Game Design, Gamification, Learning Design and Assorted Other Strangeness

The Achiever in the Classroom


Richard Bartle defined 4 types of players and how they enjoyed playing MUDs (precursors to MMORPGs). For a discussion of how these types map to a classroom, see my previous post on the subject here.

The Achiever in Education

Of Bartle’s player types, Achievers are possibly the most easily recognized in the classroom. The traditional classroom seems to have been designed with them in mind. They tend to be motivated by the thrill of success.

Achievers tend to be, in strictly economic terms, rational. They like nothing better than to get a good score or receive recognition from the teacher. Conversely they tend not to be interested in anything for which they cannot see a direct pay-off. Their time and energy tends to be focused on getting as many rewards as possible—sometimes for as little work as possible. In games, they are the ‘achievement hunters’; players who want to collect rewards but not necessarily explore the game.

They will socialize when it will likely bring them rewards, but are more interested in their own results than interacting with others. Their interaction with others may also be based around displaying their achievements and getting recognition for them.

Competition is highly important, but it is unclear if they are competing with themselves or others. In some regards they are close to the Killer in personality in that what is most important is to succeed, even if it means the failure of another. In contrast, Killers are more interested in succeeding at the expense of others.

Teachers are likely to see them as the conscientious student who always has their homework done, is prepared for the next test, and is very interested in grading.

It is worth noting however that often this type of student doesn’t achieve the depth of understanding of the Explorer type, or have the ability to call on social resources for solving problems like the Socializer. In some regards, their focus can become so narrow as to interfere with the retention and application of what is being taught.  They are also likely to be the type of student who performs well on scheduled tests, but fares poorly at non-scripted challenges. The emphasis on goals can also lead to a fragile resilience when presented with something novel.

Things an Achiever is likely to say

“Will this be on the test?”

“What was my score?”

“I was number 1 in my English class.”

How to deal with Achievers in the classroom

The Achiever is the quintessentially extrinsically motivated student. This makes the Achiever one of the easiest types for teachers to deal with using traditional punishments and rewards.

When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.” – Plutarch

The greatest struggle Achievers face is when they perceive that there is nothing left to achieve. They need a constant level of challenge and reward. If there are no new rewards, the game becomes pointless and it’s time to find a new game. They will also abandon the game if they feel the effort to reward ratio is not well balanced—be it few rewards or rewards come too easily.

However, the use of grades as a motivator can lead to grade addiction—where the student is looking for the next achievement high even at the expense of enjoying the class.

Encouraging Achievers to look beyond the simple score will always be the struggle for teachers interested in providing a well rounded education to these students.

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