What’s your type?

I’ve recently been working on a chapter that I’m co-writing on games in education.  A colleague and I developed a professional development game for faculty on campus and we have a chapter in review for a book on serious games in education.  I originally blogged about our professional development game last year and it’s taken some time for my colleague and I to examine the interactions and write about it in any scholarly way.  As we started to look at some of the data from the game, one of the aspects that we noticed was the different roles that faculty adopted within the game.  Some faculty members were really competitive while others were not.  Some interacted in the fun, social aspects of the game without engaging in the challenges we included.  Others read the educational resources but did not really socialize or compete.  It was a real mixed bag.

Doing some research, however, we found that people take on different roles when they play games.  Richard Bartle was one of the first to outline the different gamer types.  Bartle was examining player roles in Multi User Domains (the precursors to games like World of Warcraft) and found that while gamers may share the same space, they may have very different motivations for playing.  Some players are intent on completing achievements, scoring points and accomplishing any goals outlined in the game.  These “achievers” work to gather as much as they can, score as much as they can and beat as many levels as they can.  They’re focused on beating the game and showcased their gamer prowess.

Other gamers are just playing the game to socialize.  In a MUD, they’re the ones meeting people and engaging in conversations.  Bartle calls these players the “socializers” in a game.  In addition to socializers and achievers, Bartle identified “killers” and “explorers.”  Killers are intent on thwarting the success of other players, either by imposing obstacles on other gamers or by harming their opponents within the space.  Explorers, however, are motivated by seeing the scope of the land and testing the limits of the game.

To a certain degree, all of the gamer types were present in our professional development game.  Some players just explored content while others just participated in the social aspects.  Others were intent on winning the game by completing as many challenges as they could.  Thankfully, we didn’t encounter any “killers” in the space but that may be due to how we originally designed the game.  While the game included competitive aspects, we build a lot of collaborative features into the challenges with participants scoring points not only on individual achievements but through group ones as well.

Beyond the professional development game, Bartle’s gamer types made me reflect on students’ motivations for participating in an online class.  While I recognize classes and games are much different, I wonder whether some of Bartle’s gamer types translate well to students’ roles in online classes.  Considering my online classes, I recognize that some students are very interested in any social opportunities to which they may have access.  They post numerous times to discussion boards and often over share in their posts.  Other students, however, simply focus on completing online modules and try tackle all of the stated goals in the class as quickly as they can.  While we may want to stifle the students trying to thwart the success of their classmates (those “killers”), we also must consider ways to get the “explorers” more involved in the class.  While it’s not a perfect taxonomy for online students, Bartle’s gamer types may provide a starting point to interacting with and motivating them.

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