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8:15pm on Friday, 9th September, 2011:

Why Achiever-Only Massively Multiplayer Games Don't Work


I'm sick of telling people this, so I thought I'd blog it.

Achievers like to achieve. They like to think they are better players than other players. Achievements tell them this. They look at their own achievements, look at the achievements of others, and feel like they've achieved something if their own are better. It doesn't matter how the achievements are manifest — levels, points, gear, money, army size — so long as there's some way they know they're better than someone else.

This means you need someone for the achievers to be better than. In a massively-multiplayer game that has socialisers (and, to some extent, explorers) the achievers can look down at their miserable achievements and feel all superior. The socialisers, not being achievers, don't really have any incentive to achieve anything; they plod along quite happily mainly to be with their friends.

Now what if there are no socialisers? What if your game is pitched so strongly at achievers that the socialisers stay away?

Most of the achievers will look down and see someone there below them. However, some will be at the bottom. They don't like being near the bottom. They want to be better than other players, but they get no sense of that because everyone else is better than they are. After struggling and failing (because they really aren't as good as everyone else) to improve their status, they quit.

Now, someone else is at the bottom. They weren't at the bottom before, but they are now. The same reasoning applies, and they fall away too. The process continues, until eventually you end up with a game full of either equally-expert, high-skilled players or masochists. You lost all the other achievers as they gradually fell away from the bottom.

If you have socialisers, they act as like a hem that stops the cloth above them from fraying. Therefore, if you want to attract a lot of achievers, you need to keep a viable number of socialisers.

That applies to you, too, gamification people.

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).