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four types of gamers

In the workplace, most employees have been exposed at one point or another to various personality profile tools like Myers-Briggs or DISC assessments to help determine which roles best suit their strengths. People tend to be more engaged and perform better in jobs that are aligned with their interests and personalities. For example, outgoing people might gravitate towards sales, while introverts might focus on more analytical roles.

Interestingly enough, in the world of games, research has been done to analyze the link between a person’s personality and interests and the types of games to which they tend to be drawn. Intuitively, we understand that different personalities are attracted to different types of games. For example, World of Warcraft players tend not to play Farmville and vice versa.

Back in the mid-90s, Richard Bartle, an author, professor, and game researcher, examined the players of Multi-User Dungeon/Domain (MUD) games and defined four types of gamers. He classified them as explorers, socializers, achievers, and killers, based on whether they acted or interacted, and whether they focused on the world of the game or the other players.

Let’s look at each of Bartle’s gamer types in more detail:


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  • The Explorer. These gamers enjoy interacting with the world of the game, seeking to understand how it works.
  • The Socializer. Most interested in developing inter-player relationships, socializers use games as a means of interacting with others.
  • The Achiever. This type values action in the world of the game and seeks to rack up points and advance to higher levels of game play.
  • The Killer. Killers act on other players, seeking to impose themselves on others.

So what does this have to do with work? There has been a lot of buzz lately about how companies can increase employee engagement and performance when processes and systems are gamified. When thinking about applying game mechanics to work, managers must keep their audience in mind in order to develop an effective system. Bartle’s gamer profiles might not apply to every employee, but can provide a general framework for the types of game mechanics that will best motivate workers.

For example, the vast majority of players tend to be socializers and explorers, while fewer are achievers and killers. Salespeople, however, tend to be more achievement- and killer-oriented than most. They like friendly (and not so friendly) competition. They’re more independent and are motivated by rewards, awards, and trophies. So if their job was turned into a game, it would have to look very different from one designed for an accountant.

mike smallsWhen designing any product or system, one size does not fit all — There are obviously a number of factors involved in the effective application of game mechanics, but keeping the audience in mind is one of the most important keys to success.

Mike Smalls is the CEO and Founder of Hoopla’s platform leverages enterprise data, advanced game mechanics, and sophisticated communication tools to cultivate a high performance culture and drive results.

[Top image credit: Webgrrls]


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