Type JournalArticle
Date 1996-06
Volume 1
Number 1
Tags game studies
Journal Journal of MUD Research

Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs (Link)

Despite its later popularity as a sort of personality test, the point of this paper is understanding how players approach MUDs so you, as an administrator of a MUD, can balance your player population.

The four types

Bartle came up with four types after a lengthy discussion among top players on MUD2 ("the most advanced players in a MUD which allowed player-killing").


Achievers (or Diamonds) "give themselves game-related goals, and vigorously set out to achieve them". This includes goals like obtaining the most powerful weapon, levelling up, or becoming very rich. Achievers are intersted in both formal and informal goals (e.g. both in completing a game, the formal goal, and in doing so *quickly*, which may not be formally recognized by the game itself). They care about the game itself as a game.

Achievers give Socialisers something to talk about, and are the prey for Killers.


Explorers (or Spades) "try to find out as much as they can about the virtual world", including literally exploring the game's environment and figuratively exploring the game's mechanics. They enjoy a sense of wonder as they discover new things, and aim for knowledge about the game.without the other

Explorers enjoy playing with other explorers, and don't care much about other play styles.

Williams et al. (2008) found that the two aspects of Explorers, geographical and mechanical exploration, are uncorrelated.


Socialisers (or Hearts) "use the game's communicative facilities, and apply the role-playing that these engender, as a context in which to converse (and otherwise interact) with their fellow players". For Socializers, the game as such isn't the point–it's playing with others that matters.

Socializers like to play with each other, and (supposedly) like to gossip about what Achievers are up to, and hate Killers.


Killers (or Clubs) "use the tools provided by the game to cause distress to (or, in rare circumstances, to help) other players". It's not about becoming strong–that's an Achiever motivation. Killers want to hurt people ("there's no fun unless it can affect a real person instead of an emotionless, computerised entity").

Despite the extremely negative description of Killers, Bartle contends that you actually want to have them in your MUD, because otherwise Achievers will get bored (since there's no way to lose the game).


  • Bartle (2003/2021) later expanded his taxonomy with an added explicit/implicit dimension.


Bartle, R. A. (1996). Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs. Journal of MUD Research, 1(1). https://mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm
Bartle, R. A. (2021). Designing Virtual Worlds. https://mud.co.uk/richard/DesigningVirtualWorlds.pdf (2003)
Williams, D., Yee, N., & Caplan, S. E. (2008). Who plays, how much, and why? Debunking the stereotypical gamer profile. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(4), 993–1018. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2008.00428.x


Four approaches to playing MUDs are identified and described. These approaches may arise from the inter-relationship of two dimensions of playing style: action versus interaction, and world-oriented versus player-oriented. An account of the dynamics of player populations is given in terms of these dimensions, with particular attention to how to promote balance or equilibrium. This analysis also offers an explanation for the labelling of MUDs as being either "social" or "gamelike".

Name Role
Richard A. Bartle Author