Saturday, June 28, 2014

Write Club: Fiction Personality Tests

Hey y'all.  So as a fan of Starcraft, some years ago I created a personality test to determine what sort of person someone was when they told me their favorite Starcraft characters.  I refined the test after the first few attempts, so I ended up with this as my final request for information.

Favorite race
Most hated race (say none if you don't hate any)
Three favorite characters
Three least favorite characters

I also requested that if they didn't hate or really like three characters, then to only put two when that's the case.  This test hinges on people's real opinions, and having them shove in an extra character or leave out one that they really like skews the results.  Also, everyone has a favorite race, or otherwise they're probably not a big enough fan to have a favorite, and thus the analysis wouldn't have a point.

Why am I telling you about this?  Because I think it's something that anyone who is either psychologically inclined or literature-minded can do, provided they know enough about the universe in question -- which in this case is Starcraft.  Other universes can be used instead, so long as they're deep enough and you're familiar enough with the characters in them.

What I like about the Starcraft universe is that every character is deeply flawed in some way, so people automatically reveal their insecurities by telling me their favorites.  Hee hee...

So here's what I generate for the person who volunteers their favorites, or what I have been generating for the peeps I've been analyzing lately, anyway.

- Themes
- Romance
- Typing
- Leadership
- Dislikes
- Personality issues
- Advice
- Notes

This list has changed over the years, mainly because I haven't analyzed people's personalities in this way for a while.  Starcraft 2 came out, and with all the new characters introduced, I definitely had to learn who they were before analyzing fans again.  However, the themes, romance, and advice categories are the only ones to last from my original attempts to analyze other Starcraft fans.

Themes as a category is more for my benefit than the person being analyzed.  It's basically just a few categories that I feel embody the person.  For example, someone might like a bunch of dark, shadowy characters, like Zeratul, Duran, and Ulrezaj.  This can indicate an unwillingness to show oneself, independence, and intelligence over showiness.  These ideas are my first impressions of the person, and can help me figure out more specific things about them, especially when it takes me a long while to figure out all the rest.

Romance is a harder category in the Starcraft universe, as there are no love stories (HotS does not count). However, that doesn't mean that none of the characters would ever marry or fall in love.  Romance has two connotations.  Besides being about love, there's also the old fashioned "high adventure" definition that's all about being gallant and chivalrous.  These two definitions are very closely related, meaning that if you can get a grasp of how a character feels about adventure, you know how they feel about love.

For example, say a person picks Raynor, Tassadar, Mengsk as his favorite characters.  All three of these people are idealistic in one way or another.  Raynor will pursue what he thinks is right, no matter how many times he is hurt, betrayed, or binges on alcohol.  None of those will change his desire to do right, demonstrating an idealism and love of people that means the potential for romance.  Tassadar is the essence of high adventure, what with his melodramatic words and idealism.  Mengsk is much the same, despite his idealism being corrupted by his desire for power.

Stukov, Aldaris, and DuGalle also indicate an openness to romance, but with themes of duty mixed in there as well.  Basically, you need all three liked characters, as well as the disliked characters, to really get a whole idea of what love means to the person you're studying.

Typing is a new category I came up with, and it's the result of my new studies of the Myers-Briggs personality types.  It's also the general "catch all" category where I try to figure out what kind of person someone is.  I write down how I think a person is, and guess their Myers-Briggs type.  However, I add a disclaimer with the MBTI, because I'm not familiar enough with it to really guess correctly.  If you don't want to talk about a person's Myers-Briggs type, don't bother.  It's not necessary.  Just say what you think they're like to be with if you hang out with them.

The leadership portion is obvious, and also easy when using a game like Starcraft, because almost every single character in the game is a leader of some type.  So deciding what kind of leader someone is by their favorite Starcraft character can be pretty easy.  Zeratul and Duran indicate avoiding obvious leadership roles, the Overmind and Mengsk indicate a desire for power, Aldaris and DuGalle indicate respect for power and regulations, Tassadar and Raynor indicate individual choice, etc.

Dislikes is also a new category, but it's one you can skip if you want.  It's basically where I look at the person's disliked characters and try to make some correlations between the three, versus the correlations of the liked characters.  For example, someone who dislikes the Overmind, Duran, and Mengsk clearly doesn't like bad guys or powermongers.  Especially if their like characters are Raynor, Tassadar, and Zeratul.  Also, if someone dislikes Hanson, Stettmann and Mira Han, they clearly hate cliches and badly written characters, particularly if Aldaris, SC1 Kerrigan, and Duke are their favorites.  A liking of these three characters also indicates a love of growth, change, and good mixed with bad, all signs of complex characters.  This emphasizes the dislike.

Personality issues is another new category, one I probably shouldn't have added.  It basically is for what I think is a problem with that person.  Yeah, you can see how that would cause problems.  AsI said before, liking/disliking any Starcraft character is a very obvious way of revealing one's flaws.  For example, I love Aldaris, a character that is presumed to hate humans.  Clearly this is not a good sign.  Given that Raynor's a drunk, Tassadar freaks out at disagreement, Mengsk is a selfish demento, Zeratul makes bad decisions, Artanis is a noob, Kerrigan is an emotional wreck, etc, this category is a bit hazardous when you look at the personalities of people you don't know well, especially if you suspect they're really demented.

Advice is something I've always done, probably as a way to hide the fact that the Starcraft universe is really good at pointing out people's inner insecurities.  This is just whatever I want to say to the person in particular to help them with their personality issues or how they can understand others better.  You may want to consider not including this if you feel you might sound arrogant, or if you think simply mentioning personality issues is enough.

Notes is a new category.  I recommend not doing this if you're new at trying game personality testing, as it's really just a very short explanation of how I went from selected races/characters to personality aspects. (putting it when you haven't had practice can, well, make you look nooby). For example, liking Protoss can indicate idealism, whereas disliking Terran means shunning normal culture -- though it does depend somewhat on the other characters to specify what the liking of the races means specifically).  Then I say what all three of their liked characters have in common, and what their disliked have in common.  I did this because I like sharing my logic and helping others understand my conclusions.

Basically, if you're new at this, I recommend doing the themes, romance, and a general section.  Maybe leadership and dislikes, if you feel like them.  Though I warn you, a lot of people like to submit themselves to analysis, and this is a task that requires concentration to get right, as well as a fair chunk of time.  To practice, you should select few categories.

Okay, so I have to analyze this guy:
favorite race: Protoss
disliked race: Zerg
three favorite characters: Matt Horner, Fenix, Jim Raynor in Heaven's Devils-BW
three least favorite characters: Kerrigan, Jim Raynor in SC2, Aldaris

I'm not going to go into detail about what I said for this guy.  That's just too weird.  But yeah, this is an actual person I tried to read.  Also, yes, I asked people to differentiate between Starcraft 1 and Starcraft 2, if it made a difference between how they feel about a character.

There's stuff to notice about this person right away.  For example, none of the hated characters were one of those generic, cliched characters added in during Starcraft 2.  Sure, Raynor's SC2 form was awful, but he was carried over.  This makes a difference, as he's the only person on the Starcraft forums I'm on that didn't pick one.  So clearly he finds bad or aggravating characters more offensive than boring ones.

Let's use that intuition!  It's impossible to go into detail with these things without it.  You also have to have a good sense of literary analysis -- what each character/race means to the plot of the game.  That'll be more obvious as I explain.

So let's start with the liked race.  This guy, who I will now call Bob, picked the Protoss.  Now, thematically speaking, the Protoss are on the same level as elves from Lord of the Rings and Vulcans from Star Trek. That is, they are a somewhat elevated race whose natural abilities are above that of normal humans, and are known to make judgements on humanity as a whole.  Thus, if a person likes the Protoss, it could indicate several possible things: nobility, idealism, judgement on modern society, introspection, desire for more or better, fantasy, and a sense of being better than those around them.

Something also to keep in mind is that the game Starcraft is for a human audience, and yet this human in particular is picking a non-human race.  Thus, liking Protoss can indicate a separation from society, the concept of normal, and self-doubt.  Again, that hinges more specifically on what the favorite and least favorite characters are, but yeah.

If you're wondering about what liking Terran and Zerg mean, here we go.  Terran can mean sensibility, loyalty, realism, disdain for idealism, Sensor rather than iNtuitive in Myers-Briggs typology, mischief, a liking for flawed heroes, or just a love for regular things.  Liking Zerg possibly indicates depression, isolation, interest in bugs, love of animals, love of tragedy, humor, lack of interest in intellectualism, a scientific (or "scientific") worldview over philosophic, artistic aims, and a willingness to be different.

As you may guess, hating any of these races means the opposite of what liking them means.  Bob up there hates Zerg, so he's probably interested in intellectual, philosophic debate.  Given that he likes a race represented all by noble, idealistic characters and dislikes the one trying to take over everything (that is, Kerrigan), Bob definitely admires heroism and idealistic good.

But the thing about idealism is that different people have different ideals.  Which is where the favorite characters come in.  Before attempting to say anything about the person in question, you the analyst should figure out what all three liked and all three disliked have in common.  Even if it seems like those in question have nothing in common, think about it until you get something.

Also, avoid figuring out what two of them have in common, but the third doesn't.  While it's true that someone may like two characters for different reasons than the third, you don't know that outright. Sometimes the three have something in common that the person who picked them didn't realize.  For example, someone who picks Aldaris, Raynor, and Mengsk as favorites may seem confusing at first, until you realize that all three of these (at least until SC2) are some of the better developed characters in the whole game on a storytelling level.

In Bob's case, he picked Matt Horner, Fenix, and Jim Raynor from Brood War and Heaven's Devils (a bit odd he didn't pick original Starcraft, but whatever).  After thinking about it a bit, I realized that these are some of the weakest characters in Starcraft.  Not that they are badly written, but rather that only a little bit about them is shown in the plot.  Fenix and Horner are nearly identical in this respect.  Both are idealistic soldier types whose brief appearances confirm their general type without telling one minute of their backstories. Raynor isn't developed in Brood War either, as no backstory was added to him and we have no real idea why Raynor did the things he did.  And no character who appeared in Heaven's Devils was well developed.

Raynor, Fenix, and Horner are all honest good guys with no real political power.  Their sincerity and forthrightness makes them good, hard workers who pursue good in all they do, no matter what they think of the world around them.

This indicates that clearly Bob thinks of himself as a good guy.  Not the over-idealized, monologuing Tassadar type, nor the shadowy, efficient Zeratul type, but the straightforward, kind, and unpretentious Fenix type.  He's the guy whose personality is pretty obvious upon meeting him.  There's no deceit in him, though though there is the potential for distrust of others once he figures out they're not as honest as him.

Likewise, his dislikes are Kerrigan (I wish he'd specified, but maybe he hates all her incarnations), Raynor in Starcraft 2, and Aldaris.  The things they have in common are being led by emotion.  Everything Kerrigan does, from her pre-infested morality to her post-infested revenge quest, is based on her emotional need to deal with all the tragedy she's been through.  SC2 Raynor is likewise an emo kid, who attempts to rescue Kerrigan despite having sworn to kill her in Brood War.  To make it worse, SC2 Jim has no logical reason to save her, only the fleeting emotions of a love story retconned into the plot.  Likewise, while Aldaris would call himself a rational, he's very quick to criticize, judge those who are different, and get angry at those that piss him off.

Clearly, Bob is someone who believes jobs should be accomplished through clear, unemotional thought, unless that emotion is optimism or sympathy for those who are hurt.  Bob's very unselfishly motivated, but his lack of emotional understanding can make him seem more harsh than he really is.

Or so I guess.  Bob hasn't answered back, so I don't know if I'm right or not.  Thing is. there's lots of potential downfalls to this personality trick.  For one thing, it's come up with purely by me, so it's not based on any social or psychological science.  It's based on pure literature.  Even now, I'm barely mentioning Myers-Briggs.

What's more, it can be hard not to be biased by your own perceptions.  You may know a person for a long time, and thus already have some idea -- and possibly a false one -- about who they are.  That's why I always stick to forums, but even then an image in a signature or avatar can give me false ideas about them. Before I started watching Mythbusters, their image in a signature totally messed me up.  I was right on what I perceived, but about Jamie and Adam, not the guy on the forums.

Also, you have to be aware of your own personal biases.  Certain people frame things always from their own mindset or have trouble seeing the validity of other opinions.   Also, by framing something in a way you understand, the person you're trying to estimate might not get it, because words that mean one thing to you, mean something else to them. Watch out for that.

Another downfall is the fact Starcraft is a game.  Sure, you can take this trick and make it work with any universe -- Star Trek, Mass Effect, Lord of the Rings, whatever -- but by basing it on a game, people can then start choosing characters not by what they like or by literary standards, but by how that character plays in the game.  I already got corrected by someone who claimed he disliked Terrans only because Terran players kept talking crap about Protoss as a playable race.

The most important potential pitfall of this test, which will apply no matter what universe you choose, is that many times people like characters that aren't like themselves.  This is obvious when someone likes Mengsk or Duran, because someone can like them on a literary level without being deceitful power-mongers.  But it also applies to the good guys, such that someone who admires Tassadar isn't a melodramatic hero.  On the forums I go to, I've discovered a lot of Introverted iNtuitives who really like Aldaris, despite Aldaris being the very cliche of an ESTJ.  Basically you've got to figure out why a person likes their chosen characters, not what the characters have in common with the person that chose them.

But what if, you ask, you don't want to try this with Starcraft?  Okay, well, set it up with a different universe. Lord of the Rings works very well, because it has a finite number of characters and also a good number of distinct races.  Star Wars is difficult, as it has forty bajillion races, and the new movies coming out will bring new characters into play.  Star Trek shouldn't be too hard, but it is a pretty big world, so there's a lot of knowledge you'll need to really understand the characters in it.

You don't need me to tell you what franchise to pick.  Just find one that you really like and are plenty familiar with, and then go with it.  To practice, think about your favorite characters.  Why do you like them?  Do you think you have anything in common with them?  Other people are the same way about their favorites.  By intuiting your attachments to your own, you can extrapolate why someone gets attached to them.

So, g'head.  Try it out, why don't ya?

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