Designing a Game-Based User Experience

More and more learning designers are incorporating gaming and elements thereof into their training, change and business programmes. The designing of a game-based programme can be challenging and often what appears to be a good idea on paper can fall flat in practical application. A key element to consider is understanding your target audience and knowing how to tap into their motivations and core drivers.

To illustrate this, let’s look at Richard Bartles’ four-player model for gaming. The Bartle player type was devised in his 1990 paper, “Who plays MUA”. This is a very useful framework that observes development by watching people playing multi-user games.

Bartle ultimately classified players in one of four categories:

  • Killers interfere with the functioning of the game world or the play experience of other players.
  • Achievers accumulate status tokens by beating the rule-based challenges of the game world.
  • Explorers discover the systems governing the operation of the game world.
  • Socialisers form relationships with other players by telling stories within the game world.

In addition to the Bartle player types, in 1970 David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates (in their book “Please Understand Me”) categorised four general patterns and player types from the 16-type personality model. Many people are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality assessment and this can be useful in helping one understand the target audience for whom they are developing their game-based programme.

These four types are described as such:

  • Artisan (Sensing + Perceiving): Realistic, tactical, manipulative (of things or people), pragmatic, impulsive, action-focused, sensation-seeking
  • Guardian (Sensing + Judging): practical, logistical, hierarchical, organized, detail-oriented, possessive, process-focused, security-seeking
  • Rational (iNtuition + Thinking): innovative, strategic, logical, scientific/technological, future-oriented, result-focused, knowledge-seeking
  • Idealist (iNtuition + Feeling): imaginative, diplomatic, emotional, relationship-oriented, dramatic, person-focused, identity-seeking

Bart Stewart has combined the various player types in his article “Personality and Play Styles: A Unified Model” which is published on the website Gamasutra []. This model can provide a useful framework in assessing your player types and designing an experience that is both informative and engaging.

This has been simplified into four categories with a brief outline of personality traits and core drivers:

  • Killers and Artisans want the power to be free to act at will on people and things.
  • Achievers and Guardians want the security of possessions obtained by following the rules.
  • Explorers and Rationals want the satisfaction of understanding how things work
  • Socialisers and Idealists want people to co-operate towards happiness (self-actualisation).

Game2Change offers multiple tools and templates that include defining player types and selecting the correct game design and mechanics to assist you and your organisation in designing game-based learning.

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