6 User Types to Consider in Gamification Design – Hexad

User Types Hexad
User Types Hexad

Also check out the expansions of User Types

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.

User Types 2.0 – The Hexad

In this model, there six types of user described (at a basic level).

There are four basic intrinsic types; AchieverSocialiserPhilanthropist 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 image below shows the basics.

Gamification User Types Hexad

In brief

  • Socialisers are motivated by Relatedness. They want to interact with others and create social connections.
  • Free Spirits are motivated by Autonomy. 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

willing to play

Creating Grey

It took me a while to realise this, but black and white is actually not all that much use when talking about how people behave. Grey is a much more usable area for this. So, I have created a little grey with the new user types.  Whilst Players and Disruptors can be seen as distinct user types in their own right, they can also be viewed as modifiers for the other four types.

User Types in more detail

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.

Disruptors want to change things around them, to disrupt the system or the users. They come in two flavours, Improvers and Destroyers.Their reasons can be varied. It may be considered purpose.  They feel that disrupting the system has a greater meaning, be it educating the creators of flaws or proving that the system is somehow wrong. It could be autonomy. In the intrinsic types, autonomy is seen as a positive motivation, exploration and creativity.  However, this can just as easily be seen as wanting to break free from the confines of the system – how can you have true autonomy when there are rules in place that you don’t like. Mastery can be achieved as they learn how to disrupt the system and Relatedness can be seen in the status that such acts can give them.

Players are the ones who like to get the achievements in your system; they like to see their names on the leaderboards. They like the “game” of it all. They are also likely to make use of “loop holes” to gain an advantage. They are actually group of user types in their own right, as seen below. There to play the game and are happy with the extrinsic rewards.

Player Types

User Types Extrinsic A little more on the Player User Type

  • Self Seekers: Seek rewards from the actions a Philanthropist would do (e.g. answering peoples questions just for points. Quantity over Quality).
  • Consumers: Seek to get rewards from similar actions to Achievers. (e.g. loyalty schemes, basic competitions).
  • Networkers: Seek to connect to others to increase their profile and the rewards that may bring (e.g. Klout obsessive’s).
  • Exploiters: Seek to gain reward from using the system, possibly by any means (e.g. creating things, finding things, liking Facebook pages for prizes, finding the loopholes that help them win).

As you can see, within the Player User types there may well be some crossover of motivation. Consumers and Exploiters may share many of the same traits. The difference is, exploiters will try to find the boundaries of the system and how that may benefit them, often pushing them into the Disruptor type – consumers just want to get their reward with as little action from them as possible. As their motivation is all about reward, they will all compete with others if needed. Not to be better, but to get the reward.

Possible Interactions

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?

Supporting Gamification User Types

Supporting Gamification User Types

69 Responses

  1. NicolasNicolas says:

    Hello !

    Andrzej, I had the pleasure to hear you about the user types, in gamification, in the Iversity’s Mooc. For this 4th week, we have to work on our own project. Mine is very specific.

    It is intended for people with disabilities – mental disorder such order – So it might be quite difficult to establish the type of users, as it could be possible for other people.

    What advice would you give me in this very special case?

    Thank you in advance,


    • Depends what you are trying to do. You don’t need to establish the types, just build for the types of interactions you are looking for. If you are looking for creativity, build things that free spirits may like. Mental disabilities or not, I am sure they are motivated generally in the same way as everyone else, you just have to be more aware of the levels of understanding and how you work with them.

  2. Matthew MillerMatthew Miller says:

    This is just Brilliant. Thank you! This helps me in my thinking about player motivations and really helps in keeping the “grey” in the conversation. Should there be a gray inner circle in that diagram, in which Player and Disruptor have a part?

    Would you mind if I reference this in a presentation at ASB Unplugged on building course-long games?

    • Hi

      Yeah, took me a while to realise that you have to explicitly tell people grey exists and that people can display more than one trait. I mostly talk about the good side of these motivations – as that is what you want to encourage in a Gamified system, but the other side exists!
      I did have player in the middle of my original model, but that made it even more confusing lol.
      More than happy for you to reference, would love to see the materials you produce as well :-)

  3. Sebastian WoinarSebastian Woinar says:

    Hey Andrej, I really like your work.
    It answers some of my open questions about the MUD context of Bartles Player Types!

    Do you have by any chance some numbers about the distribution of players?
    For example in “Gamification by Desing” I’ve read that 75% of all players should be socialicers.

    Do you have similar statistics?


  4. My initial thinking here is that the node taxonomy (which is what it distills down to) is really about averaging out the variety of behaviours of the said user(s) into grouped descriptors. Using these as a base node to inherit from or to attach from makes sense (ie use these nodes as color coding your own behaviour nodes).

    It doesn’t answer however the variety of behaviors you’re likely to incorporate in your design, that is you still need to identify the Environment, Form Factor(s), Usage % and Influence along side their intent goal(s) which is where i’d say these fall into place.

    Example – a cluster of users could show outward signs of being “Socialisers” which gives clues to the intent or context in which they interact. It doesn’t tell us “how” they are likely to carry this out (Form Factor) or what kind of conditions they dwell in (Environment – low lighting, cave dwellers etc) and it also doesn’t indicate the influence they have over other users or behaviours (Trolling etc). Finally their actual usage of a feature(s) isn’t isolated either in that they may occupy 40% of the usage of feature “text chat” but only carry out 20% usage of TeamSpeak etc..

    At the end of the day we still need to do more work on unpicking the “who” and not just rely on the above nodes as “well thats all you need to know about users..”

    • I agree. This and the other links associated to it are here to help people to consider the types of user you may find in a Gamified system and how to engage them. The point is to get people thinking beyond a one size fits all. As I get more info and data from live systems, I intend to add more about interactions, other displayed behaviours of the types etc.

  5. Michelle AndreassenMichelle Andreassen says:

    I can’t see most of the images – and there are no “like” and share buttons for this article :)

  6. dinthebaydinthebay says:

    Really enjoyed this article. Taking it into consideration for the title I’m currently working on, I can see where we’re strong and weak when thinking about the game along the guidelines laid out in this article.

    • Hey, thanks for that! What sort of game are you working on, in my other life I run a games review site (yars.co.uk). Intrigued as this is written with Gamification in mind!!! Thanks again :-)

  7. rolandinchinarolandinchina says:

    Great article ,really helpful

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