Richard Bartle co-created MUD (Multi-User Dungeon), the text-based precursor to today’s MMORPGs, while studying at Essex University. He ended up formulating the theory that all MUD players could be broken down into four main types: killers, achievers, explorers, and socializers. This theory has since been used in all sorts of game design situations.
Bartle theorized that MUD players could be split into four types, giving psychological portraits of players populating a virtual world for fun:
Killers like to provoke and cause drama and/or impose them over other players in the scope provided by the virtual world. Trolls, hackers, cheaters, and attention farmers belong in this category, along with the most ferocious and skillful PvP opponents.
Achievers are competitive and enjoy beating difficult challenges whether they are set by the game or by themselves. The more challenging the goal, the most rewarded they tend to feel.
Explorers like to explore the world – not just its geography but also the finer details of the game mechanics. These players may end up knowing how the game works and behave better than the game creators themselves. They know all the mechanics, short-cuts, tricks, and glitches that there are to know in the game and thrive on discovering more.
Socializers are often more interested in having relations with the other players than playing the game itself. They help to spread knowledge and a human feel, and are often involved in the community aspect of the game (by means of managing guild or role-playing, for instance).
The horizontal axis represents a preference for interacting with other players vs. interacting with the world and the vertical axis represents a preference for (inter)acting with something vs. (inter)acting on something. So, achievers prefer to act on the world, while socializers prefer to interact with other players.
Bartle found that players tended to belong to a primary category, but drifted between several others depending on their mood, situation and preferred goal in the game. Having categorized those type of players, drawn to the same virtual world for different reasons and still acting and interacting in the same playing field, he was now able to better balance the game.
Richard Bartle’s player types did a good job at raising awareness that different people enjoy different types of fun. However Amy Jo Kim found that Bartle’s system did not apply well to casual, social and educational games. For example, the “Killer” archetype is almost non-existent in the player base of a casual games for a high-traffic women’s portal. Apparently teenage male hackers aren’t drawn to harass a site full of Moms. Inspired by Bartle, Amy Jo Kim took her experience at building and playing successful – and NOT so successful – social games and services, and identified four key patterns to how people like to socially engage: Explore, Create, Compete, and Collaborate. She then used this to map out the Social Actions, or Verbs of the players:
Explorers are motivated by gaining knowledge, exploring boundaries, finding loopholes, and knowing the rules that govern a space. Explorers love to poke at systems and discover their ins-and-outs. They enjoy accumulating and showing off knowledge. Explorers value accurate info, clever design, and relationship-building via knowledge exchange. They can enjoy exploring with others, but often it’s a satisfying solitary endeavor.
Creators are motivated by opportunities for self-expression. Creators love tools and systems that let them personalize their experience, make their mark, and express their uniqueness. The best Creators will fully use any available tools to make things that others admire and emulate. Creators value original thought, creativity, hard work, and personal style. They enjoy customizing backgrounds, fonts and avatars. They seek status, recognition and influence through creative skill
Competitors are motivated by testing their skills and seeing how they stack up. They find external ranking systems and zero-sum game mechanics appealing because those structures mirror their internal dialogue and POV. Competitors love to develop their skills, showcase their prowess, and know where they stand within a group. They value mastery, learning, and relationship-building via friendly competition.
Collaborators are motivated by working with others towards a greater goal. They love to “win together” and measure success as collective impact. Collaborators enjoy participating in groups and teams, forming partnerships, and playing coop games. They value teamwork, shared learning, and relationship-building via shared tasks.
This matrix is a simple, and practical system for describing common motivational patterns in social and casual games. Think of this Matrix as a starting point for understanding and analyzing what motivates players of casual, social and serious games and gaming systems. Try using it to design experiences that will delight and engage your players by targeting these core motivations.
Andrzej describes six types of users. There are four basic intrinsic types; Achievers, Socialisers, Philanthropists and Free Spirit. They are motivated by Relatedness, Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose (RAMP – self determination theory). 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.