Category Archives: Gamification

What Type of Gamer Are You Today?

In my post from last week, I described the many different reasons why we play games. But if there are different reasons why people play gamer, doesn’t that suggest that there are different types of games? Now, if you ask a member of the self-described “gamer”culture, he or she (most likely it will be a “he”) will tell you that there is only one type of gamer: someone who plays hardcore shooting, fighting, or real-time strategy games; everyone else is not a “true” gamer. However, I suspect that the truth goes deeper than that.

I am hardly the first person to ponder the question of different player types. In 1996, Professor Richard Bartle, a game researcher best known for being the co-creator of MUD1 (the first Multi-User Dungeon) in 1978 and the author of the seminal book Designing Virtual Worlds, presented a paper that evolved into what is now called The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology.  This test is a series of questions and an accompanying scoring formula that classifies players of multiplayer online games (including MUDs and MMORPGs) into categories based on their gaming preferences.  The result of the Bartle Test is the “Bartle Quotient”, which is calculated based on the answers to a series of 30 random questions in the test, and totals 200% across all categories, with no single category exceeding 100%.

The Bartle Test is based on a character theory. This character theory consists of four characters:

  • žKillers, who like to provoke and cause drama over other players.
  • žAchievers, who are competitive and enjoy beating difficult challenges.
  • žExplorers, who like to explore the world – not just its geography but also the finer details of the game mechanics.
  • žSocializers, who are often more interested in having relations with the other players than playing the game itself.

These character types are often described as a quadrant model where the X-axis represents preference for interacting with other players vs. exploring the world and the Y-axis represents preference for interaction vs. unilateral action.

In more recent years, practitioners of gamification, the process of applying game mechanics to non-game environments such as work, commerce, health, activism and education to motivate engagement and loyalty, have seized on Bartle’s Player Types to help them determine which game mechanics are most effective with different types of users. The problem is that the Bartle Player Types was meant to categorize the motivations of players in Multi-User Dungeons, and any attempt to apply them in a different environment is a misrepresentation of Bartle’s work.

One gamification designer whose work I do admire, Andrzej Marczewski, came up with an alternate set of user types, with some consultation with Richard Bartle, if I am not mistaken. In this model, there are six types of users:

  • Socialisers are motivated by Relatedness. They want to interact with others and create social connections.
  • Free Spirits are motivated by Autonomy and Self-Expression. They want to create and explore.
  • Achievers are motivated by Mastery. They are looking to learn new things and improve themselves. They want challenges to overcome.
  • Philanthropists are motivated by Purpose and Meaning. This group are altruistic, wanting to give to other people and enrich the lives of others in some way with no expectation of reward.
  • Players are motivated by Rewards. They will do what is needed of them to collect rewards from a system. They are in it for themselves.
  • Disruptors are motivated by Change. In general, they want to disrupt your system, either directly or through other users to force positive or negative change.

As I look through these user types, I can see myself and what motivates me when I play games or engage in other experiences.  Yet I don’t always have the same motivations for each game I play or experience I engage in.  As Johan Huizinga explained in his concept of the Magic Circle, when we engage in play (or any other type of ritual), we agree to take on different roles.  When I play Tetris, I’m motivated by Mastery.  When I play World of Warcraft, I’m motivated by Autonomy and Self-Expression.  When I’m at the gambling tables of Las Vegas, I’m motivated by Rewards.  And when I take on the role of teacher, I’m motivated by Purpose and Meaning.

As we play different games, perhaps we all are different types of gamers, based upon our mood or need at at the time.

So, what type of gamer am I?  Depends on what game we’re playing today!



Gamifying Diversity

I spend an entire 6-hour day teaching about diversity in my Survey of the Video Game Industry class. The reason I devote one-tenth of the course to this topic is that 79% of responders to the International Game Developers Association’s 2014 Employee Satisfaction Survey said that they believed diversity to be very important to the industry, but only 28% thought that there was equal opportunity and treatment for all in the game industry. That tells me that we have a serious problem, and one step that I can take to work on that problem is to educate my game production students about the need for diversity.

My lab assignment for this topic is to have my students pick prominent game industry veterans belonging to under-represented or potentially discriminated groups — for examples, Gordon Bellamy (openly gay), T.Q. Jefferson (African-American), Jane McGonigal (female), and John Romero (Hispanic) — and do an in-class presentation on their lives and careers.

Because my students all want a career in game development, I am now in the process of gamifying all of my lectures and assignments. Here is what I did to gamify this assignment.

First, I introduced the elements of both surprise and choice into my student’s research subject selection. I hand out a sheet containing just the photographs (no names) of each of the game industry veteran they may use as a research subject. I next have each student either roll dice or draw a numbered slip of paper to determine their selection order. Once the order is determined, I have each student select their subject (with the restriction that no two students allowed to pick the same subject.)

I next tell my students to download a free QR code reader to their smart phones. (Before class, I put up sheets of paper, each with an image of one of the subjects — again, no names — an a QR Code, around the room.) The students then must go to the paper with their subject’s image and then user their smartphone to read the QR Code, which will cause their phone’s web browser to go to a web page I wrote containing a brief biographical sketch about the subject.

However, this biographical sketch does not contain all the information a students needs to do their presentation. However, it does contain clues for other images related to the subject. These images might be a game the subject worked on, a company he or she worked at, or some other aspect of his or her life. The student then find the images on other sheets I have put up around the room, and beneath each image is another QR Code for them to read with their smart phone. This will lead them to other pieces of information they need to complete their reports.

Once students have collected all the necessary information about their subjects, they must prepare a 5-minute biographical presentation to deliver to the rest of the class in the final hour of the presentation.

I’ve found that students have a lot more fun walking around the classroom and gathering information bit-by-bit using their smartphones and a bit of detective work then when I previously had students sit down at a computer and consult Wikipedia and other sources. And, hopefully, it will make the experience more memorable and the lesson more impactful too.