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.