Introduction to Gamification Part 8: User Types
There are many tools available to gamification designers to help them with their designs. One of the most useful for me, for reasons I will go into here, is the concept of User Types.
There are many views on user profiling and many ways to do it. Some people love it, some hate it. I am in the middle. It is a very useful tool, but it is not the only thing you should rely on. For me, they can be a useful way to understand or at least considers the motivation so those who will be using your system.
Bartle’s Player Types
In the games world there are a few famous player type models, Bartle’s Player Types being the most well known . In these he breaks down players of his famous Multi-User Dungeon (MUD) game into 4 key types. Killer, Achiever, Socliasler and Explorer. Each type of player had a different motivation to play the game.
Very simply put, Killers are there to impose their will on other players, Achievers want to be the best at everything, Socialsiers want to meet people and Explorers want to explore the boundaries of the game.
He later created an expansion on the 4 types, by splitting them into 8 based on their behaviour being implicit or explicit. For example, if a killer was just plain out to hurt people, their killer behaviour could be considered implicit (they don’t realise they are doing it) and they are a Griefer. If they were more of a mother hen style character, who felt that imposing their will on others was actually for their benefit, the behaviour was explicit and they are a Politician!
Now, I could go further, but this is meant to all be about introductions. Suffice to say, Bartles Player Types are an amazing tool to help you design multi-player role-play games – that is what they were designed for. By his own admission, they are not well suited to other applications – even though they can be seen used in everything from gamification to marketing and sales!
Marczewski’s User Types
That brings us to my User Types or the HEXAD. Again, as this is an introduction, long story short – I created these over the course of a couple of years to offer an alternative to Bartle’s types that was more applicable to gamification design. In fact, Bartle helped me build them. There has been a lot on this site about them, but a good place to start is on the User Types page . There has also been a fair amount of academic research done around them and a survey I created to help tell you what your User Type is .
In my model, I propose six types of users (at a basic level); four intrinsically motivated types and two others.
The other two types, whose motivations are a little less black and white are Disruptor and Player.
- 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
Figure 1 User Type HEXAD
The HEXAD in Use
As we are looking to simplify things down in this series, rather than talk about their development, let’s talk about how to make use of them! There are a few ways that make sense, starting with my favourite.
Gamification Design Lenses
This is my personal favourite way of using user types. The basic idea is to put yourself in a different position to view a problem from a different perspective. Jesse Schell created an amazing deck of lenses to go with his seminal game design bible The Art of Game Design .
Each one challenges you to ask certain questions about your game to try and get a new perspective on it.
Figure 2 Gamification Design Lenses
Designing for Types Specifically
An alternative is to come at designing for gamification types from another direction. Define the problem your gamification is trying to solve. Next work out what kind of user types are most likely to be able to help solve it – and build the system to encourage and support them.
For instance, if you are looking for innovation in your company and you want to get people to submit new ideas, what types of people are most likely to give up their time to do this? Well, initially it would make sense that Philanthropists would be up for the challenge. Their “joy” comes from helping others and adding to the greater meaning of life the universe and everything.
This being the case, you need to create an environment that allows them to give their ideas, but also to advise others and support them with their ideas. You may also want to consider Free Spirits. They are creative and could be the ones who have explored areas where there can be the most innovation. This means you would create a system that encourages and supports their involvement. You give them the tools to think creatively and develop their ideas.
That is not to say you ignore the other types. You can create social networking opportunities for Socialisers or add voting systems with points and badges for the Players, but remember they are not the ones who will be helping you directly solve your problem – the need for innovation. Also, remember that different motivations appeal to people in varying degrees and combinations. Although they may be a socialiser, they can still have traits that a Philanthropist may have.
This approach will help you build a system that solves your problem. Yes, users may evolve their type during usage, but the system will still encourage others to come along and use it. In addition, designed well, you can keep the evolved users on board in other capacities.
User Profile Surveys
A final option is to survey your intended target audience to find out what types they are. Then you can design a system that focuses mostly on those types.
Although surveying is a reasonable thing to do, it does have a couple of drawbacks. It assumes the questions are relevant. It requires people to self-report with honesty, something that we intend to do, but at times, we do not recognize that cognitive biases can prevent this from happening.
The final and most important drawback is the nature of people themselves. You see, the survey provides snapshot information on the type for a potential user before they interact with the system and out of context. As we have seen, over time it has been found that the user types can change. The user type you are when you first start using a system may not stay the same. Therefore, surveying and building your system based on initial types may actually be counter-productive.
This is the approach if you are looking for a short-term campaign; you just need to work out what your potential users want over the immediate term.
User Types (or player types etc) are very useful tools, but they are not the be-all and end-all of understanding why people behave the way they do or building for that.
People will fall into multiple categories and will change given different contexts. When they start an experience they may be an Achiever, looking to gain knowledge. After a few weeks, they may switch to a Socialiser, looking for more of a social connection to others.
That’s why I like the lenses approach to using the HEXAD, as it forces you to ask the question “what’s in it for the user if they are X Y or Z”.
Key Learning Points
- User Types are a way of understanding what motivates people and what might engage them.
- People don’t fit into neat boxes or categories.
- User Types are very useful but are just one tool in your armoury.
- There are many ways to use them!
 R. a. Bartle, “Players Who Suit MUDs,” Mud, 1999. [Online]. Available: http://mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm. [Accessed: 22-Mar-2015].
 A. Marczewski, Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play: Gamification, Game Thinking and Motivational Design, 1st ed. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.
 G. F. Tondello, R. R. Wehbe, L. Diamond, M. Busch, A. Marczewski, and L. E. Nacke, “The gamification user types Hexad scale,” in CHI PLAY 2016 – Proceedings of the 2016 Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play, 2016.
 A. Marczewski, “Marczewski’s Gamification User Type Test Results,” 2013. [Online]. Available: http://gamified.uk/UserTypeTest/user-type-test-results.php#.VWh8A_lVh-a. [Accessed: 29-May-2015].
 A. Marczewski, “The Intrinsic Motivation RAMP,” Gamified UK, 2014. [Online]. Available: http://gamified.uk/gamification-framework/the-intrinsic-motivation-ramp. [Accessed: 26-Mar-2014].
 J. Schell, The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses. Morgan Kauffmann, 2008.
Also published on Medium.