Bartle’s Taxonomy: Understanding The “Players” In Gamification

Gamification, Marketing

We’ve learned that Gamification is the act of taking gaming principles and applying them to real world situations in order to modify behavior.  But before we jump in with both feet, there’s a few things we have to consider.  Let’s look at a few sample “players” – a term used to define the users we will be interacting with.  We’ll do so in the context of an MMO – since most of these will be based on real players I know in Final Fantasy XIV.

Player 1: Sai Rainfire. Her goal is to develop her skill rotation to where she does more damage. That means researching rotations, talking to other players to see how they use their skills, and practicing on the targeting dummies.

Player 2: Billy Batson. He loves taking screenshots and sharing them on his Tumblr. He collects “glamour items” which serve no purpose but to change the appearance of his character. He’s also spent time developing a “photo studio” in his player house.

Player 3: Lucina Alastairi (me!). My goal is to clear the latest and greatest content. To do that, I need better gear. To get better gear, I have to run the same content over and over to gain more in-game currency and tokens. (Luckily the content is fun!)

Player 4: Pent Whitecard. He loves exploration. He collects maps that show hidden treasure chests and links to the “Aquapolis” – a treasure dungeon – and collects them to do several at a time.

Player 5: Lily Foxclaw. Enjoys running new players through content, with a focus on teaching them the different mechanics in order to clear (beat once) or farm (run multiple times) the content successfully.

Player 6: Rowan Sinclair: Leader of a free company (guild). Loves the social aspect of having friends to run content with, and organizing events and/or parties to do content together.

Player 7: Colette Pascal: Is the quintessential crafter. Loves taking materials and crafting them into high-quality items to wear or sell on the market board for a profit.

All of these players are playing the same game, but have drastically different endgames. And while it may seem hard to group such a diverse playerbase, as it turns out they share a lot of common traits.

Is it possible, then, to take the common attributes of all of the players and group them together?

Richard Bartle seemed to think so. Bartle ran a MUD (multi-user dungeon) and interviewed his players to ask them what they wanted out of the game.  Once he had gathered enough data, he grouped them based on two criteria:

  • Action vs Interaction: is someone creating new experiences, or are they simply utilizing experiences that are already in the construct?
  • Players vs World: Is a user interacting with the construct itself, or the other players in it?

With these axes, he charted his players into four groups, known as Bartle’s Taxonomy of Player Types

Achievers (Actions with the World)

The achiever sees personal goal setting as the number-one endgame. Whether it’s going after the highest prize, the toughest dungeon, or the rarest item these players will stop at nothing to achieve their goal.

Explorers (Interacting with the World)

Explorers seek to understand and chart out the construct / world around them. They create guides, they optimize their skill rotations and builds, and they squeeze every ounce of success they can out of the construct. They never break the rules; they simply utilize every rule there is to maximize their playing.

Socialites (Interacting with Players)

To be honest, a socialite couldn’t care less about what game they are playing. They see the game as a means to “chill” with other players.  You’ll see them running dungeons, but value the experience and company more than the rewards.

Killers (Acting with/against Players)

The killer, like the achiever, wants to be the best. But instead of being personally driven, they are driven by leaderboards and scorecards. Killers, in the game setting, focus on Player-vs-Player events, and will stop at nothing to ensure that their records go unchallenged.

We’ll dive into each of these player types in depth, but you can begin to see that “shotgun campaigns” rarely work when it comes to gamification. Research, knowing your player-base, and acting accordingly are the best methods to ensure that you’ll reach your audience – and that they’ll respond!

Part of a Series on Gamification: