Achievement, Not Just for Achievers!

Achievement is a word that, in gamification especially, has several potential meanings and can cause significant confusion. In gamification, it is often associated with things like points and badges. The same can be said for video games these days (think Xbox achievements and Playstation trophies).

To confuse things more, people can be categorised in gamification and video games (using my user types or Bartle’s player types) as achievers. This makes it look a little like only one type of user will actually experience achievement.

This is of course totally incorrect, but understandable at first look. So, what is achievement really and how do we experience it. At its most basic, achievement is the result of doing something successfully that required some level of effort. That is not to say that it has to be difficult#

Let’s look at my four basic user types and explore how they may experience achievement.

Achievers are the easiest to start with. For them an achievement takes effort and skill, they are deliberately seeking obstacles to overcome. For some that may be puzzle solving, for others it may be learning a language. The key is that they are looking to improve themselves in some way and reach mastery. Take a Rubik’s cube. The first achievement for them may be getting one face of the cube complete. At this point, they have mastered a new level of skill.  The point where they achieve mastery would be when they can complete the cube.  However, that may not be the end. Next, they might start working on the speed with which they can finish the cube, and then blindfolded and so on.  Each new level of skill is an achievement, it is a new obstacle that has been overcome and they will get a sense of achievement for each.

Free Spirits are not looking to overcome obvious obstacles like an achiever is, solving a puzzle just for the sake of solving a puzzle is not going to do much for them. They get their sense of achievement from discovery and creation. They want to find the Easter eggs left in a system by a developer with a sense of humour. They want to be the ones to create the most elaborate forms of self expression. These are the sorts of things that will give them a sense of achievement. Solving puzzles and overcoming externally defined obstacles are just a means to an end to allow them to discover and create new things. They are still overcoming obstacles, but they are set by themselves rather than by the system itself. Think of an artist. They have a blank canvas in front of them. There is no need for them to put paint on it, there is no rule saying they have to.  They decide to do it and they decide what they want to do with it. When they are happy with what they have created, they will experience that sense of achievement.

Both of these user types could be said to experience Fiero. This is an Italian word to describe personal triumph (XeoDesign Why We Play Games), achieving something that took great effort and was meaningful to you. This is the moment that you throw your hands up in victory. It is your shout of “Yes” when you finally achieve something. It’s the feeling of beating the highest score in Tetris after 6 months of dedicated play, or finishing your latest masterpiece.  True Fiero is not something most would experience every day!

Philanthropists experience achievement in a different way to the other user types. For them it is about enabling other people to achieve by passing on knowledge or help. They experience joy, satisfaction and pride at knowing they have contributed to another’s success. In Yiddish there is a word to describe a similar feeling, Naches. The true definition of this is pride in the achievements of your children. Over time this has begun to be used to mean taking pride in the achievements of others whom you have helped. You could say that philanthropists greatest sense of achievement would be the feeling naches  they get when someone else experiences fiero because of help or teaching they had from the philanthropist.

With Socialisers, the main goal for them is  to create relationships and maintain relationships. They are not trying to overcome external obstacles like an achiever and they are not trying to achieve personally created goals like a free spirit. They are also not trying to help others achieve anything. For them, achievement comes in the form of a new friend or a quality conversation with an old friend. It is feeling that they are part of a community that values them and their input. When they feel accepted, they feel achievement.

As you can see, everyone experiences achievement; they just may experience it in different ways and for different reasons.  It is really important to understand that every user type can experience every type of achievement, it is just in varying degrees.  An achiever can still feel a sense of pride if someone they helped achieves something new. Just because someone is a free spirit type generally, don’t think they won’t like making friends.

Create gamified systems that support as many types as you can, but if you are limited in time and budget at least make sure you support the most important user type to your needs and you support them extremely well.

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