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Achieve Explore Socialize Kill

Achieve Explore Socialize Kill

Achieve Explore Socialize Kill

Achieve Explore Socialize Kill

Games and students have many things in common. One of the biggest commonalities are the type’s people they cater to. There will be the first year introductory courses that enroll mostly college freshmen. There are expansive games like Fortnite that appeal to competitive gamers. In between there are a plethora of different options available for many different types of students and gamers alike.

As a designer and instructor it’s best to understand our players and students. The better we understand them, the better able we are to cater to their needs and fully engage them in learning or play.

This is where we find overlap in Richard Bartle’s player types.

Richard Bartle broke down these types of players into four distinct areas. They are:

·        Achievers

·        Explorers

·        Socializes

·        Killers

Being able to cater and engage to these types of players and students is knowing how these different types are served. Then it’s up to the designers and educators to determine the actions necessary to best continue to serve and engage them.

The basis of addressing this is knowing what incentivizes these types of players.  That revolves around answering the question of what drives them to do what they do in games.  What is it about games that keeps them coming back for more? For students the questions are similar but slightly different. As educators we have to answer questions like “what enhances this particular student’s learning?” What incentives best motivate them? And how can I help them reach their learning outcomes?

Before we tackle how to address students and players incentives, let’s talk about Bartle’s four player types in more depth.


Achievers are the kinds of players that respond well to progression and achievement. In gamified systems these are the types of players that want to rack up all of those points. These are the passengers who want those extra frequent flyer miles. They are the gamers who want to turn those points into most exclusive set of armor they can attain.

Students that fall under this player type are already quite engaged. They find the class stimulating and helpful. They want to achieve as much as they can in the class.  They seek out assignments and assessments as ways for them to prove that they know their stuff.  They want to achieve more.

For many educators this is the dream type of student. Instructors can continue to engage them by making sure that there opportunities for them to distinguish themselves by achieving and doing more in your class.


Explorers are like achievers. However, instead of merely participating in order to gain more points, badges, or other signs of their achievement, they are incentivized uncover and unlock new content.

Explorers are the types of players who want to visit every nook and cranny of a map. They want to know what is out there. They are constantly looking for Easter Eggs. They want to find something that no one else can find. Explorers are looking for surprises in the game. They want to see new things and experience new outcomes.

Explorers in classrooms are students who don’t always follow the syllabus or course outline. They will read material and consume content the way they want. They’ll do so in order to find out if something is in the class that hasn’t been discovered yet.  Sometimes they might even find a flaw or a loop hole in the grading scheme! Explorers are constantly looking to discover new ways of doing things.


Socializers are the types of gamers that cooperative games best serve. They are there to collaborate with other players if they can create something bigger and better than they could by themselves.  Joining forces with other players for them just makes sense. These are the types of players that play Farmville for the joy of it.

Students who are socializers want that kind of interaction with other classmates. They are the ones who benefit the most from group projects, case studies, or problem based learning activities.  Collaboration and cooperation makes sense for these students in order to accomplish something that they couldn’t have done on their own.


Killers are perhaps one of the most controversial player types.  Killers take a little bit of achievers into account when playing. They want to gain the most points as possible. But they want to do so in order to make other players lose. Killers are most happy when they are winning and everyone else is losing.

Killers can often be a difficult student archetype to serve. They subscribe to a zero sum approach to learning. In order for them to win, others have to lose. In these circumstances, grading on a curve benefits them the most because they can “win” against their competition.

In some cases it might make sense to make a classroom activity a competition. You could create an engineering challenge to determine who can make the best protective case for an egg. You could also use a stock market simulation where students are judged based on the value of their portfolio. Killers live for these kinds of outlets to demonstrate their mastery over others.


In classrooms like in games, there are different types of player and student archetypes.  But no student or player fulfills each archetype completely.  It’s okay for some of your students and players to fulfill multiple aspects of these identities. Someone might be both an achiever and an explorer who feels most fulfilled when they are doing better than someone else in the class.

That’s why some of the best games fulfill different incentives for multiple player types. A racing game can grant players a progressive number of points for completing races (achiever) while also allowing those racers to unlock new tracks over time (explorers). The game could also include team play where racers pair up in order to gain the best overall time in a relay (socializer). But at the end of the day only one person can be the fastest driver (killer).

Remembering to serve a particular player archetype if key. Sales environments are ripe places for gamificaiton with the use of leader boards to quantify positions for both killers and achievers. But the same component wouldn’t do so well for socializers and explorers.

Instead socializers are looking for outlets to interact with each other. While explorers enjoy the maximum amount of agency in discovering more content. Socializers are especially attracted to group work and playing group games that are dependent on cooperation. Explorers are best suited for activities like scavenger hunts; tech trees for “leveling” up characters; and finding optimal routes in and around your game or class

Final thoughts

Achievers, explorers, socializers, and killers are four different sides to many players. There are very few players or students that fall into just one of these areas. Work with your students and players to cater to those different facets of their archetypes in order to best serve and engage them.

Download a PDF print ready version of this blog post with APA reference list here.

Dave Eng, EdD

Managing Partner