Why User Types?

Second post in a day, not very SEO clever, I know.

I wanted to take a moment to explain my view on User and Player types and their use in gamification.

First up, some bullets so you get the idea quickly.

What User Types are not;

  1. Perfect
  2. Applicable to every situation or project
  3. The same in all contexts
  4. Pure science

What User Types are;

  1. A tool in an overall toolkit
  2. Easy to use and get your head around
  3. Useful if you understand their limitations
  4. In my case based on motivation (eg Self Determination Theory), observation and research

I created the my User Types, because I wanted to use something in my thinking and design that focused on users, but was not built for games. I had been using Bartle’s types, but they just did not fit well with gamification – this is something he repeatedly tells people! It was also very hard to talk to people in enterprise about killers (i.e. people who take pleasure in the harm they can cause others). I also wanted to approach my types from the perspective of what motivated people rather than how they behaved.

Some truths

You can’t break down people into little units – as I have been told recently (by a few people both on twitter, linked in and at GWC), reductionism does not work – people are far too complex. This is true – I agree totally. However, my brain works by categorising things, that’s me. So I created the user types to help with that. I had four, then eight, then nine – now six (actually thirteen, but that is a different blog!). The six I talk about are six that I have observed in real life gamified situations. I find them helpful to consider when I build or advice on systems.

Also, the survey. Can you use my survey to predict the types you will have in your gamified system? Probably not. It may give you some ideas, but really it just tells you what type people are when they fill in a survey. You can use it to help tweak the system if you modify the survey with more contextual questions before, during an dafter to see how they evolved. This is in fact being tested by Barry Herbert right now! However, I have found the survey fascinating and will keep running it to get some baselines if nothing else.

My User Types are a single tool in a vast tool kit. Like all tools, they will work better in some situations better than others. Think of a hammer and a saw. You can split wood into two parts with either. Both work, but one is neater than the other, one is probably quicker and requires less effort. Which you use depends on several things. What you have to hand, what your desired outcome is and also what you understand of the tool. I have offered a tool, how you use it is down to you – I help to guide that as best I can.

For me, breaking people down into these types is not the important point, considering people at all is. We concentrate on the product far more than we concentrate on the people and their experience. Types give you an easy way to visualise certain behaviours or personalities and build to try and support them.

If seeing my little green and red hexagon does nothing more than make you consider people and their experience a little more – I am more than happy, I consider that a win.



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