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The Four Types of Users

Four types of gamers

Jim Shaeffer

Eugene Gan - published on 10/24/13

Killers, Explorers, Achievers, and Socializers - to successfully gamify your site or service, you have to engage all four.

Last time, we took a look at four common but powerful gamification principles. Which gamification principle should you use? Should you combine these gamification principles? It depends. Who are your players and what are their motivations? How might their motivations translate into preferred modes of play? How, in turn, do these preferred modes of play determine which gamification principles you use so that your players continue to be engaged?

The book Gamification by Design has a neat summary (p.68) of the ideal way a player is engaged and re-engaged. It begins with motivating a player at the emotional level (e.g., expressing yourself and connecting with others on Twitter), then progresses to player re-engagements (e.g., @Mentions), then to social calls to action (e.g., player tweets), and finally to a reward(s) where some sort of visible or tangible progress is experienced (e.g., player gains Followers) which motivates the player again and continues the cycle. This engagement loop nicely summarizes the journey that a website/social media designer hopes the site’s player will take. In the context of your Church’s site, the following example scenario might play out: a player connects with others and expresses ideas, questions, and reflections on the forums, then enters into dialogue with others as they post their responses. All posts are accompanied by badges or icons that highlight the popularity levels of the post and poster, which in turn encourages more followers on the poster’s Facebook or Twitter link as they find the poster’s topics and comments relevant, reflective, and thoughtful. This then factors into other visible rewards like greater moderator access to the site, which leads to greater motivation to start more topics. So ask yourself: what kind of player engagement are you hoping for?

In a Tamagotchi-style game, player engagement is rather simple: if a player doesn’t regularly engage (i.e., feed) a virtual pet, it ‘dies’. In like fashion for your web/social media site, you might promote repeat visits or better yet, a sense of accomplishment, by having points that expire. Prayerfully ask yourself: how might you encourage your site’s players to ultimately exercise their faith lives and not let their spiritual muscles wither?

To more keenly apply these gamification elements, we have to know who our players are, describe them, and describe their motivations and preferred modes of play. Who are your players? Certainly, we would like everybody to want to come and play, but the truth is it’s tough to be all things to all. Plus, we’re each given a gift to attract and engage the different people we encounter on our individual journeys. Even as broad-based a website such as this one has its own particular audience. For example, as of this writing, this website isn’t specifically set out to engage my 6-year-old, who is more than happy to read his Beginner’s Bible and Magic Tree House books on his own. And that’s OK. So, can you describe your players? Gamifiers are fond of citing Bartle’s four fundamental player types: Killers, Explorers, Achievers, and Socializers.

1. Killers(not the best term, I know, but it’s part of the gamifiers’ lingo, and to avoid confusion, I won’t change it here) comprise only a small 1% of the population. These are the players with the attitude: “I win and everyone else has to lose.” On the one hand, they can be disruptive: someone posts a thought or writes an article, and the “killer” attacks with declarations along the lines of “you’re an idiot,” trying to demonstrate that they’re smarter. On the other hand, they are the most engaged and active of the types. When properly guided, they can be the ones who keep the blogs and forums humming with activity and comments.

2. Explorers comprise perhaps 10% of the population. They are driven to find out as much as they can about the virtual environment you set up for them. They’ll map out the virtual space, explore its geography, or seek to understand the game mechanics and how it all works. They like to be recognized with social credit for having explored something. The
experience of your site is a major motivating factor.

3. Achievers comprise perhaps 10% of the population. These are the players who are habitually interested in accruing points and advancing in levels. Winning is the name of the game. Losing a game will likely cause them to lose interest in playing any further. Be aware that if you’re a technical designer or administrator of a website, by virtue of your skills and interest, there’s a distinct possibility that you’ll have tendencies in this category, so in turn it’s natural for you to assume that the majority of your players are in this category too. But as I’ve already mentioned, achievers are generally in the minority.

4. Socializers historically tend to be among the vast majority of players. They play to socialize and not so much to win, let alone win and expect others to lose. It’s not that they don’t like to win. They do, too, but the game is not the end in itself. They tend to be non-confrontational and play to simply have (meaningful) social interactions.

At gamerDNA, you can even check out your own player type. To be sure, none of us is exclusively one type or another, as each of us can demonstrate parts of each player type at different points in time, but the delineation can still be helpful. Describing your site’s players is so fundamentally useful that with just this knowledge alone, you can design activities and features that appeal, engage, and keep your players coming back. Why? Because when you can describe your players, you can better determine their motivations, and if you can determine their motivations, you can design your site’s experience to meet your players where they’re at. The main driving force for successful gamification lies with determining what it is that motivates your players and aligning this motivation with the goals of your organization or project.

For example, if your site is focused on apologetics and defending the faith, you might choose to focus on the gamification principles that appeal to “achievers” and “killers”. If it’s for mothers with little children, on the other hand, perhaps using the principles for “social” players would be more effective. Or take the use of leaderboards as another example. It’s easy to implement, but the disadvantage to the use of leaderboards is that it would likely appeal more to achievers than to the majority socializers. In contrast, the ability to like and poke can support the socializer’s style, as is the ability to use emoticons. Team-based contests, co-op (cooperative) challenges, diocesan or parish-level activities could cater to both socializer and achiever/killer styles. Are you beginning to see how you can mix-and-match gamification elements and how they might be determined by player styles?

Then, as your site develops, you may want to allow players of all types to customize and personalize their experience of your site as a way to encourage commitment to your site. For example, allow your players to create their own avatars or give your players the option to select which categories of news articles they would like to receive. And unless you’re designing a fantasy environment, it makes sense to use real-world avatars. One way to do this is already available to many players without a lot of added hoops for players to jump through. Simply let players choose the photo that they already use on Facebook. The ease and ability to use Facebook Connect to sign-in and register on your site may prove another incentive for players.

One more note: I’m pre-empting some church social media designers rolling their eyes about the killer-player type. While killer-types may be similar to achiever-types in their desire to win, unlike achievers, for killer-types, winning isn’t enough. They must win and someone else must lose. Killer-types really want as many people as possible to see the kill, and for their victims to express admiration and respect. They even compete when there is no monetary reward. (Similar in concept to gaming griefers – you’ll likely find them in any large enough system, but Our Lord desires that the Good News be shared with them too!) So you have a choice here: you can consider the killer-player types as disruptors to the nice order you’ve built, or reason like a game designer and think of these folks as the most engaged players, customers, and audience. One way is to help killer-types express their enthusiasm (alright, “energies”) in constructive ways. Killer-player types need acknowledgement and recognition, so create an incentive system for them to make positive and constructive comments. For instance, you might reward them with a free conference waiver or the chance to meet with some notable person or …be creative. While it may not win over all, it sets up an environment that at least has the potential to win some over to positive behavior and action. In other words, put them on rails not reins, and guide their behavior and actions with more carrot and less stick.

I’ve run out of space again, but there are more gamification principles that can guide and help you create engaging experiences for your audience-players. Stay tuned for the concluding article in this how-to series on gamification. Meanwhile, post a comment below and let us know the ways you’ve taken to engage your audience-players, or which ideas you plan to use and why.

Dr. Eugene Gan is faculty associate of the Veritas Center and Professor of Interactive Media, Communications, and Fine Art at Franciscan University of Steubenville in the United States. His book, Infinite Bandwidth: Encountering Christ in the Media, is grounded in Scripture and magisterial documents, and is a handbook and practical guide for understanding and engaging media in meaningful and healthy ways in daily life.

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