Alone For All Seasons is Matt Sakey’s chapter on the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise from Well Played 2.0 – a book of criticism, one game per chapter. It’s now available to read online. It’s a cracking read; despite having read a large chunk of the writing about the game, I’ve not played any of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise myself.
In the article, Sakey comments on the titular acronym, branded onto the player-character (and, indeed, other Stalkers) by the Zone itself:
It brainwashes or kills anyone who comes close to discovering it, marking the corpses as S.T.A.L.K.E.R.s – scavengers, trespassers, adventurers, loners, killers, explorers, and robbers. The tattoo is a scarlet letter left behind on unwelcome intruders as a warning to the others.
Scavengers, trespassers, adventurers, loners, killers, explorers, and robbers.
A categorisation that immediately takes me back to Richard Bartle’s Hearts, Clubs, Spades, Diamonds and his four MUD player types (Achievers, Explorers, Socialisers, Killers).
There’s an interesting subtly to its divisions. Play-as-trespass, for instance, is an immediately interesting one: exploration as transgression rather than just for its own sake. Scavenger and Robber play out in a similar axis: hunting for treasure that’s there to be taken, against taking what you find regardless of whether it’s treasure. There’s not much room for Socialisers in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. universe, though; that role is taken by the Loner.
The Zone knows it’s being played with, and marks out its prey as exactly what it knows them to be: players.