To be honest, I wasn’t entirely certain I was going to include this in the list at all. Part of me feels like you can roll the Controller into a subset of one of the other player types. However, the more I looked at the type as a concept, the more I realized it didn’t really fit as neatly into any of the other types that I’d discussed so far. Certainly aspects of it can be seen but then that can be said for most of the others. In the end I figured I’d present it as I’ve seen it and let the reader decide how they feel about where this player type fits in the cosmology of gaming.
In a general sense, the Controller is someone that is playing so that they can have that feeling of empowerment that comes from being in charge of something. This can manifest in many different ways but it is always about the desire to control what is happening and how it happens. A Controller isn’t content to sit back and let the action or the story happen around him while he interacts with it. Instead, they want to be the one that dictates the flow of battle or the pace of the narrative. They pride themselves on being able to successfully take charge of a group, whether it be an actual group of people or a virtual one. The main split occurs in the two different sub-categories of the Controller: The Strategist and the Guild Master.
The Strategist is the type of player that loves to see the big picture in a game. As the name suggests, they are drawn to strategy games or games where you are able to see all the pieces as they move. A Strategist will want to study the best way to act not just for themselves but for the overall game. They share an interest in combos and set-up with the Gambler but are more calculated about it. They would view it more like moving pieces on a chess board than giving in to the luck of the draw. In fact, the Strategist hates leaving anything up to chance and would prefer to have set rules for how things interact than playing loose with interpretations. A well formulated plan of action is just as important to them as the actual implementation of that plan.
Playing with a Strategist can be a definite pain for others in a group. Most of the times they won’t be able to help themselves from telling everyone around them how and what they should be doing with their turns. Whether it is a cooperative board game like Pandemic that quickly turns into one person dictating how everyone else should move or an RPG where one person is telling everyone else around the table when to use their abilities; having a Strategist can often lead to players feeling like they aren’t even playing. At their best, though, a Strategist will encourage cohesive group work and planning ahead. While they can often spend a little too much time working out the finer points of a plan, they can get the other players to begin thinking about what they want to do ahead of time rather than just reacting as it happens.
The Guild Master is defined by their desire and ability to get people to play together (usually with them in some type of leadership role). Where the Strategist has more of a puppet master feel to them in terms of how they deal with other people, the Guild Master is perfectly happy with everyone playing their own characters. The Controller aspect comes in with the way in which they want to have people playing. It is important that everyone be working together and the Guild Master wants to be the one to watch over them. They strive to be in charge, not because they think they know how to play better than the others like the Strategist, but because they feel that having someone that can get the others to cooperate is essential to playing better.
Playing with a Guild Master can definitely be a good thing depending on the level of involvement they have. They are invested in group play and making sure that everyone within the group is engaged with what is happening. At best they do a lot of the work that the other players might not want to and offer up insight and help where it might otherwise have not been. The flip side of course is the Guild Master that views things as being “my way or the highway” and can’t see other ways of doing things. They can make groups unhappy when there doesn’t need to be any leader type person for the game but they insist on trying to force it anyway. Like the Strategist it can be very annoying to have someone hovering over every move you make even if they aren’t also telling you what to do. A Guild Master is also likely to attempt to hold a group together longer than it probably should.
Trying to fit a Controller into your group can be a little challenging. Trying to fit more than one into a group can be downright disastrous. This is especially true if, for instance, it is a game that someone else is running but that they continually try to take charge of. Too many cooks and all that. You can try to appease the Strategist in your group through the use of either tactical combat or just giving them puzzles to solve that require multiple moving parts. Don’t be afraid to tell them to stop trying to play for everyone else and make them stay focused on their own strategy. This also goes for any Guild Masters you might have. Just let them know that they don’t need to worry about what everyone else is doing at all times. It’s ok if somebody isn’t focused or gets distracted from the game and it isn’t their job to stop that from happening. Overall, just try to give them enough control that they are happy but not so much that it begins to be all about them.