Spotlight on Games > Features > Personality Types in Games > The Guardian

Personality Types in Games: The Guardian

The Artisan · The Guardian · The Idealist · The Rational


This is the second 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 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 Guardian Type

"Guardians are said to exhibit the SJ qualities of temperament – S for Sensory, meaning highly observant of factors in the immediate environment, and J for Judging, meaning judicious in making decisions and carrying them out."
Guardians 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). Guardians tend to be meticulous, upright, honorable and steadfast. More than anyone they are the glue keeping society together so it is entirely appropriate that they be described next.

The Guardian as Rules Explainer

"Guardian speech is coherent in the associative sense, which means they move from one topic to another associatively rather than deductively or inductively, as do Rationals and Idealists. When Guardians are reminded of something, however distant from or unrelated to the topic at hand, they mention it. And often this reminds others of something else, who then mention that. And so the conversation moves from topic to topic, by contiguity rather than implication, like a row of dominoes, each toppling the next."
So getting rules explained by the Guardian, we have an excellent chance of getting every last one of them as each feature reminds of a related feature. Unless of course there is some totally unrelated feature, which might be unfortunately omitted.
"On topics that interest them Guardians are able to store an enormous fund of facts, which they will call up and, again, freely associate in conversation. ... one bit of information easily calling forth another."
The fact that the Guardian memory for facts and numbers tends to be so good, gives further assurance that nothing will be left out, assuming the game is one that they like in the first place, and thus worth storing in that capacious brain.

The Guardian Opponent

"Guardians believe we should park on the right side of the street even if the left side is empty, stop at red lights when there is no other traffic, signal when turning even if there's no one to signal to, and on and on. Cooperation, compliance, conformity, obedience, these attitudes toward the rules loom larger in the consciousness of Guardians than any other temperament."
We should all thank Guardians for being part of the group that always follows the rules of every game and for not cutting corners. In card games you will find Guardians asking their neighbors to "chest your cards" rather than sneaking a peek at them. You won't find them making revealing remarks in partnership card games like Bridge or Tichu either.
"No one is permitted to ignore the rules merely to have fun or just to speed things up."
And not only that. Like watchdogs they are on the lookout for others playing games outside the game that has been set out for play. Except possibly for the miscreants, this is a service to the benefit of all.
Artisans might be known for having highly discriminating senses, but some Guardian senses are just as acute when it comes to observing the rules. They know what the rules say, where the lines are drawn, and with cocked ear and sharp eye are able to detect the smallest hint of non-compliance, the slightest degree of deviation, violation or transgression."
So don't try to get away with anything when a Guardian is at the table.
"Logistics is the procurement, distribution, service, and replacement of material goods. Logistics is vital to the success of any institution – a business, a household, a school, an army – and Guardians can be enormously creative in seeing to it that the right personnel have the right supplies in the right place at the right time to get the job done. Even though they can develop skills in the other three spheres of activity, tactics, strategy and diplomacy, it is much easier and enjoyable for them to practice and thus to develop their logistical skills."
We tend to like and be in sympathy with what we do well. This much is natural in human nature. Guardian game players have a logistical ability that helps them to understand things like efficient operation, avoidance of bottlenecks and general synthesis of many different numbers. It's an understanding of rates of change and they are able to harmonize several different such rates at the same time.

This is a valuable skill for a number of overtly logistical games like Roads and Boats, Neuland, the aptly-named Logistico and many others. But it also comes up in a great many other games, such as economic games such as The Settlers of Catan, games featuring supply-and-demand concerns and also war games, many of which are concerned with getting reinforcements and supplies to the front.

It also applies to questions of evaluation. In real life, most Guardians have a good of the price of everything. Drive by a house and ask your Guardian friend how much it would cost to replace the roof. Amazingly, they will have a darn good idea. Of course such a talent is very valuable in games where players set the prices of things, especially any game featuring auctions.

Knowing prices as well as they do, they can also excel at negotiation games. But it's best if the scope of negotiations are somewhat restricted. Wide open systems may incorporate psychological forms of persuasion that are the domains of Idealists and Artisans and where the Guardian may be feel secure.

"Nothing preventing, Guardians instinctively practice logistical operations far more and far earlier than tactical, diplomatic and particularly strategic operations, and therefore end up with logistical intelligence outstripping the others by a wide margin."
Their logistical ability is somewhat less useful, and Guardians do not seem to enjoy as much or see the point of, routing games such as Empire Builder, TransAmerica or Socks in the City, which are in the domain of the intuitive Rationals. They are less comfortable in press-your-luck or gambling games which require risking considerable assets; these are the domain, of course, of the Artisans.
"While Artisans have a hedonistic outlook, Guardians have a stoical outlook, particularly in the areas of hard work and saving. Both of these outlooks are ethical. One is not right and the other wrong; they are simply different views of the Good. For Artisans, if it's not fun, don't do it; but for Guardians, a penny saved is a penny earned, and if there's a job to be done, they must do it, feeling obligated to should the responsibility of working hard and accumulating assets so that family members will fare well and prosper."
One is reminded of the story of the hardworking Ants and the pleasure-loving Grasshopper. When bad times came, the Ants had prepared, but the Grasshopper was in dire trouble and had to ask the Ants to bail him out. (But maybe the Ants would have been bored if the Grasshopper had gone away? Perhaps this story was told by Ants!) Were the Ants Guardians and the Grasshopper an Artisan?

In any case, games in which progress is made by inches, by investing a little, realizing a little, investing a bit more, realizing a bit more, are tailor-made for Guardian types, whereas they may be slow and too lacking in drama for Artisans.

"no one ever accused a Guardian of not giving his or her all to family, career, church and social organization – and usually all at the same time!
Guardians are probably some of our best game group organizers and participants. They are the ones who host evenings at their homes or procure places to play. They show up on time every week or if they are going to be late or missing, let people know. They contribute their fair share to whatever is needed in terms of fees or cleanup. They read the rules to new games in advance so that they can do a good job explaining them. Guardians are wonderful people to play games with, truly.
More than other types, Guardians feel appreciated in the degree that others are grateful for what they, the Guardians, have done for them. It is galling to them when others take their services for granted and express no gratitude, but they can never say that they're galled.
If any Guardians are reading this, they probably don't even like it that this subject is being broached, but someone should. Guardians do so many thankless tasks, but the tendency is for no one to notice except when they don't get done. So my advice is, to keep your Guardian game friends happy, be sure to explicitly thank them for all that they do.
"many of their efforts are holding actions, trying to maintain the status quo in fast-paced, ever-changing situations ... Guardians have learned to expect the worst."
In games you will often see Guardians expressing a pessimistic attitude. Of course they have hopes that their current plans will turn out well, but while hoping for the best, they are also expecting the worst. This also often comes out in sardonic jests which can be amusing for others and are certainly far from either the "bad winner" or "sore loser" that many have come to dread running into at the gaming table.
"In their times of trouble, Guardians tend not to blame their bad luck (as do Artisans), or to blame themselves (as do Rationals). Rather, they believe with the Stoics that pain and suffering are unavoidable in this world, are indeed part of some predetermined plan, and therefore that men and women must endure their hardships bravely and patiently."
When his best laid plans go awry, the Guardian is not one to upset anyone with complaints.

The view that there is a predetermined plan draws many Guardians to the topic of war games. They tend to see the outcomes of historic battles or wars as fated. Did the people who won deserve to win? Was fate satisfied? To even ask the question, as Guardians do, is to be interested in the game that simulates the topic.

Of the Guardian variants, probably the introverted and thinking ISTJ, one of the more taciturn of all types, is the most avid player of games, mostly enjoying the logistical and evaluation aspects. The ISFJ also often enjoys games and is more open to the lighter ones including vehicles like Werewolf and others emphasizing social aspects. This goes for the extraverted Guardians as well, with the ESTJ enjoying games that make some point about the past with which they agree or where they can demonstrate their expertise for the purposes of educating others.

The Guardian Game Buyer

"Guardians do not usually focus on the now, as do the opportunistic Artisans. Nor on tomorrow, as do the romantic Idealists. And certainly not on timeless intervals, as do the scientific Rationals. Rather, Guardians are more inclined to turn their thoughts to yesterday, to look fondly upon the good old days when people earned their living, when products were solidly built (they don't make 'em like they used to)"
The question is often asked, why are so many games set in past times, whether medieval, Renaissance or World War II? One great reason is that the Guardians, 40% of the audience, are looking in that direction and they want to see games on these topics. In the United States the History Channel network can probably count them as a lot of their viewers as well.
"This reverence for the past perhaps explains why, more than any of the other types, Guardians are creatures of habit, following faithfully the same routines in their daily lives. They like to get up the same time every morning, they wash and dress according to the same routine, they drive the same way to work, they eat at the same restaurants at the same times, they shop at the same stores, buy the same brands and even like to be served by the same salespersons. Guardians say, "the old ways are the best ways" and "you can't teach an old dog new tricks".
Once finding some favorite games, the Guardians are probably likely to stick with them and want to play them over and over as well. This can be a problem for game publishers who, of course, need to sell new things all the time. This may help to account for the current popularity of expansion kits and revised editions of older games. It's a win-win as the publisher keeps products moving and the Guardian player keeps playing, in some sense, a game that he already enjoys, albeit with a new twist.
"While Artisans have an eye for artistic variation, Guardians care about being reliable, particularly in the maintenance and continuity of material."
Guardians are the most demanding of consumers when it comes to issues like component quality, number of bits per dollar (or pound or Euro), box sturdiness and so on. These issues appear to be just as important as the game play itself – if they are not up to what the Guardian considers sufficient for the price, they will not buy, at least not retail, though I suspect a lot of Guardians are the ones snooping out bargains on the various aftermarket websites.

Guardians also tend to see games as status symbols. They are often proud of their large collections or of the special rare items that are in that collection. They are also good at providing shelving or other elaborate means for housing and transporting the collection. Numbered games or games published all in the same format, e.g. the Avalon Hill bookshelf series or the numbered Alea games, are appealing to them. They're also on the lookout for games that will appreciate in value which they can sell later for a profit.

The Guardian Game Inventor

Wolfgang Kramer, though I have no way of being sure, may be a Guardian inventor. His first games were on racing, the topic of who is first and best, being very plain in such games and one of direct interest to Guardians. More importantly, he is the creator with Richard Ulrich, of El Grande, a game which seems to appeal greatly to virtually all Guardians. And the games he has invented with Michael Kiesling – Tikal, Java, Australia, etc.-- all have those meaty numerical, logistical qualities that seem perfectly designed for Guardian talents. Herr Kramer is very affable and approachable in real life, possibly reflecting the Guardian desire to cooperate and to serve. At the Essen Game Fair he can be seen giving interviews, including to German radio. He can be written at his website and will cheerfully answer himself. For the SAZ Game Designers' Guild he has in the past reported on the economics of the games industry, thus combining service and keen understanding of prices, trends and economics.

Other Guardian inventors probably include many of those who create games revolving around auctions, strong logistical mechanisms and also war games. It would be guessing to say which inventors these are and having read all of the above, you can probably guess about as well as I.

The Guardian as Reviewer

Iain Cheyne, who blogs on games at his Inconsequential Ruminations website, is a Guardian. While I have not played with him and cannot say for sure whether all the characteristics described here apply to him, his tastes do include war games or games which include conflict. He has been a loyal supporter of for four years – as Keirsey writes, Guardians "like to belong to social and civic groups". His numerical skill can be seen in his thorough ratings of games he has played, nearly always also dutifully including descriptive comments, often mentioning component quality. His thoughts are always a pleasure to peruse and truly of service to the gaming community. I understand that he often hosts games at his home, for which I hope his fellow players are grateful, as, considering his Internet activities, we should be also. Thank you, Iain!

As far as other reviewers go, it's difficult to say for sure, but probably those who enjoy auctions and logistics and name El Grande as their favorite game of all time are likely in the category.


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 Apr 16 03:37:22 UTC 2007 Created: Wed Apr 4 01:41:26 UTC 2007
Please send any comments to Rick Heli