Gamer Motivations

Although nearly all research on the educational applications of video games has found that students in general find video games 'motivating', little educational research has been done on what specific game activities best motivate specific students, learners, or game players. In the 1990's, game designer Richard Bartle identified four 'types' of online-fantasy-role-playing-game players, nicknamed Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, and Killers, and detailed specific game activities and interactions that appeal to each type of game player.

Achiever - "No goal unfinished!"

Best, first, and most are the favorite adjectives of the Achiever. They love comparison not only against others, but also with themselves. They enjoy setting goals, surpassing previous performances and hitting new milestones. They tend to have lots of high scores, badges, trophies and other concrete evidence of their successful endeavors--and they love it if someone notices these. However many enjoy the quiet satisfaction of knowing they simply did better than most.
  • Achiever Killers like to be the best-of-the-best at everything the game has to offer including PvP. They often mock Killer tactics such as surprise and stealth as "ganking" because they prefer a more controlled arena where fighting skills can be compared in a straightforward manner. Achievers often look to 1v1 duels for proof of their superior play and are frustrated by "rock paper scissor" game mechanics because of this. Their prowess in PvP is generally supported by a large degree of understanding and possession of the best equipment and skills.
  • Achiever Explorers are interested in the PvE aspect of a game more than anything else. The AE thrives as a solo adventurer, counting coup with each new destination and discovery, poking into every corner of a map and toying with each nuance of a game mechanic. AEs prefer not to be hampered by a group and usually find PvP to be more an annoyance than a feature.
  • Achiever Socializers appreciate groups, clans or guilds for than just pure social fun. An AS relishes the camaraderie of cooperation within a top flight team, savoring the renown gained from successfully pitting themselves against the grand-challenges of a virtual world and attaining goals that cannot be reached as an individual.

Explorer - "No stone unturned!"

It's not so much the wandering around and poking about, but that euphoric eureka moment the Explorer strives for. The joys of discovery do not necessarily involve geography, real or virtual. They may derive from the mental road less traveled, the uncovering of esoteric or hidden knowledge and it's creative application. Explorers make great theory crafters. The most infinitesimal bit of newness can deliver the most delicious zing to an Explorer.
  • Explorer Socializers are the glue of the online world. Not only do they like to delve in to find all the cool stuff, but they also enjoy sharing that knowledge with others. Explorer Socializers power the wikis, maps, forums and theory craft sites of the gamer world.
  • Explorer Killers enjoy seeing the world, meeting interesting people...and killing them. EKs love all discovery, but finding an edge over the competition is best. Always seeking new opportunity, an EK likely knows the ten best places to find certain types of opponents, as well as ten different ways for taking them down.
  • Explorer Achievers have been there, done that and have the fact they have a plethora of t-shirts, badges, trophies and other rewards. EAs are the completionists of the gamer world. They like to find new places, quests, Easter eggs, unlocks, maps etc. and check them off as have, visited or beaten. Like real world travelers, EAs enjoy collecting memorabilia that helps them relive their experiences later.

Socializer - "No friend undiscovered!"

It's not what you do, but who you know, how you are known and who loves you. People with high Socializer scores enjoy interacting with other people, forming bonds and finding cooperative solutions to the challenges within the virtual world.
  • Socializer Killers loyally love and fiercely hate. Groups an SK bonds with in game are often deemed heroic, while the opposition is reviled. SKs appreciate teamwork and cooperation in PvP. They may become vicious predators while enjoying the thrill of hunt within in a pack, but they are not likely to seek out targets by themselves. They enjoy forming groups and alliances that will pit themselves against other players--and they gain the most satisfaction when they defeat organized groups of other players.
  • Socializer Explorers love the 'total experience' of a virtual world--meeting new people and finding the unique places. They don't care much for PVP or leveling, but meeting up with online friends to see new parts of the world is considered fun and exciting. SEs make great group members, because they often know everything there is to know about a game and are enjoy sharing that knowledge freely.
  • Socializer Achievers value reputation. They want to be known and appreciated for what they accomplish bother for themselves and their group. If city or base building is available in a game, they enjoy creating these and inviting other people to come and see. SAs enjoy the increased social status that comes with defeating a powerful foe or finding a unique treasure more than the act of gaining or possessing the achievement itself. SAs endeavor to be associated with leaders and teams that are renown for great deeds, often finding as much satisfaction in the success of the group as with oneself.

Killer - "No enemy left standing!"

It's the thrill of the kill. Trophies are okay, but that momentary rush attained from besting an opponent is what it's all about. People with high Killer scores prefer the player-versus-player aspect of any game more than anything offered by the environment. They relish the adrenaline and challenge of pitting themselves against real people. Not all Killers are gankers as some critics claim. While getting the jump on the unprepared for a quick kill is important fun for some Killers, many prefer group PvP and revel in a well executed team maneuver that blows away the opposing side.
  • Killer Achievers pit themselves against PvE challenges as well--though often it's a means to an end. A KA often enjoys PvP that focuses on their skill as an individual contributor (duels, and so forth) as well as their personal position on competitive ladders and such.
  • Killer Socializers often seek out PvP in a game, but they are looking to socialize with and form alliances and teams with other players who are interested in doing the same. KS tend to seek out guilds or clans that organize formal PvP events, or work on group strategies and tactics.
  • Killer Explorers like to feel immersed in a virtual worlds and see themselves as a great villain or crusader within that world. They seek out challenges against other players, but they are going to find all the areas of that world. Trust an KE to know all the best ambush spots and sniper perches.

Note: Players familiar with massive multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft, Everquest, etc. can take the GamerDNA Bartle Test to determine their own primary and secondary gamer motivations.

Original research: Bartle, R. A. Players who suit MUDs. Retrieved 10/26/2010, from