Players without Archetypes


The P in my A to Z of Gamification is ‘Players’.

Demographic profiles used to segment and identify consumers are easier to create category of people because they describe slow changing or static traits like: age, gender, family size, income, job, education, religion, race and nationality.

Even a psychographic study that looks at someone’s interests, beliefs, values and lifestyle behaviour, will for most people tend to remain unchanged for long periods of time. Though already here tying down a “type of person” too firmly can breed unhelpful stereotypes.

All classifications of personality archetype come with a health warning, as people rarely fall into static boxes. However, when people choose to play a game nailing down types of people becomes even more difficult with the addition of needing to know:

1) What are the needs and motivations driving us at that moment?

2) For this particular game, what stage of the player journey are we at?

Both of there are fluid, with the game itself creating and instigating the changes that occur.

So imagine…

I get home exhausted from work all I want to do is zone out and play with the choices and colours of creating a virtual garden. The next day, I’ve had a particularly frustrating afternoon, where my project got delayed once again. Now, I come home wanting to charge and fight my way through to victory over my foes. Or maybe I don’t fancy either of these things, bored from a long day, I’m hungry for the early buzz of my first steps and exploration of a new game world.

Through all of these scenarios, both my core demographic or pscyhographic could easily remain exactly the same. Yet, the extremes of the what I’m seeking in each of these play experiences are very different. I’ve definitely experienced all three of these days and found different games to meet those needs. Or sometimes even the same game, but with a different focus for that night.

Recognizing this variety even within myself, this kind of fluid action is captured by Social Game Designer, Amy Jo Kim’s social action matrix, which explicitly removes any player archetypes in favour of actions.

Kim's Social Action Matrix

once you remove the need to lump players into a limited number of categories, you open up the opportunity to create unique clusters of actions that describe the particular motivation of your players. This process is inherently more flexible than archetypes – and leads to actionable output.

Still this doesn’t necessarily capture all the actions that are possible, so she also very helpfully details a fantastic process for how to build your own.



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