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Mario, peach, bowser gamification

Like in every user-centred design process, the most important thing to start with is getting to know who you are designing for. This can be even more relevant in gamification than in other disciplines, because gamification addresses the user’s motivation and tries to activate him for a special purpose. The result is simple: If your gamification mechanics don’t fit, they won’t work.

To keep your gamified system from failing, you have to get in touch with the user’s personality and inner motivators. Considering other requirements like setting, resources or target group of your project, an online user type survey could be a proper solution to identify the relevant personas. But this is where the problem starts:

Unfortunately, there is no valid questionnaire around these days that focuses on gamification user types. Not yet; research is still going on… If you take away the layer of motivational psychology from gamification and get deeper into the game research area, you will probably find different player type models and tests to identify them. The one that’s known best is probably Bartle’s ‘Taxonomy of Player Types’. It divides players into four categories: Killers, Achievers, Socializers and Explorers. Despite the fact that gamification and games are truly related to each other and share some of the same aspects, they are not the same business and require different approaches to design, especially when it comes to motivation.

For example: A game is joined freely and just for fun by the player. It generates its own motivational reasons to be played. A gamified system on the other hand uses a setting that is regularly based on actions which must be done by the user – like work, health care or daily business. In many cases this isn’t very funny or motivating. Here, gamification tries to add an additional stimulus of motivation to those actions to make them more comfortable and engaging for its initiators.

As you can see, none of those player type tests will really fit when it comes to gamification motivators. To make a long story short: If you want to test your users regarding to their kind of gamification needs, you actually have to create your own questionnaire.

At Centigrade we did that for a gamified mobile app, which will be used in context of the energy transition. The app requires a wide target group, so we decided to do an online survey. In the next step we selected five known user types to be in the focus of our questionnaire: Player (Killer), Achiever, Socializer, Free Spirit (Explorer) and Philanthropist. Therefore we generated and pre-tested a set of 24 questionnaire statements which specifically address one main characteristic of each player type. Participants of our survey had to select those ones which described themselves the best. Everyone did that for four times within a set of six statements and different variations. Due to the resulting statements and based on the absolute frequency of player type origins we finally deduced one or more specific player types for each participant.

The results of our survey were quite significant: 121 subjects (47% men, 53% women) took part. They were between 16 and 63 years old (M=31.40, SD=9.92). The majority was categorized as Philanthropists (34%). The second most common player type was the Achiever (22%). 16% of the participants could be categorized as Free Spirits (Explorers). The remaining 28% of the persons equally split up into two groups and could be classified either as Socializer or the Player (Killer) types.

What does that mean for our gamification design?

Well, it means that we should add social aspects to the core mechanics of our application. Those aspects should be based on collaboration, cooperation, gifting and helping each other. Obviously, our users want to build up something with a greater goal and benefit for others, not only for themselves. It’s not about being number one within a ranking or to compete against a human opponent. It’s about to create an impact on something sustainable and the satisfaction to know that one’s actions are part of something bigger and fulfil their purpose.

Another important aspect – especially for Achievers – is, that the interaction design clearly communicates the user’s progress and guides him to his next milestone.

Challenge accepted!

There is one more remarkable aspect of our results that you should be taking with you for the future: The item that addressed ‘badges’ – the number one thing in mind for many people when it comes to gamification – has been selected second least by the participants. Just to give you an impression, that gamification is so much more than points and badges.

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Sebastian Korbas

Interaction Designer @ Centigrade GmbH


Hey Andrzej,

we are actually working on an extensive article for our blog at Centigrade ( http://www.centigrade.de/blog/en/ ) which deals with detailed aspects of our survey and questionnaire. I'll let you know, when things are done. ;-)

Great gamification work on your website!


I look forward to it! Love to chat about your thoughts on the types :-)