now that we've got the psychographics shorthand in the discussion, let me try to talk a little more directly about what nagged me about the Twitter thread.

 

I'd say there are roughly two big categories of comment in that thread.  One is identifying resource gaps: not enough character-specific resources, not enough discussion of the high-level meta, stuff like that.  I don't have any issue with these; in fact, I think those are great discussions to have, and I would love to see all that stuff too.  I think in general they'll make a richer game for most players.  And even if some of those resources end up being tailored just to Spikes, that's cool too.  I said I want to grow the tent, and that means growing it for more Spikes.

 

The second big category is about player attitudes: complaints about players who don't utilize the resources that are already available, whose talk isn't backed up by their work, those kind.  These are the ones that inspired me to make the original post.  Because I get where those comments are coming from, and I understand the frustration, but my response would be: those players aren't as Spike-motivated as you all, and that's okay.  They're playing for other reasons.

 

I think this is true even within a single motivation psychographic like Spike.  You're frustrated that more top-level players aren't working to advance the meta.  That's fair.  But I don't think that means they're not Spikes, or not competitive enough.  Spikes set their own goals and work to achieve those.  Proving yourself by being the best in the current meta, or just being the best at your character in your region, is just as Spike a motivation as trying to push the meta forward.

 

One of the truisms you have to learn to play games competitively is that you can't change other players, you can only change yourself.  I think that applies here too.  Those players you're frustrated with, they have their own motivations for acting the way they do, and you're probably not going to inject them with new motivations.  So I would encourage you to focus on filling the resource gaps you identified—I mean, I know you already are, but take this as encouragement to keep at it.  Because I think doing that is the way to draw in more of the kinds of players you want to see in the scene.

 

And that's really my suggestion to everybody.  If all of us who care about the Pokkén community do that, chipping in more of whatever we like about the game, I think the results will be amazing.

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On 7/12/2017 at 7:07 AM, PokkenZard said:

 

The second big category is about player attitudes: complaints about players who don't utilize the resources that are already available, whose talk isn't backed up by their work, those kind.  These are the ones that inspired me to make the original post.  Because I get where those comments are coming from, and I understand the frustration, but my response would be: those players aren't as Spike-motivated as you all, and that's okay.  They're playing for other reasons.

 

I think this is true even within a single motivation psychographic like Spike.  You're frustrated that more top-level players aren't working to advance the meta.  That's fair.  But I don't think that means they're not Spikes, or not competitive enough.  Spikes set their own goals and work to achieve those.  Proving yourself by being the best in the current meta, or just being the best at your character in your region, is just as Spike a motivation as trying to push the meta forward.

 

You're figuratively waving away a problem when you state that the demographic being discussed about are "playing for other reasons." There are a number of reasons people play to win, and the perspective taken will change what they really want from the game. Some are only looking for a "cheap" way to get a sense of accomplishment, preferring to encounter a sort of challenge but nothing that will take too much effort to overcome. This by itself does not cause issues.

 

Problems arise when you have one or so enter a competitive scene, which has the overall attitude of "do what you can for the W." Rather, the ambiguity of what a "scene" is leads into the disconnect between people that interact with each other. Some definitely just wish to aim to be the best of a character or best in a region. That's totally fine, but when these people pretend to have other motives and claim to do or be more than what they say, you get into a situation where you can't establish credibility into people you're playing with.

 

But let's back up for a bit and say you're a competitive player actually training to be the best in the nation or the world. I'll say that we define such a person to be "top-level" if and only if they wish to play the game on a level that only a handful can contest with. In the Pokkén metagame, there's definitely people who are consistently labbing for new things in addition to their practiced tech and knowledge of the game, but those are far and few in between. This is my intended audience with my own tweets: the people who show up at multiple majors and potentially top cut as well.

 

So with the current state of the metagame, you have people who are playing just to do good at locals, and then those travelling to get a big one. The former likely will have things of their own to work on already, and are in no position to advance the meta game, being in the state of having something to improve on (which is of higher priority to me). Those who have a good enough grasp of the game and are able to do well will have much less to improve with. What I see is that there's so little effort in further pushing themselves beyond what's the current standard, and maybe that's fine to them, but that's not my idealization of a metagame in the slightest.

 

I believe your original post was more on making sure that there's an inclusive atmosphere within the community as a whole, and that definitely needs to be discussed, but when we're talking about a competitive level in the game, this is where my frustrations lie.

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