User and Player Types in Gamified Systems

Ninja Turtles Gamification User and Player Types in Gamified Systems

Much of what we have learned about how people act and interact in gamified environments has been derived from what we know about game theory, social dynamics, as well as Player Types. After years of research, we now have practical ways of classifying user types, similar to the way game players have been classified by types. This can aid in understanding the human elements of a situation and help in building an effective gamified design.

From the Realm of Games

Richard Bartle, a British writer and professor at the University of Essex, has conducted research in the areas of game design and game development, as well as explored player personality types for massively-multiplayer online games. He is best known for his theory on game participant psychology which classifies players based on their gaming preference.

These preferences are deduced from a series of thirty random questions which identify characteristics associated with specific character types. Bartle identified four main character types – Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, and Killers. The results from this test produced a metric known as the “Bartle Quotient” which represented the relative presence of each characteristic trait.

Bartle’s Four Player Types

Bartle’s four main player types are characterized in the following descriptions:

Achievers – players who focus on obtaining some level of success, as measured by points, prizes, material possessions, or other valuation criteria. Known as the “Diamonds,” they will strive to gain rewards, recognition and prestige, with little or no advantage in gameplay or advancement.

Explorers – players who seek out the thrill of discovery, learning about anything that is new or unknown. Referred to as the “Spades” because they tend to dig down and uncover things, explorers feel a rush of excitement when they discover a rare artifact or a secret pathway.

Socializers – these are individuals who are attracted to the social aspects of a game, rather than the game strategy itself. They are the “Hearts” of the game world, because they gain the most enjoyment from interacting with the other players in the game. For them the game is the social vehicle that allows they to engage others and build interesting relationships.

Killers – these players live for the competitive elements of the game. They are referred to as the “Clubs” because they like to “take it to” their competition. They love the opportunity to compete (and beat) the other players.

But these classifications were largely based on patterns of social interaction between players that Bartle observed in the scenarios found in multi-user dungeons, or “MUDS” games. Though they describe how different players might be motivated and enjoy different types of interaction, and to have “fun” in competitive MUDS settings (or possibly MMORPG’s in today’s setting), this system can be limiting for other game systems and game-based situations.

A Different Perspective for Gamification

In reality, a gamified system is rarely the same as a MUDS or MMORPG game. Bartle’s Player Type scheme is not necessarily accurate for this setting, though the terms could be used as generalized descriptors for similar behavioral traits. The major difference is that in a gamified situation, individuals won’t necessarily be able to have the same freedom to “play” and “explore” the game as a MMORPG.

Andrzej Marczewski believes that we should step back and initially view the situation with two basic types of players in mind. Those “willing” to play, and those “not willing” to play. Andrzej refers to the “willing” players as those that can be engaged with extrinsic things such as badges and trophies. For many, these are of no particular interest. However, they can still be engaged if the system can be designed to do so.

In a gamified setting, Andrzej created a five “user type” system:

  • Player
  • Socializer
  • Free Spirit
  • Achiever
  • Philanthropist

Note that “Socializer” and “Achiever” are the same as Bartle’s terms for two player types.
Each of his five user types can be strongly influenced by any of the four intrinsic motivators – relatedness/social, autonomy, mastery, purpose, or by extrinsic rewards. This is represented in his diagram:

Gamification User Types 1 User and Player Types in Gamified Systems

Andrzej User Types

With this system we can describe each of his “user types” by:

Players like to get the achievements in the system and have their names on the leaderboards. They like the “game” of things. They are likely to take advantage of the “loop holes” to gain an edge. They are there to play the game and are happy with the extrinsic rewards in a system.

Socializers (Bartle’s original Player Type) are those who want to interact with others. They are interested in parts of the system that enable them to accomplish this, and will promote and evangelize the internal social networks. Most of them are motivated by the social connection aspects of relatedness.

Free Spirits don’t want to be restricted in how they go through their personal journey. Often the most creative user, they have the fanciest avatars, will create the most personal content, but will just as likely find the defects in the system. They want self expression and autonomy.

Achievers are the best at achieving things within the system. They want to be perfect on the internal learning system. Though they do this for themselves, they don’t mind showing off to others. (This differs somewhat from Bartle’s original definition, but is still an accurate descriptor.) Achievers may also be motivated by status as a result of their personal achievement. They want to be enriched and be led to mastery.

Philanthropists feel that they are part of something greater and want to give back to others. They will offer selfless dedication for “the cause,” because they enjoy helping. For them the joy is in enriching others and feeling a sense of purpose.

The “No Play” Users

The users that are willing to play can fall into any one of the five, or combination of the five categories. Notice, that they are the only ones who will fall into the player type. Those that are not willing to play the game of rewards and leaderboards, can still be motivated and engaged. It just takes more effort, while being more subtle. There are a number of powerful intrinsic methods available for accomplishing this.

Each user type will need different types of motivation within the system. The system will have to supply the right incentives for each of the other user types, and not just satisfy the “players” with a system of points and badges. In fact, it is likely that the “players” will represent the smallest segment of users within the system.

An Andrzej – Bartles User Type Hybrid

After an exchange with Richard Bartle, Andrzej developed a more structured perspective for his user type scheme. In his
original model the “player” user types were the ones that sought the extrinsic rewards, with a willingness to play as long as the rewards were accessible. As a distinct group they could be broken down and categorized in many ways, including the traditional Bartle Player Type.

In the new perspective the focus is on the other four identified user types. Following suggestion from Bartles, Andrzej is able to illustrate a pattern of relationships with the other non-player types.

  • Philanthropists and Free Spirits both prefer to act within a free and unstructured environment.
  • Achievers and Socializers tend to need a structure around them.
  • Socializers and Philanthropists are not looking to gain anything material from the system. They want the warm fuzzy feelings they get from engaging with, or giving to, others.
  • Achievers and Free Spirits are there for varying degrees of personal gain. Not necessarily in a bad way. Achievers are interested in improving and gaining understanding. Free Spirits want to be able to create and use the system to best suit them.

These users are intrinsically motivated, doing things for purely self related reasons. Some enjoy the personal experience of learning or the high derived from helping others. Others enjoy creating content and feeling positive about contributing to the greater good of a system.

In terms how much structure and material gain is needed, the relative relationship between these four user types is illustrated in Andrzej’s digram:User Types Theory.1 User and Player Types in Gamified Systems

 

User Types in Gamification – Players and Balance

The player type of users describes those who see far more value in the reward from performing an activity than the intrinsic value derived from the activity. The extrinsic benefit of a measurable reward is what the player type really values.

Expanding on the Player Type of Users

As previously mentioned, Players are a group of users in their own right. Using Andrzej’s user type model, the intrinsically influenced Players could be further defined in direct, simple terms as – Player Achiever, Player Socializer, Player Free Spirit and Player Philanthropists.

However, he proposed a classification derived from merging the intrinsic values with the extrinsic “reward” value. This results in the expanded Player User types – Networker, Exploiter, Consumer, and Self Seeker. The hybridization is illustrated in this diagram:

 

The 8 New User Types

After hybridization we now have 8 user types – 4 intrinsically motivated and 4 primarily extrinsically motivated. Now one may look at what these 8 types are acting on in a gamified system. To best illustrate this, Andrzej uses Bartle’s original axes convention, which describes how a player interacts with or acts on players, or the virtual world. This results in two diagrams, the first describing the intrinsically motivated users, the second the extrinsically motivated users.

User Types Intrinsic.1 User and Player Types in Gamified Systems

Intrinsic Based:

  • Philanthropists Act on Users for Intrinsic Reasons
    • For example, people who answer questions on forums or edit entries on Wikipedia
  • Achievers Act on the System for Intrinsic Reasons
    • People who will learn from the system, just because they enjoy it. Those who will wish to perfect task, just because they
      want to. They may also be motivated by status as a representation of their personal achievement.
  • Socializers Interact with Users for Intrinsic Reasons
    • People who just like to talk to others and enjoy being connected to people
  • Free Spirits Interact with the System for Intrinsic Reasons
    • Those looking to enjoy the self expression a system may afford them. They may also be explorers. Want to get the most from a system, because they enjoy it.

User Types Extrinsic.1 User and Player Types in Gamified Systems

Extrinsic Based:

  • Self Seekers Act on Users for Extrinsic Rewards
    • They will answer questions and help others, but purely to get rewards and visible status from the system. Quantity over
      quality – unless quality gets them more rewards. They are uninterested in the social aspect of users
  • Consumers Act on the System for Extrinsic Rewards
    • A consumer wants to use a system that can give them something. An example would be people who use one particular airway because of the loyalty scheme.
  • Networkers Interact with Users for Extrinsic Rewards
    • They want social connections, but to give them some form of status or reward. An example of this are people who
      network and tweet etc. just to get higher Klout scores
  • Exploiters Interact with the System for Extrinsic Rewards
    • Similar in nature to Self Seekers, they are the people who will like or upvote or retweet something multiple times to gain a reward. Unlike Free Spirits, who will seek the boundaries of a systems capabilities for fun, they are very likely to find the loopholes in your rules and exploit them

Andrzej points out that in his classification system, some Player User types may share some common motivational traits. This is true for Exploiters and Consumers. However, where exploiters will try to seek system boundaries and determine how that may
benefit them, consumers will just want to be rewarded with a minimum of effort.

Possible Interactions

All of Andrzej’s different user types have the potential to affect each other in a system.

For example, Philanthropists will tend to be the parental guide, wanting to help anyone, regardless of the other person’s intentions.

In contrast, Exploiters will utilize (maybe exploit) anyone and everything for their personal gain within the system.

Socializer and Networkers will want to interact with anyone, without the need to receive personal benefit in return. For the networker, the reward comes from just being connected, whereas the socializer’s reward is the actual interaction with others.

Self Seekers have little or no interest in others within a system, except as a means to an end – the rewards. Similarly, Achievers will see others as component of the mechanism for self enrichment. The big difference here is that the Self Seeker will collect rewards, the badges and trophies, to exhibit their expertise to others.

Free Spirits and Consumers have the least impact on any of the other users. They just use the system to achieve their goals. Likewise, the other users have little, if any interest to them. However, sometimes the Free Spirits are the ones that discover the most incredible things in an experience, and in turn inspires all the other player types.

Visualizing the 8 User Type Model

Andrzej produced a 3D representation of the combined Intrinsic and Extrinsic diagrams above.

8 User Types.1 User and Player Types in Gamified Systems

Note that in this representation, two axes, USERS-SYSTEM and ACTING-INTERACTING, are retained from his user type diagrams, with a new INTRINSIC-EXTRINSIC third axis added.

Creating a Balanced System for All Users Types

As you might suspect, creating a balanced system for all users may be challenging, depending on the situation and the goals in mind. Andrzej suggested simplifying the approach by using his initial five user type model – Player plus Philanthropist, Socializer, Achiever and Free Spirit.

Make the system appealing to the four basic intrinsic motivations and user types, make it social and meaningful, and give the users some freedom. Once this structure is established, a thoughtful system of rewards can be integrated. If well designed, the overall system won’t depend on the rewards to function effectively. This will intrinsically motivate the Non-Players, while indulging the Players – with rewards.

One can now go deeper and use the eight user type model in determining how to supply balance to the system. It is desirable to have the intrinsic motivational factors play the dominant role and encourage the corresponding user types to be involved. For they will be the greater contributors, the producers of quality, value, content, whatever – the substance of the system.

Andrzej warns that if there are too many Self Seekers and Exploiters, the system runs the risk of devaluation. They will not contribute in a meaningful way and may even create distraction and disruption. On the other hand, Philanthropists and Achievers can both help a system thrive.

Philanthropists will try to help everyone, contributing in any way possible. Depending on the situation, Achievers will wish to do the same, but more to demonstrate their abilities than to help others.

The Free Spirits and especially Consumers will add little to the situation. They will impair the social aspect of the system and may actually prevent it from working properly.

In some situations, such as loyalty programs, a dominance of consumers may be desirable. However, it is worth considering the potential of achieving greater value through engaging all others.

Though Socializers are effective for evangelizing and bringing others to a system, they don’t offer as much as other types with respect to internal contributions. Networkers are similar, but will likely bring in other, less relevant individuals as well as those that would be relevant.

Andrzej offers another warning – that exploiters are the most likely to “cheat” the system. That is, they are the most likely types to exploit the loopholes in the rules of a system in order to gain an advantage. This is probable, even at the expense of others within the system.

In conclusion, it is important to realize that these characteristic descriptions are just mechanisms to help clarify how users may be perceived and their interactions can impact the overall system. In reality little is clearly defined.

Users will likely exhibit traits from multiple user types. But normally there will be a dominant characteristic that will guide them over the others.

12 comments
AndrzejMarczewski
AndrzejMarczewski

Hi. Yes I have seen that, also based on Bartles player types. My aim was to create a different categorisation based on core intrinsic motivation, rather than behaviour in multiplayer games. I feel (as does Bartle) they are different :)

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou moderator

@Alexander Golovin Yes - I am quite familiar with it. Her's is well developed and pretty well known too, so I thought I would highlight the gem that is lesser known but very good here on my blog ;-)

Yu-kai Chou
Yu-kai Chou moderator

@KellyZhao Thanks! Yes, this is the original Bartle's 4 Player Types. I think most peoples' theories come from his ;-)