Another very misunderstood yet over used metaphor from game design that we use in gamification, is Bartle’s Player Types . What follows is an attempt to create something similar to Richard Bartle’s player types, but for gamified systems.
How to Reference?
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A quick note, on asking Marvel about permission to use their images and hero names in the archetypes, I was asked to remove all references immediately. The archetypes are no more I’m afraid.
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Marczewski’s Player and User Types Hexad
In this model, there are six types of user described (at a basic level).
There are four basic intrinsic types; Achiever, Socialiser, Philanthropist and Free Spirit. They are motivated by Relatedness, Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose  – RAMP. The other two types, whose motivations are a little less black and white are Disruptor and Player. The images below show the basics.
- 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.
Players are happy to “play” your game, where points and rewards are up for grabs. Disruptors want nothing to do with it and the others need a bit more to keep them interested. This looks a bit like this
The point of these types is to give gamification designers a simple framework to think about the types of people they may have using their system. It is essential to keep in mind that people can not be broken down into simple categories like this, they will likely display most if not all of these traits in varying degrees. You need to design to encourage the behaviours that will give your system the best outcome, whilst engaging users. These types can help with that.
Intrinsic User Types
- Socialisers (as in the original Player Type) are the ones who want to interact with others. They like to be connected to others. They are interested in parts of the system that help them do this. These are the ones will evangelise your internal social networks. Most motivated by the social connections aspects of relatedness.
- Free Spirits like to have agency. They have two basic sub types, Creators and Explorers. Explorers don’t want to be restricted in how they go through their personal journey, to explore the system. They are also likely to find the most holes in a system. Creators want to build new things.They will have the fanciest avatars and create the most personal content. They seek self expression and autonomy.
- Achievers are the ones who want to be the best at things, or at least be achieving things within the system. They want to get 100% on the internal learning system. They do this for themselves and are probably not that bothered with then showing off to others about it. (This differs from the original definition, but I could not think of a better word!!). Will compete with others, but as a way to become better than others. The system provides the platform, other “players” are just things to be overcome and mastered. May also be motivated by status as a representation of their personal achievement They need a system that will enrich them and lead them towards mastery.
- Philanthropists want to feel that they are part of something bigger. They want to give to others but expect nothing in return. These are the ones who will answer endless questions on forums, just because they like to feel they are helping. They want a system that allows them to enrich others and feel a sense of purpose.
Player (Extrinsic) User Sub-Types
- Self-Seeker: This group of users will act in a similar way to Philanthropists. They will answer peoples questions, share knowledge and be helpful – but for a cost. If there is no reward, don’t expect them to get involved! They can be useful, however if they are being asked to get involved for rewards, expect quantity over quality!
- Consumer: Consumers will do what is needed to get rewards. If that requires them to learn new skills or take on challenges (like an Achiever), then they will do it. However, if they can get rewards for just doing what they were already doing – even better. Think of them as the ones who will enter competitions just for the prize or who shop at one store just for the loyalty programme.
- Networker: Where a Socialiser connects to others because they are looking for relatedness, Networkers are looking for useful contacts that they can gain from. They follow the big influencers on social networks, not because they are interested in them, but because they hope it will get them noticed, increase their influence and lead to reward.
- Exploiter: Like Free Spirits, these guys are looking for the boundaries of the system, where they can go and what they can do. However, for them it is a way to find new ways to rewards. If they find a loop-hole, don’t expect them to report it unless they feel others are earning more than them exploiting it! They are the most likely to exploit the system (you could say cheat!). They are also the people who will build things just to sell. Think of Second Life. Loads of people started to build things – some realised that as well as being fun, they could make some money from selling items. For a few this turned into a way of making a living. They stopped making things for fun and just made them for profit.
The Player User Type is important to recognise as most people coming into a gamified system are probably there initially due to rewards (points, prizes etc). The trick is to try and convert them from being reward oriented into intrinsically motivated users (Socialiser, Free Spirit, Achiever, Philanthropist). There is some evidence to show that the extrinsic types will convert to their analogous intrinsic types (so Networker -> Socialiser etc) but it is not a dead certainty in all cases. Design for the intrinsic user types that benefit your system, but include reward paths for the onboarding process for best effect and greatest coverage.
Disruptor User Type and Sub-Types
Disruptors disrupt a system in some way. This may be by acting on users or on the system itself. As with the Player type, the Disruptor type is a group rather than a single type. However, I don’t tend to go into the detail as the effect on your design is generally similar for all the variations of the type.
Going into a deep dive, we get these 4 main types of disruptor:
- Griefer: This is our Killer (yep, finally I have an answer for those who kept asking where it was!). I have chosen to use Bartle’s description from his 8 types, because this is the pure arsehole type. They want to negatively affect other users, just because they can. It may be to prove a point about the fact they don’t like the system, it may just be for fun. They have no place in most gamified systems, so you need to find ways to either change their minds – or get rid of them.
- Destroyer: This type of user wants to break the actual system directly. This may be by hacking or finding loopholes in the rules that allow them to ruin the experience for others. Their reasons again may be because they dislike the system or it may just be because they find it fun to hack and break things. If you can’t convince them to at least convert to an Improver, then you have to get rid of them.
- Influencer: These users will try to change the way a system works by exerting influence over other users. This is not to say they are a negative type, far from it. If they feel the system needs to change and you actually allow them a voice to help change it, they could become massive advocates. Make use of them or lose them – worse still the could end up switching to a Griefer!
- Improver: Improvers will interact with the system with the best intentions in mind. They may hack it or find loopholes, but their aim is to change the system for the better. They are similar to the Free Spirit type in reality, they want to have the chance to explore the system, find problems and try to fix them. Take care of these users as they can help you massively. Mistreat them and they may well become Destroyers.
As you can see, the Disruptor can be a complex type and whilst they make up a very small percentage of the overall user group, they can be very powerful. Handled correctly they could help improve your system, handled badly and they may destroy it.
Summary of the User Types
All of these different user types have the potential to affect each other in your system. For example, Philanthropists are the parent figure. They are the ones who are likely to want to help anybody they can, no matter of the other person’s motives. Exploiters, on the other hand, will make use of anyone and everything they can to get personal gain from the system. Socialiser and Networkers will wish to interact with people. Neither will be after anything from people directly. In the case of a networker, their reward comes from being connected; where as the socialiser’s reward is knowing you and interacting with you. Self Seekers have no real interest in in the people within a system, they are just a means to an end (that end being the shiny shiny things). In a similar way, Achievers are not there for the people, they are there for self enrichment. The big difference here is that the Self Seeker is the one who will collect badges and trophies in a system to show off their expertise to others. The Self Seeker is very similar to the Bartle Achiever player type! Free Spirits and Consumers have the least impact on any of the other users. Their interests are purely personal, using the system to get what they want from it. Other users are of no direct interest to them.
How do you create a balanced system for all types of users?
The answer is, with great difficulty and it depends on the goals of your system. However, if you go back to when we just had five user types, Player and then Philanthropists, Socialisers, Achievers and Free Spirits, it becomes a little clearer. Create a system that appeals to the four basic intrinsic motivations and user types. Make it social, make it meaningful and give people some freedom. Then, integrate a well thought out reward system (points, badges etc.). If you do it this way around, you are not creating a system that relies on the rewards to run. That way, you get the intrinsically motivated people anyway and those that are there for rewards are catered for. It is important to keep in mind that you want more of the intrinsically motivated users if possible. These are the ones who will keep coming back, keep producing content or whatever else they are meant to be doing.
Philanthropists and Achievers can both help a system thrive. Philanthropists want to help everyone. They want to answer questions and guide users. Achievers, depending on the type of system, may also wish to do the same. They are interested in being the best – at mastering things. They will want to give the best answer to a question, not so much to help the user, but to know they were the best. However, as their main aim is self-enrichment, they can also give very little back to as system aimed at teaching – which may be just what you want!
Free Spirits tend to give very little back to the people if all the system allows them to do is explore. Too many of them and the social aspect of your system stands a good chance of not working. Give them the chance to be creative if you want to get anything back for others.
Socialisers are great for evangelising a system and bringing more people too it, however, they don’t add content to systems as much as other types can. Too many and all you have is a social network.
Disruptors are generally unavoidable. They want to change the system and will find a way if they can. Make sure you have solid rules that can be enforced. If you don’t want people to do something, make sure they system doesn’t let them do it! Also, keep in mind, disruptors can work as improvers or destroyers – so they are not all bad and may actually help you improve the system!
If the system is flooded with Players then you stand the chance of devaluing everything. They run the risk of generating lots of meaningless content, upvoting and liking just for reward, abusing others in an attempt to network and so on. Keeping them involved in a controlled way can be time consuming and expensive, so look at creating a system that converts them to intrinsically motivated users!
A few final thoughts It is really important to keep in mind, this is all here to help clarify thinking. Real life is not as black and white, users will most likely display traits from multiple user types. But, they will usually have one that guides them more than the others. They are also likely to change user types as they get to know the system. In systems where rewards are used in the onboarding process, but are phased out as the user becomes more capable, you will see them going from extrinsically “motivated” user types to intrinsically motivated types. This is when they realise that there is more to be gained from the system than just the points and badges. Finally, why not take the User Type Test and see which of the 6 types you may be?
 Bartle, R. a. (1999). Players Who Suit MUDs. Retrieved March 22, 2015, from http://mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm
 Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. The American Psychologist, 55, 68–78. http://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68
 Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Distribution (p. 256). Canongate.
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The concept of he Gamification User Types was born at the end of 2012, with my first official published version going live on the 30th of January 2013. It was with the help of Professor Richard Bartle that they truly went from mere idea to writing it all down here!