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Personality Types in Games: The Artisan

The Artisan · The Guardian · The Idealist · The Rational


This is the first in a series of articles applying to the board games hobby the Jungian theory of personality types. I claim no official expertise, but have read quite a bit on the topic. If you wish to know more about the theory, a bibliography page is available. If you wish to find out your own type, a free on-line test is available. In the following the introductory quotations are all excerpted from Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey.


The Artisan Type

"Artisans are said to exhibit the SP qualities of temperament – S for Sensory, meaning highly observant of factors in the immediate environment, and P for Perceiving, meaning looking around for alternatives, opportunities and options."
Artisans comprise about 40% of the American population. In terms of the other MBTI letters, they may be E (Extraverted) or I (Introverted) and make decisions mainly on the basis of logical Thinking (T) or on the basis of Feelings (F). Artisans tend to be immediate! dramatic! alive! so it's entirely appropriate that they be described first. "Let's get on with it already!" the Artisan reader is thinking. OK. :)

The Artisan as Rules Explainer

"Artisans are masters in the making of solid, practical things. [Their] social function is to fashion those sensory images, ornaments, and objects that are useful in daily living... music, literature, dance, sculpture, drawing, painting,... theatrical arts, martial arts, industrial arts, athletic arts, medical arts, ... any activity in which successive actions are free variables rather than fixed constants."

Their "communication ... [is] concrete in that they are apt to talk mostly of what is going on at the moment and what is immediately at hand ... [their] speech is typically filled with details.. and they are more inclined to be specific rather than to generalize... they speak less of categories of things and more of individual things themselves."

Thus in having rules explained, an Artisan's listeners can feel confident about having the details of the rules, but may want more on the general theory and principles. Metaphorical descriptions, e.g. "duchy takeover in Rheinländer is sort of like a Silicon Valley takeover" are less likely than a simile such as "scoring for shares is as in Acquire".
"Many of the greatest poets and orators have been Artisans... [they have] a sensitivity to harmonic convergence, or what sounds good."
So no matter how boring a game's rules are, when explained by an Artisan, you're bound to have a good time. Moreover, Artisans are sensitive to all external data. More than any other type, if you are not understanding the rules, they are likely to notice.

The Artisan Opponent

"What Artisans do best is work... in a tactical way. Tactics is the art of making moves to better one's position in the here and now."

"Robert E. Lee, George Patton, and Erwin Rommel were all brilliant Artisan tactical leaders, able to notice the smallest details in their immediate surroundings, the slightest changes in both foreground and background, which allowed them to grasp the moment and fully exploit whatever resources were at hand. "

So play a detailed game around Artisan opponents; if you want to win, don't leave them unnecessary opportunities.
Keirsey discusses two main types of Artisans: Operators and Entertainers. Operators are "particularly interested in acting expediently... [to make] clever moves... in a situation calling for timely tactics."
I imagine these Artisans favor games with a lot of tactical scope. I have observed some Artisans at play on the table and have noticed that they delight in big, dramatic actions. A game of inches and small increments tends not to be for them unless they can conjure up some result with a big payoff. For example, if one is acquiring cards throughout a game, they will tend to collect quite a lot of them and make a grand, amazing play that fills everyone with awe.

With their awareness of others, Artisans can also be very good in games involving negotiation or hidden information. They don't miss a glance, a nod or any other telltale.

Entertainers "are drawn toward improvising works of entertainment and these friendly, informative engineers are able to use effortlessly whatever materials they find to wing it, to play it by the ear, to fly by the seat of their pants – to make things up as they go along."
Because we all gravitate to what we do well, I imagine many of the fans of party games are part of this group, particularly the extraverted variety.
"Artisans are the supreme optimists. The past is water under the bridge, so forget it... Artisans feel lucky: the next roll of the dice, the next move, shot or play will be a lucky one."
So even if a game is not going well, we can expect the Artisan to keep trying at it.
When things don't go well, Artisans look on it "in a cynical manner, which means they don't see life as having some larger pattern to it." Artisans view life as chancy, risky, a leap in the dark, a crapshoot -- and they would have it no other way."
So when they lose a game and say, "that's the way the ball bounces," they don't mean to impugn the ability you used to win; it's just their particular way of dealing with a negative outcome.

Of the four types, my guess is that ISTP tends to play games most avidly. They are expert tool users and are likely to develop wonderful skill at playing their favorites titles.

The ESFP probably sees board games as an extension of all fun and exciting things and may shade their attention toward party games, at which they are the best.

The ESTP probably also wants to turn gaming ability to profitable uses and I suspect constitute the biggest fans of Poker, though this is probably true of all Artisans.

The ISFP, sometimes known as the Gentle Artist, is one of a few types that in some cases mysteriously may not like games. This gentle soul tends to live life avoiding conflict and can be turned off from even good things like games if the play or the opponents become overly competitive in nature. Thus, a more controlled environment may be essential to their gaming happiness.

The Artisan Game Buyer

Artisans are not just creators of beautiful artwork, but are also excellent judges of what is and is not a quality work. Of those who are influenced by the look of a game, Artisans must be at the head of the line. I have seen Artisans complain that they cannot play a game simply due its bad looks, so serious is this matter to them. On the other hand, sometimes they seem to buy a game on looks alone and are able to overlook a certain level of shortcoming in play. Many of them are fans of those games featuring huge maps and oodles of plastic pieces. I believe that Artisans also constitute the majority of those making those wonderful homemade versions of games that look even better than the originals. Photography is an art too and I suspect Artisans are responsible for a majority of the great games photos we see on the web, as well as the play aids that look as good or better than the originals.

"Artisans are happiest when working with any and all sorts of equipment. Apparatus, implements, machines and instruments captivate them... They must drive the bulldozer, pilot the plane, steer the boat, fire the gun, toot the horn, wield the scalpel, brush or chisel."
For this reason it seems to me that thematically any game in which the player represents a pilot, an auto racer or gun-carrying James Bond, for example, is bound to instantly resonate with an Artisan. In addition, I think a strong theme is appreciated by the Artisans as it may increase the drama and fun, for ...
"Artisans... do things for the fun of it; to them, a life without pleasure is not worth living."
So we should not expect them to give more chances to games they do not enjoy the first time. On the other hand ...
"Artisans live and act in the present ... They do not mourn their losses... do not dissect and re-design their mistakes... nor do they live in anticipation of further mistakes... What they do is keep their eye on the ball and ... hit it at precisely the right instant... Since Artisans do not reflect very much on their errors or analyze their mistakes to any great extent, it can be difficult for them to learn from their errors... However, their talent for going with what works usually saves them."
Will this characteristic lead Artisans back to many replays of games in which they have had success?

The Artisan Game Inventor

Artisans tend to be very entertaining people and also very much enjoy being entertained. This must be the reason why many of them invent with a partner. They can entertain one another with their new ideas and also be entertained in return. There's the fun of playing the game and the extra fun of human companionship.

Being charismatic, Artisan inventors tend to attract people. They rarely have trouble getting people to try out their designs. Being part of what they're doing always looks like a good time. By the same token, Artisans tend to be very good at pitching their designs to publishers. It's a game and a show to boot.

Artisan inventors are more interested in starting a new project than completing one. The first 90% of the project takes 90% of the work and the last 10% takes the other 90%. Artisan inventors may come to dread that last 10%.

Artisan inventors should be careful not to fall into the trap of lavishing too much work on the look of their early prototypes, much as they may enjoy this part. If the prototype does not work, they may have squandered valuable time.

It's very hard to be certain on such matters, but it seems to me that some of our greatest game inventors are Artisans:

Klaus Teuber, before he was a inventor, was a crafter of dental appliances, a job which no doubt requires artistic ability to do well. If you look in his Settlers of Catan Book you will there see the beautiful prototypes he fashioned by hand for the original Settlers of Catan game. He clearly likes to design with others as his partner Hans Müller has been credited with helping to fashion the final form of the original Settlers. It's true in another way too as the game house TM-Spiele, of which he is also part is a group of five game editors who work together to decide which outside designs they will publish. As many Artisans do, he has a strong interest in art, as seen by two of the most thematic games on art around: Adel Verpflichtet and Vernissage. Arguably, his Barbarossa, in which players sculpt in clay, is also an artistic game. He is also clearly interested in providing a feeling for a dramatic theme. Of the top rated German games, Settlers of Catan is one of the ones that tries hardest to be true to its theme. In his designing he has also gone in search of the world's strongest themes such as exploration of the unknown, the Wild West, Ancient Egypt, Ancient China, etc. In discussing his proposed Silk Road game (which apparently was never published), he talked about wanting the players to almost be able to sniff the spices and desert.

Alan Moon is one of the most friendly and entertaining people around. Why he even has an annual get together, not known as MoonCon or anything egotistical like that, but simply as A Gathering of Friends. At this event there are not only proper board games, but also a Poker tournament, a treasure hunt and artistic/humorous competitions, all of which he partakes in. He likes to invent his games with others, most notably Aaron Weissblum, but also with Bruno Faidutti and others. It's my impression from knowing him a little and talking to others who know him more that most of his games have been invented with someone else participating at some level, even if not always credited as such. None of the lonely inventor's attic for him. Again notice the interest in certain strong themes such as railroading, the pony express and dogsledding. Many of us were somewhat appalled one year at the Gathering when he pulled a copy of the rare game Square Mile off the prize table for the expressed purpose of cannibalizing it for a prototype, but hey, he has found a good solution to the problem of quickly making a good looking prototype. Long ago he was a humorous and entertaining writer for The General ("Not tonight, honey – The General") and even today his geek lists on BoardGameGeek are some of the most popular and entertaining around. Moreover, Alan sings and has even recorded a CD of country hits which I've heard and it's not bad at all. Perhaps country music's loss is boardgaming's gain as there's definite artistic talent there. He is also one of few inventors to admit to playing and write about other inventors games with admiration. Clearly, as with so many Artisans, he is never at a loss for knowing how to have a good time.

Bruno Faidutti is also an entertaining fellow who hosts his own large gaming event and likes to entertain us with his reports and reviews on his website as well. He also has designed with several others, including Alan Moon. I first sensed that he might be an Artisan type when he commented that the look of a prototype by another inventor was "very rough". I think this is something only an Artisan would bother to mention. But the place one really sees this is in the usually short, highly entertaining and engaging games where tactical skill is at a premium. Note also the interest in bringing the themes to life from the desert traders to murderous medieval monks to cave exploration. Many of his games reflect a fantasy theme and it seems to me that this theme and the fantasy role-playing game in general are probably above all the in the domain of the Artisans who can best play a role and also want to have an über-game experience where the drama and excitement have no real limit.

The Artisan as Reviewer

Moritz Eggert is a successful musical composer in his day job, a highly artistic endeavor, and seems a likely Artisan. Reading his reviews one is never bogged down with more detail than one wants. There is always enough, but the key is that he keeps the writing fluid and entertaining. He has also quickly gravitated to the podcast and is a smooth and very humorous natural there, which permits him to entertain us even more, even as he is informing us.

What can Personality Theory do for the hobby?

It's not certain, but everyone who has played games for long enough has at some point along the line experienced trouble at the games table. Just maybe a better understanding of the various types and goals and styles that exist would help things go more easily and avoid problems? At the same time, there are many games and many reviewers. Perhaps knowing about types can help in figuring out which games you will like and which reviewers work for you? Check out the bibliography to learn more about the theory, learn your own type and soon you can begin making it work for you.


Last update: Mon Jan 22 23:52:43 UTC 2007 Created: Thu Jan 11 12:36:47 MST 2007
Please send any comments to Rick Heli