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Game design & Game thinking - Theory of Gamification - May 23, 2022

THE FOUR TYPES OF PLAYER: A RICHARD BARTLE MODEL

Let’s say you are developing a gamified design for your app or website. There’s just so many game styles that you could deploy to engage the user: action, adventure, puzzle, chance…

Where do you even start to choose the one that suits your target best?

Well, I would say: “customer is the king” so let their tastes guide you. After all, they’re the ones that have to play!

…but you could definitely argue: 

“What the heck! Easier said than done, with such a wide range of customers, how can I detect their game styles?”

If only there was a way to cluster gamers within predefined game styles and pair them with specific game genres!

Indeed, there is! Mr Bartle comes in help again, to help us categorise gamers according to their style and preferences. Thus we can match the right game mechanics and dynamics to suit their tastes and have them fully engaged. 

Let’s see what these categories are!

richard bartle small biography

Richard Allan Bartle (born 10 January 1960) is a British writer, professor and game researcher in the massively multiplayer online game industry.In 1978, he co-created MUD1 (the first MUD) which is the first multiplayer game ever invented.

The four types of player

Bartle himself explains how he created these categories, by observing players’ behaviour in his MUD. These four categories are a bit like stereotypes: they are a fast and easy way to categorise players according to their game style.

Thus, like all stereotypes, they are a general rule of thumb and leave out some detailed information and features. 

Bartle himself admits that nobody can be identified within a single strict category. On the contrary, each one of us has different features and preferences that belong to different categories, but there is always one type that is predominant on others, and that’s our main game style. 

The achiever

Around 10% of players fall into this category. They are all about points and progression: indeed they find pleasure in advancing in their role, until they reach the top. For them, it is important to understand where they are, on the game path, and what they need to do to reach the next level. For this category of players, it’s fundamental to embed badges and progress bars into the game. 

Leaderboards are also important but not to raise competition but to be able to show off the level reached. Interaction with other players is relatively important, just as long as achievers can get the info they need on progressing faster. 

Useful game mechanics: badges, progress bars, collectable items, leaderboards, points. 

The explorer

The name is quite self-explanatory. The explorer doesn’t really care about points or competition. This player gets the adrenaline out of hidden mechanisms, secret doors, easter eggs and in general by going off the beaten track. These are the players who will ask you a bunch of questions just to see  if they can get out of you any rare information. That’s why they’re not into killing or competing. Cooperation will get them more benefits. Besides, you’ll find these players always out and about in the ambient, looking for hidden treasures. Explorers usually make up for 10 % of players.
Useful game mechanics: easter eggs, wide ambients, autonomy and different choices in general.

The socializer 

Almost 80% of players are socializers. Meaning that they use the game ambient to engage with other people and build meaningful relationships. They seek community vibes and virtual places to chit chat with each other. If the game embeds mechanisms which allow them to grow and to help others grow by interacting, that’s even better. Farmville for example allowed other users to water each other’s crops. That’s the perfect mechanic. Competition and prevarication is not their cup of tea. 

Useful game mechanics: chats, common places, interaction mechanics in general

The killer

The most competitive of all. These players get a thrill every time they have a chance to prevaricate on other players. May it be stealing the first place in the leaderboard or winning a duel, stealing points or anything that can show they are the best. This type, according to Bartle, is quite rare, only 1%

Useful game mechanics: duels, challenges against other players, leaderboards

What type of player are you?

Your takeaway from this article is that building a gamified ambient is much harder than just adding points and badges.

Like for many things, you need to know your target customers. 

Do they like to socialise and interact with each other? Or are they rather competitive and want to show off their skills?

This set of information really makes a difference when choosing the suitable game mechanics, as each one of them triggers different emotions in the players. 

So if you want to deepen your knowledge of game mechanics, have a look at this article. And if you want to discover what type of player you are, take this test!

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