Designing Games for Different Player Types

Exploring Two Models of Player Types in Gamification Design

Regardless of the gamification that you design and develop in your eLearning, not all learners will experience it the same way. That’s because not all learners are the same – they approach and experience your content in different ways. To understand these differences, let’s explore two models that describe game player types. Understanding these player types can help you incorporate game design to develop learning experiences that will best support your learners.

Bartle’s Player Types

In 1996, Richard Bartle was the first to publish research on the differences of online player types. Although his work focused on playing a specific multiplayer online game, much of his work can be applied to eLearning in general. His model outlines four player types, three of which are relevant to eLearning.


Achievers are players who get satisfaction from gaining points, increasing levels, or attaining badges. They will often play a game again in order to get a higher score or to complete it faster. Game elements such as earning points, receiving badges, or modifying levels support this player type.


Explorers are players who prefer to discover areas in the game and learn about hidden places. They often feel restricted when a game does not allow them to play at their own pace. Game elements such as hidden Easter eggs or the ability to extend the time so they can explore unintended ways to play the game support this player type.


Socializers are players who play games for the social aspect of the game, not the game itself. They get enjoyment from interacting with others, sharing ideas, and building relationships. Game elements such as incorporating opportunities to share comments, vote/rate others, and joining a group or team support this type of player.

Marczewski’s Gamification User Types

Marczewski in 2014 proposed a more in-depth model of player types that is more closely aligned with gamified systems. His model describes six types of players and what motivates each of them as shown in the following table.

  Player Type Description Motivation
 Achievers Like challenges and improving things Mastery
 Players Like to collect rewards/points Rewards
 Free Spirits Like to create and explore Autonomy/Self-Expression
 Socializers Like to interact with others Relatedness
 Philanthropists Like to give to others Purpose/Meaning
 Disruptors Like to change things – positively or negatively Change

Comparing the Two Models

As you can see in this table, there is much overlap between the two models of player types.

AchieverAchiever, Player
ExplorerFree Spirit
SocializerSocializer, Philanthropist

If you want to explore what type of player you are within each of these models, check out the following links.

The more you know about the types of learners you are developing eLearning for, the better you’ll be able to match your content to their player types. However, regardless of what type of players they are, everyone enjoys a fun and engaging learning experience.

[1] Bartle’s Killer player type are players that thrive on competition with other players, and often enjoy destroying things. Since this is not aligned with the typical goals of eLearning, it is referenced, but not explored, in this article.