When it comes to designing a gamified experience for your audience, there are factors to consider beyond the common marketing segmentation of demographic, psychographic and socio-economic factors. There is also a need to identify player-type segmentation.
After all, everyone enjoys different game genres and have their own unique approach towards gameplay when it comes to mindsets and objectives.
In this article we will be looking over a study from the mid-90s which has remained the gold standard for classifying gamer types, and a helpful tool for general game planning and projections.
In 1996, Dr Richard Bartle, a British writer, professor and game researcher had published a paper titled ‘Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDS’. A report on Dr Bartle’s findings while researching different types of gamers specifically within Multi-User Domains (MUDS), or online games if you will. What was birthed from his study is a widely used classing system that helps game developers build and fix their game structure around the specific player types the developers hope to attract, for games both big and small.
What is now referred to as The Bartle player-type model, is comprised of 4 player-types which are placed across two axes of interest: 1. Does the player focus on the game world or on other players? 2. Does the player care most about acting or about interacting?
The player-types consist of:
- Killers, interested in acting and players
- Achievers, interested in acting and world
- Socialisers, interested in interacting and players
- Explorers, interested in interacting and world
Dr Bartle created a series of A/B answer questions, to determine which type a player tended to lean toward (similar to other personality tests like Myers-Briggs). The test was subsequently converted into digital forms and can be accessed right here.
Although all personality tests require a degree of scepticism (due to what someone says they would do in a scenario compared to what they would actually do, not quite lining up), Bartle’s system is a useful shorthand way of describing players.
Through the lens of game making, this system is particularly useful to Behaviourists (such as gamification experts), as it can be seen as a way to characterise motivations of play as market demographics, while some even try to make sure that their game caters to all four types in different ways.
While it is important to note that everyone who plays games is made up of a percentage of all four player-types, everyone is predominately one player-type over the other three (personally, I’m listed as a Killer… it sounds a lot more aggressive than it really is).
Any game that tries to please all four types of players equally, almost always results in pleasing none of them well. This knowledge leads to designers having to decide what his/her game will not be as much as what it is. For a greater understanding of what game elements promote motivation within the different forms of gamers, lets take a look the Bartle player-type model.
The Bartle player-type model
- Tests of skill
- Player vs Player (PvP)
Defined By: A focus on winning, rank, and direct peer-topper competition. It’s all about “beating” another human
Engaged by: Leaderboards, Ranks
- Points, levels, trophies etc
- Self-Competing (Personal Bests)
- Perfect Gamification user
Defined By: A focus on attaining status and achieving preset goals quickly and/or completely. Achievers want elite status, and the ability to show it off
Engaged by: In-game Achievements
- Take time
Defined By: A focus on exploring and a drive to discover the unknown. Explorers want to go where no one else has gone and know what no one else knows
Engaged by: Niche Unlocks
Defined By: A focus on socialising and a drive to develop a network of friends and contracts. It doesn’t matter what they do, as long as they do it with friends
Engaged by: Newsfeeds, Friend Lists, Chat
Using the Bartle player-type model as a filter for any future gamification initiatives is a more precise method for targeted game making. As touched on earlier, Behaviourism (one of the The Four Lenses of Game Making) is the school of thought that prefers experience, rule-driven designs. It is inspired by behavioural and motivational psychology, and considers all games as challenge, anticipation and reward engines.
Behaviourists model their games on psychological hooks that open loops, draw engagement and encourage emotional attachment to outcomes. They use repetitive actions to complete those loops and deliver rewards. The anticipation of a loop’s end, and the reward, has a powerful effect on the human mind and can engender feelings of optimism.
Behaviourists measure everything that they possibly can about their players, test small changes and then measure their outcome. However this means that behaviourists tend to be wary of emergence. Emergence is generally hard to directly measure, and to the behaviourist anything that cannot be measured cannot be reliably improved.
Sound familiar? This is pretty much the gamifier’s creed, and for us to be able to improve upon our measurements and outcomes, we need the Bartle system as a way to characterise motivations of play. Knowing your user’s gamer psychology, creates a constant that all other campaign variables can be measured against.