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User types: how to design gamification for your “disruptors” and “free spirit” employees

October 6, 2016 • gal

Andrzej Marczewski was a guest speaker in our September webinar. He talked about how to apply gamification to different user types. The following is a recap of his talk:

User types & Motivation

“Once I started building user types, rather than looking at people playing games, I looked at how motivation works. Looking at motivation, there are four key areas which are based on self-determination theory – Relatedness, Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

  • Relatedness is how we deal with people, relationships, dealing with being around other human beings.
  • Autonomy is the concept of freedom, choice – being able to do what we want and how we want to, which is quite complicated in a commercial environment and in an enterprise environment, but is extremely important to how people respond to what’s around them.
  • Mastery is all about challenge and wanting to be good at something, wanting to be the best as you can at something, wanting to overcome obstacles.
  • Purpose comes in a couple of flavors, purpose can be an altruistic purpose, so the concept of wanting to help people, or it could just be the need to understand your place in the world, to understand what your little cork does for the big machine.

The User Type Hexad

“From this information I came up with the User Type HEXAD. I took my Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose and Relatedness and created four intrinsically motivated types:

  • The Free Spirit
  • The Achiever
  • The Socializer; and
  • The Philanthropist

There are also two extrinsically motivated user types:

  • The Player; and
  • A strange annoying type called the Disruptor.

“The player is very simple –the player is the person that wants rewards, and he is the one who will engage with your points, badges and leaderboards. Players are extremely simple to engage. The problem with them is that they are very hard to engage for a long period of time, which is why you need to convert your extrinsic types, your players, to someone which is a bit more motivated by what the system can offer to them beyond those points and badges. You can read more about intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation here.

Dealing with Disruptors

“Your system is built up more on the free spirits and your achievers and your philanthropists and your socializers. They are the ones who have this need for an intrinsic reason to be there.

“The Disrupter is a very different type. Some people call them “The Killers”, I call them “The pain in the Bum” because what they want to do, is they want to impose their will on the system. What I mean by that is, they’re the ones who when you announce your gamified system, they are the ones who are just going to sit there and say “Oh, Gamification is rubbish, and because Gamification is rubbish I am going to break your system to prove it’s rubbish”, or “I’m going to tell everybody that your system is rubbish and they are not going to want to use your system anymore.” They are going to be the ones who will be that little thorn in your side. But they can also be the most interesting and useful parts of the system, because they are the ones who also find all the problems with it. So you will get the ones who are trying to break it because they want to break it, and you will get these ones who break it, and then will actually come to you and say: “I have broken it, and this is how I have broken it” and if you can nurture them they can come very useful.

Designing for a specific user type

Free Spirits

“According to recent research, free spirit types like non-linear gameplay, they are these people who go in and explore your system and they are also very interested in learning and challenges. This actually surprised me because I was expecting purely exploration and the autonomous side of things. But if you include any one of these parts in your system, then they are going to help you to engage with these Free Spirit type of player. As you will see later, autonomy is a very key part of why people want to do things.


“Achievers are interested in challenges, quests, in learning, but they also like certificates, real physical representation of their achievements within your system. Some gamification folks say that points and badges are bad, but actually points and badges are only bad if they aren’t designed for the right people and if they aren’t designed well. If you are going to get it well, the achiever is going to be really happy to have this symbol of their achievement.


“I have always thought that the socializers are the best group, because if you ever look at multiplayer games, the social aspect is what keeps the game running. World of Warcraft is basically a social media network with access, because it’s been going for 10 years or so and they haven’t really changed it. People are there because their friends are there. So you are looking at guilds, social networks, status, social pressure, this fear of missing out as we found with Pokémon Go, you know, people don’t want to miss out on anything. This social pressure becomes very important in gamification. And there is also discovery. You know how a good social network is based on the idea that you can find people who are interested in your topics, and with a gamified system, that becomes very important if you want to find out who the experts are, and that’s where leaderboards become very useful because if they are not interested in the competition, at least they know the people that are at the top of the leaderboard are interested in a similar topic to them and that they are good at it, and they are worth engaging with.

“That’s how a lot of the technical kind of websites work, like StackExchange. The leaderboards are kind of important to the people on them, but they are even more important to discover who is good at something.


“Disruptors like innovation because they like to change the system, so you give them a way of innovating, and actually enable them to effect change, vote, and have their voices heard, because the worst thing you can do with someone who wants to disrupt your system is to ignore them. When you ignore them, that’s when they become destructive and not just disruptive, because they don’t feel like they are being heard and also, you hurt their feelings. Quite literally, they are feeling hurt by that and they are going to go and break stuff. You should give them the ability to develop, to create,  give them challenges and keep them occupied.


“My favorite one of all is anarchy, because you just tell them “Go do whatever you want and let’s see what happens”. I haven’t yet seen an enterprise gamified solution that allows their users to do that. A day of just chaos in the enterprise’s system can be lovely.


“Players are very simple. Points, badges, leaderboards, rewards, economy, lottery. Anything where they feel they can gain something from the system, because their entire reason for being there is to get stuff, they are not interested necessarily in what comes after that.

Don’t design for players alone

“Considering that most of gamification is designed for players – you are only engaging 10% of your potential population. Free Spirits, who are engaged by autonomy, who are looking for choice and freedom, the philanthropists make up a much larger portion of your players. These two groups, are almost entirely ignored in gamification that is done badly.

Achievers, they do get some attention, say if it’s a learning material that has been gamified, then achievers have some level of engagement with it. And socializers, who still do make up a huge amount, but as your system develops, and as it matures, the socializers become much more important but we don’t tend to build for them.

“As you can see it is really important to keep all these other types of people in mind when you are building a gamified system. However what we will find is that most people build what they want to build, and they build what they think that is going to be fantastic, and they build for their own personal type which doesn’t necessarily engage everybody else. Or, on the flip side, they will build for a particular user type and think they have got all of the user types.

“We are very complicated creatures, and to say that we could be broken down to a single type is very naive. But to ignore the fact that lots and lots of things motivate us is even worse. Because then you end up with horrific systems that are only built for players and then all the 90% of people you could be looking at just won’t engage with.

For the full recording press here.


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