Student Player Type: Socialize, Achieve, Explore

There are definitely different types of people in the world. And like people, there are different types of gamers. This post will explore the characteristics of those players and how games cater to and challenge these players.

Student affairs professionals will be able to connect this to their work by understanding how player motivation can help motivate them through the gamification of learning.

What is the gamification of learning?

Gamified learning is an educational approach that engages and motivates student to learn though games, game play, game-like elements, and game settings. The goal in a gamified learning environment is for students to enjoy the environment.  Hopefully, they are captured by its narrative and structure enough to continue learning and more!

Student affairs professionals can gamify a learning experience through: gamification. Gamification is the application of game like elements in non-game settings.

Think you’ve escaped gamification? Well you haven’t.  It’s pretty widespread and includes everything from the badges we earn on our FitBit, candy we claim on Waze, and miles we gain on our credit cards.  All of these gamified elements affect our actions, shape our habits, and influence our behaviors.

What are Player Types?

Richard Bartle (1996) defined four major types of players: Socializers, Achievers, Explorers, and Killers. These four players (like people) are the ones who will interact with your game world and with each other. This specifically relates student affairs professionals in how students use, interact, and take advantage of programs and services provided by your college.

This interaction in the game world happens on two spectrums: Acting vs. Interacting and Players vs. the World. Acting can involve game moves like earning points or attending a program.

Interacting involves meeting other players and exploring a campus. Players include individual students or entities (like non player characters) that exist in the game environment.  On the other side: the world represents the game environment or your college campus.

Now let’s explore these different player types!


Socializers are students or gamers who chose to play and interact with your game for the social aspect rather than the game itself. Student affairs professionals should think about students that go to home basketball games or coffeehouses just to see other people there. They want to meet and interact. They are not necessarily there for the music or the competition.

These gamers get the most enjoyment from the environment through interacting with one another. Think about a friendly game of Words with Friends with your mom, a challenging guild raid in World of Warcraft, or a board game night. These are the types of players who draw a lot of enjoyment from socializing and interacting with others.


Achievers are the types of players who want to get out there and score some points, gain some levels, and snag some loot. These also tend to be the students who want do everything, see everything, and become involved with everything.

Achievers seem to be the bread and butter of student affairs work. This means that these students need to be carefully cultivated and inspired to do the best during their college career. You can help achievers by giving them concrete measurements on their play like how many trips they’ve been on and events attended.

Achievers also love some sweet loot. So toss them an extra t-shirt when you have them!

Achievers are also catered to when they get something extra for their efforts. Limited edition SWAG, special access to other events, or just a unique button to wear feeds into this player profile.

Help them help you. Give them a thumbs-up when they play your game!


Explorers are the types of players who really enjoy open worlds and experiences. The success of Minecraft really emphasizes this player type as the kind of person that wants to discover as much about the game as possible and the world around it.

Explorers can also be found in modern Escape the Room games where a series of puzzles are what separate this type of player from objective of getting out in the time limit.

Student affairs professionals will see explorers as the kinds of students who want to get much out of their college experience by seeking as many opportunities as possible. While they may not always deeply explore a few organizations, they will definitely sample as much as possible.

Explorers are best served when they can learn more about the backstory and lore of a particular place, time, or event. Scavenger hunts, puzzles, and open worlds work best at engaging this type of player.

Compared to achievers, Explorers will retain their rich and vivid memories of their experiences.  For them, the process is as rewarding as the end result of the game.


Killers. Well their name alone doesn’t really inspire faith in gamers. But, killers are one of the most active types of players around. However, they don’t always want to be the productive kinds of players and instead choose to destroy game environments and relationships at their will.

Really, killers are the most competitive aspect of gamers who derive pleasure from competing with one another. These are the types of players who are fueled by the competitive aspect of gaming and their desire to be number one (or at least the last one standing).

Student affairs professionals will see killers as those students who are actively competing against other students.  In some cases this could be a bad thing: like trying to undermine a competitor in a student government election.

In another situation this player can be useful. For instance: setting a high bar for excellence on an orientation team is beneficial for student affairs professionals. The encouragement of staff members to hold each other accountable while also setting high expectations themselves fuels their killer personas.


In this post we learned about Bartle’s (1996) different player types (Socializers, Achievers, Explorers, and Killers) and how they interact and engage with other players and the game world.  It’s important to know these types of players and what their preferences are to better serve them.

These player types are a good starting point for understanding personal motivations. But they aren’t everything.  Gamified learning is part of a larger application of games for good, games for change, and games that can help us reach the next level by challenging us to become better professionals.


Bartle, R. A., (1996). Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who suit MUDs. MUSE Ltd, Colchester, Essex, UK.


Dave Eng

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