There is an ongoing discussion at another thread about how Thottbot impacts Explorers. While several people identify as being an Explorer, and others talk about what an Explorer is, it's not clear whether everyone is talking about the same thing
Bartle's original definition in his paper was:
[Explorers] try to find out as much as they can about the virtual world. Although initially this means mapping its topology (ie. exploring the MUD's breadth), later it advances to experimentation with its physics (ie. exploring the MUD's depth).
[Aside: Bartle's Test (not made by Bartle) creates the illusion of identifiable types because of the dichotomous forced-choice format and isn't relevant to our discussion here of what an Explorer is. If I ask you whether you like poison or spinach over and over again, just because you keep picking spinach doesn't actually mean you like spinach at all.]
A few people commented on the "cartographer"/"loremaster" aspect of the Explorer:
Some "explorers" come to a game, map it out, put the map on the web, then quit.
- Ola Forsheim
Being able to find rare creatures, or to quickly get from one location to another in short time, is the type of thing that has hitherto been the Explorer player's small prize for his unusual playstyle.
But most seemed to agree more with Dave Rickey's "Analyst" portrayal of the Explorer, and that this was the more pure Explorer type:
Most "explorers" are more interested in the underlying rules of the system from what I have seen.
- Dave Rickey
Flatfingers elaborated on the "analyst" motivation, and implied that "cartographers"/"loremasters" weren't the real Explorers:
My personal belief is that Explorers are less interested in cataloging raw data (which anyone can do) than in revealing hidden patterns in data. The developer who interprets "exploring" as some literal walking around physical space to visit a new location has misunderstood what it means to be an Explorer … Explorers feel satisfaction when they can move from the specific to the general.
This got more complicated when others suggested that Explorers do what they do to gain a competitive edge:
When information is a rare commodity, investing time and energy into gathering valuable information (which might give a competitive advantage) would seem to be another player metric of achievement ... It would seem to be harmful to explorers only to the extent that obscure knowledge might give a competitive advantage over those who lack it.
- Barry Kearns
The problem with this portrayal, as Michael Hartman pointed out, is that:
Such a person is *NOT* an explorer then. That is an achiever.
- Michael Hartman
Everyone seems to know what an explorer is. The problem is that they don't agree with each other. Here's what I know from data from online surveys of MMORPG players.
1) "Cartographers" are not correlated with "Analysts". Responses to the following two statements are not strongly correlated. In other words, they are different kinds of people altogether.
- How much do you enjoy knowing as much about the game mechanics and rules as possible?
- How much do you enjoy exploring every map or zone in the world?
2) The "Analyst" type however is highly correlated with the Achievement motivation. So the "game mechanics" question above correlates highly (r = .46) with the aggregate of these statements:
- Leveling up your character as fast as possible.
- Acquiring rare items that most players will never have.
- Becoming powerful.
- Accumulating resources, items or money.
In other words, people who enjoy learning about the game mechanics are largely also your typical Achievers. So the real question seems to be whether Explorers are really a sort of Achievers.
Then the question is whether current MMORPGs have driven away all the real Explorers, or whether game designs always embed exploration within the context of achievement and make it difficult to tease these two motivations apart. Or is it the case that all Achievers are inherently Explorers. After all, no one else is as interested in whether dual-wielding outperforms two-handed weapons. And isn't that what it means to understand the underlying rules, and moving from the specifics to the general?
But if Achievers are usually "Analyst"-style Explorers (the min-maxers), then ... who are the real Explorers? Does it make sense to have a separate Explorer type if it overlaps so much with Achievers? Or maybe the Cartographers are the real Explorers?
If you feel that a pure Explorer type does exist - What are statements I could include in future surveys that would identify Explorers? What are statements that Explorers would agree with that Achievers would never agree with? What sets Explorers apart?
[Another Aside: Bartle doesn't advocate strict "Types" as others pointed out in the other thread, but the Type model assumes a primary motivation. I prefer a Scores model where every player has a score for every motivation and where having a high score in one motivation doesn't mean you also can't score high in another motivation (which Bartle's Test [not created by Bartle] assumes). This would allow more interesting combinational outcomes - so a guild leader is someone who scores high on Socializing and Achieving, a min-maxer is someone who scores high on Achieving and Exploring. I feel that using the Types framework prevents us from discussing how motivations combine and interact to create the range of roles that people choose in MMORPGs.]