A Study of Gaming Faces
Venue: Nintendo Holiday Preview

By Jorge Figueiredo - November 3rd, 2013


Regardless of a person’s ethnic background, their religion or whether they are a casual or hardcore gamer, that person shares something with every other gamer on the planet: the gaming face. Toronto Thumbs did a recent study on gaming faces at Nintendo’s Holiday Preview Event. Held at the Richmond in downtown Toronto, the event was a great place to observe gaming faces thanks to the number of gaming stations set up, as well as the variety of fun games available to play.


The gaming face (Ludum Fáciem) is the state of the human face while fully engaged in a game. It does not matter whether the game is a first-person shooter, a strategy game or a platformer; nor is it dependent on whether the game is a single-player or multi-player experience – the gaming face will always appear once the subject is immersed in play. Gaming faces reveal the type of personality that the person has – they are windows to the true self, as they are unique to each person.

What is even more interesting is that the subject is usually unaware that their facial features enter this formation. Also of note: the gaming face for each person is consistently the same, too, regardless of the type of game. Again, the Nintendo event was a great place to study naturally occurring gaming faces due to the variety of games available to play. We shall now break down some of the personalities that are revealed by the types of gaming faces that we observed.

The Duelist

It is a joyous match when two Duelists find each other.

This is the gaming face of one who is competitive, regardless of whether or not they are engaged in a game that actually requires them to play against another person. Regardless of whether they are playing one of the billion mini-games in Wii Party U, like Pole Vaulting (using a Wii-Mote) or Baseball (played entirely on the GamePad), or whether they are engaged in a round of Shovel Knight, trying to navigate some of the insanely tricky levels with just a digging tool; the Duelist is always trying to compete.

Competition can come in all forms, though, and the Duelist will rise to the challenge of a head-to-head game against a single person, or against many people. The intense stare will be directed mainly at the screen as the Duelist avoids eye contact to ensure that they have a clear mind, uninfluenced by humanity. In Wii Party U, there is a tank game where the person holding the GamePad gets to drive a large tank while everyone else drives smaller ones. The Duelist will ensure that he hammers every last player into the dirt, his eyes never leaving the GamePad – not even to gloat.

Of course, the Duelist’s toughest foe is themselves. If you were to catch one playing Wii Fit U, you would notice that their eyes would be in a binary state, balancing their attention between the action and their high score. It is not hard to imagine a Duelist, butt planted on the Wii Balance Board, using their core muscles to help them navigate the luge track, constantly remembering their previous rounds so that they can beat their time…

The Titillated and the Incredulous

The Titillated (left) and the Incredulous (right) square off!

The Titillated is the gamer that you see from time to time who always seems to be enjoying what they are doing. Usually, they can be found biting their lower lip, seemingly in a state of bliss. It is not certain where the source of this glee is truly located – but it exists, regardless of whether or not they are winning or losing whatever they happen to be playing. There is one certainty, though: if a Titillated is playing with an Incredulous, then the Titillated’s smile will be larger than if they were playing the game alone. For those not in the know, the Incredulous is a fairly accomplished gamer that tends to have a puzzled look on their face – even if they know what they are doing. It is almost as if their gaming face is so full of concentration that it wraps around, looking more like bewilderment. These types of gamers really seem to enjoy platforming games with puzzle elements.

We were lucky enough to observe both a Titillated and an Incredulous playing the same game: Super Mario 3D World. The game has 3D free-roaming game-play with 2D mechanics, and is the perfect game to bring out the best characteristics of the two personalities that we are currently discussing. While the Incredulous is trying to figure out the puzzles, the Titillated runs around collecting things (we call this Gauntlet Syndrome). What ends up happening is that the Titillated ends up constantly griefing the Incredulous by getting in the way and being a pest – causing the increased level of glee (as previously stated) and consequently leading the face of the Incredulous to become even more…well…incredulous.

Even the gentleman who was using the GamePad to help clear the way and reveal secrets could not stop this fascinating chain reaction.

The Puzzler

You can hear the fine gears meshing to solve problems.

Not to be confused with the Incredulous, the Puzzler thrives on games in which people figure things out. Platformers and puzzlers are this person’s cup of tea – and when you combine the two it is like a match made in heaven. We observed a Puzzler playing The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. From what I could see, the game employs a top-down view for the bulk of the game but the character Link also seems to have the ability to become a painting and walk across walls (and into cracks). This puzzle element is something that the Puzzler eats for breakfast. Other interesting games involving a keen mind like Pokémon X and Pokémon Y engage the Puzzler with strategy and thoughts of probability.

The Puzzler is always the easiest to spot because of the air of calm that surrounds them. You can look at their eyes and almost see finely-tuned gears turning in their skulls, working out the bits to everything that they are playing. It is inspiring.

Other Bits of Interest

There were many different kinds of gaming faces at the Nintendo Holiday Event. Probably the best gaming faces that I saw were from children who were playing Sonic Lost World and Mario & Sonic at the Olympic WInter Games Sochi 2014. Their faces were masks of wonder as they fully enjoyed the games that they were playing (and some were startlingly good at them for such young kids).

Hark! There be 2DS’s here!

There were also some tentative gaming faces over in the hand-held department, especially at the 2DS station. This new hand-held seems to be designed primarily for kids – with all of the power available to the 3DS (without the 3D). Some adults found the design comfortable enough to spend some quality time with it, allowing us to make notes on their gaming faces.


Gaming faces are all around us, inviting us to look at a gamer’s soul through their eyes. You can tell a lot about someone’s personality by the gaming face that they make. Do you know which one you are?

Click here to check out the gallery for the Nintendo Holiday Preview Event. How many gaming faces and personalities can you see? »

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