The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology - Gamer Types

Saturday, January 26, 2019

When it comes to designing a gamified experience for your audience, there are things to consider beyond demographics. There is also a need to identify player-type segmentation.

The Player types in The Bartle Test include:

  1. Killers

  2. Achievers

  3. Explorers

  4. Socialisers

After all, everyone enjoys different game genres and have their own unique approach towards gameplay and objectives.

Let’s look at a study from the 90s which has remained the gold standard for classifying gamer types. Bartle's Taxonomy of Player Types.

The Bartle Test

In 1996, Dr Richard Bartle, a British 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 video game players especially players of multiplayer online games. 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 made up of 4 player-types which sit across an X & Y-axis. These axes are as follows; 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 titles are Socialiser, Explorer, Achiever and Killer.

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. The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology 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 particular 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 is designed with game mechanics that cater 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 increase motivation with different gamers, let’s look at the Bartle player-type model.

The Bartle player-type model

#1 Killers

In-game drivers:

  • Competition

  • 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

Killers are motivated to be disruptive towards other player's in-game experiences. In a constant state of attempting to out-do others and get ahead of their competitors. In gaming, this can be experienced through managing gameplay functions away from their intended purpose to favour the Killers themselves. Killers have only one goal which is “victory at all costs” and they don’t care who gets in their way.

Killers are not respected by other gamer types, as their gameplay style is aggressive.

#2 Achievers

In-game drivers:

  • 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

The most ideal gameplay candidate is the Achiever, as they run the designated gameplay path with direction and motivation. The core of most games is their capability for players to either win or lose. Achievers understand this principle more than any other player type.

While playing games is already fun, Achievers understand that winning a game is even more fun.

This victory is rewarding, however, without others witnessing their success, an Achiever's interest in playing a game can drop off quickly.

#3 Explorers

In-game drivers:

  • Search

  • Explore

  • Take time

  • Discover

  • Transmedia-friendly

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

Where Achievers have a results-oriented mindset, Explorers prefer the process. Explorers are curious players that like to comb through every inch of a game in order to discover easter eggs and rare unlocks. Robert Frost's "The Road Less Travelled" was written with these folks in mind.

For explorers, there is no such thing as 'failure' but only discovery. Every time they stumble on their journey, they make a mental note to avoid the same mistake in the future. As Explorers leave no stone unturned, they're also documenting their travels through trial-and-error.

#4 Socialisers

In-game drivers:

  • Friends

  • Community

  • Communication

Defined By: A focus on socialising and a drive to develop a network of friends and contacts. It doesn’t matter what they do, as long as they do it with friends

Engaged by: Newsfeeds, Friend Lists, Chat 

While players such as Achievers and Explorers play games for their own pleasure, Socialisers are closer to Killers.

Where Killers look to win by any means, Socialisers simply want to enjoy the company and community a game can cultivate. Games, whether online, on a board, or on a field have always had a social factor to them. Some of the other gamer types can often forget and neglect that, but Socialisers are specifically driven by it.

Socialisers enjoy helping other gamers out, they love to offer up their services and build community with those they interact with.


Using the Bartle player-type model as a filter for any future gamification campaigns helps with targeted game making. As touched on earlier, Behaviourism (one of 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.

Sound familiar? This is pretty much the gamifier’s bible, and for us to be able to improve upon our measurements and outcomes, we need the Bartle system as a way to characterise motivations. Knowing your user’s gamer psychology creates a constant that all other campaign variables can be measured against.

Resources and References 

- Medium Simplified Guide to Dr Richards Gamer Types

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