Game Design, Gamification, Learning Design and Assorted Other Strangeness

Players In The Classroom

Players In The ClassroomA Multi-player online (MMO) game is very similar to a modern day classroom. They are both created environments with different ways to interact with material that is being supplied, either by the teacher (in the case of the classroom) or the server (in an MMO). They encourage both social interaction and individual work. The system is made up of many different individuals with different motivations goals and preferences for their style of interaction.

So what type of people would you expect to find in an online game?

In 1996 Richard Bartle put forward a classification for the types of players you would find in a multi-user dungeon a MUD (a text based precursor to modern day MMO’s). He was uniquely suited to this as, along with Roy Trubshaw, he had created the world’s very first MUD in the 1970′ s.

He based his classification on a study of online user discussions of what made a game enjoyable (you can read the original study here).  He classified four basic types of player.

He also put them into a matrix based on how they liked to interact with the game. As shown below.

Character Theory Chart
Character Theory Chart

The matrix is formed by plotting the interest in working with players vs. with the world or materials on the X axis, and direct action vs. interaction on the Y axis.

Where you fall in the matrix will give you different goals and show different things that you enjoy.

Inside the classroom we could define students using the same matrix. The types of player have implications for classroom management, motivational methods and activity design.

First, it suggests that some of the commonest classroom management problems are not because a student is “bad”, but merely because they are attempting to interact with the “game” in a different mode. Classic examples of this exist in all four of the player types.

  • The student who can’t stop talking to their friend (socializer).
  • The student who is unwilling to engage with others unless it is for a perceived reward (achiever).
  • The student who is very engaged with discovering all about the material but has no interest in engaging with testing or other students (explorer).
  • The student who is only interested in activities if they offer an opportunity to defeat an opponent (killer).

The mode which teachers value the most will also change from classroom to classroom.

As noted above, each player type has different interests. It stands to reason that if they are not able to engage using their favored method they will be less motivated. I will go into an in depth analysis of the motivations of the different player types in future posts, breaking down how a teacher can leverage activities for each type in turn.

Finally, it should be clear that it is impossible to design an activity that is 100% engaging for 100% of the students.  Any truly great activity has to take into account multiple modes of engagement with it. A classroom should offer many different ways of engaging with the material and multiple interaction patterns for it to be truly engaging.

The four player types offer a different view on our students. When used in conjunction with Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligence, classrooms can be better designed to engage the student in active learning.

You can read more about the specific player types here

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