Studies have shown clear benefits of using games and game elements in education through fostering engagement, motivation, and enjoyment of the students.
However, not every player is the same. People get motivated by and are interested in different things. This means that in educational games not one solution serves the needs of all students. It would be better to personalize our implementations to meet the needs of different players of educational games.
When aiming for customer understanding, we like to use multiple methods for collecting feedback and insights from students to develop our implementations. In our paper Using player types to develop implementation of educational games, presented at the EDULEARN22 conference, we propose that player typologies commonly used within the discipline of game design are also suitable for developing the implementation of a gamified course implementation.
A dive into player typologies
One of the most cited player typologies is Player type taxonomy presented by Dr Richard Bartle in the late 1990’s (Bartle, 1996). He created his model when studying people playing multi-player real-world virtual games. Bartle found out that players tend to get interested by achieving the goals, socializing, exploring the world or imposing upon other players. This is how he created his double dichotomy of the different players.
Figure 1: Bartle’s player types by sources of interest (modified Bartle 1996)
Bartle’s model is based on the elements that people enjoy in different games. Achievers enjoy it when there are things they can achieve. Thus, they thrive in the game that has elements representing their progression and achievements. Socialisers are interested in teamwork and networking. They find implementations that include these elements the most satisfying.
Another widely used model is Player and user types hexad model presented by Andrzej Marczewski in 2015. This model presents six different types of players based on their primary source of motivation. The model acknowledges that people can be motivated by different things, and thereby shows indications of multiple player types. However, usually players tend to have one source of motivation that is the strongest.
Figure 2: Marczewski’s Gamification User Types Hexad (modified Marczewski 2018)
This model allows us to concentrate on motivation, which is an important element also in learning. As teachers, we should enhance the motivation of students to be able to support the learning of the content more effectively. Philanthropists are motivated by purpose, so they want to do things that have a meaning and serve a purpose, whereas free spirits are motivated by the possibility to have autonomy.
The benefits of identified player types
It is one thing to know a target audience and to identify existing or dominant player types amongst students, but this is just the first step. After this, the implementation needs customising by using assignments and other elements suitable to a specific player type. This makes the learning experience more motivating, engaging, and enjoyable for a student.
Literature shows listings of game elements that suit the needs of each type of player. For those who want to get easy access to tools concerning identifying player types and choosing game elements, we recommend the Hexad webpage. There, picking and mixing the most appropriate elements is made easy.
Even though we have concentrated on educational games, one could use this kind of taxonomies for any kind of pedagogical methods. If you teach a group of the taxonomy Killers, the best solution is not to force them into networking and nice social teamwork activities. If your group consists mostly of Achievers who get motivated by the mastery, do not waste their time making them explore the world and its ample phenomena.
Bartle, R.A. 1996. Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit Muds.
Marczewski, A. 2015. User Types. In Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play: Gamification, Game Thinking and Motivational Design (1st ed., pp. 65-80). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.