Behavlets: a method for practical player modelling using psychology-based player traits and domain specific features

Benjamin Cowley, DK Charles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
160 Downloads (Pure)


As player demographics broaden it has become important to understand variation in player types. Improved player models can help game designers create games that accommodate a range of playing styles, and may also facilitate the design of systems that detect the currently-expressed player type and adapt dynamically in real-time. Existing approaches can model players, but most focus on tracking and classifying behaviour based on simple functional metrics such as deaths, specific choices, player avatar attributes, and completion times. We describe a novel approach which seeks to leverage expert domain knowledge using a theoretical framework linking behaviour and game design patterns. The aim is to derive features of play from sequences of actions which are intrinsically informative about behaviour—which, because they are directly interpretable with respect to psychological theory of behaviour, we name ‘Behavlets’. We present the theoretical underpinning of this approach from research areas including psychology, temperament theory, player modelling, and game composition. The Behavlet creation process is described in detail; illustrated using a clone of the well-known game Pac-Man, with data gathered from 100 participants. A workshop-based evaluation study is also presented, where nine game design expert participants were briefed on the Behavlet concepts and requisite models, and then attempted to apply the method to games of the well-known first/third-person shooter genres, exemplified by ‘Gears of War’, (Microsoft). The participants found 139 Behavlet concepts mapping from behavioural preferences of the temperament types, to design patterns of the shooter genre games. We conclude that the Behavlet approach has significant promise, is complementary to existing methods and can improve theoretical validity of player models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-306
JournalUser Modeling and User-Adapted Interaction
Early online date8 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Jun 2016


  • Player modelling
  • Machine learning
  • Temperament theory
  • Psychology
  • Game design patterns
  • Behavlet


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