Designing for engagement part 1. Are you a Killer or Socializer?

Engagement of your users plays a vital role in your business development. In short, the more engaged the user, the bigger probability he or she will buy your product. The question is how to do it right. The first thing to consider is why your users would want to „play” with your service. Understanding players’ motivation should explain that.

There are four main types of player’s motivation:

  • For mastery
  • To destress
  • To have fun
  • To socialize

Accordingly, Bartle distinguishes four types of players.

Players Types

Killers are the most extreme type of players. In short, they must win and someone else must lose.

Socializers are looking for forms of social interactions. Nowadays, you will find them sharing their scores on social media.

Achievers are most interested in achieving points. The problem with these players is that when they lose they might get discouraged.

Explorers like the name suggests like to go out and bring new things, experiences to the community.

Now, have you decided which one you are?

Here’s a little help. According to Bartle test, most of us are socializers.

80% socializer

50% explorer

40% achiever

20% killer

Now that we know why and who „plays” our service, we can start designing for engagement. Game design is a relatively new discipline. One of the most popular game design frameworks is MDA: Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics. Mechanics stand for the functioning elements of your service. Dynamics defines what your user actually does with your service, how he or she interacts with it. And finally aesthetics are about how the user feels about playing the game.

Let’s examine game mechanics as you need to do this bit right first before you move to Dynamics or Aesthetics. There are seven typical game mechanics elements: points, levels, leaderboards, badges, challenges/quests, onboarding, and engagement loops. Let us examine points first.

Every game needs points. As a game designer you should track all your users’ points, as this may allow you to get better knowledge of their interaction with the game. In gamification there are five main types of point options:

Experience points – this is probably the most important type of points (XP). The XP don’t serve as any currency, they are how you watch, rank, and guide your player. XP can be earned by doing any activity in the game. Generally, XP never go down, you cannot loose them. This is the case with Nike +. You probably heard a term „to exp” (or you use it yourself) when talking about playing games like World of Warcraft (WoW) or League of Legends (LoL).

Redeemable points – RP unlike XP can expire. Usually these points are earned and cashed, similar to frequent flyer miles. The term for this loop is called „earn and burn”.

Skill points – they are assigned to specific activities in the game and usually are an extra set of of points that give the player experience or reward in the long run.

Karma points – this type of points rarely exists in the gaming world. They are basically designed to give away and are popular in social media. One of the most popular service with Karma Points is Reddit, where the points are earned by performing various site tasks such as submitting good content, leaving a good comment, or performing an encouraged site action such as filling out your user profile. Karma points are rewarded by other users (often called “upvoting”) and by the site.

Reddit Karma Points

Reputation points – this is one of the most difficult type of points to manage. Reputation points require trust between the sides. You can see the reputation points on services like or, which show previous activities of the users who comment on the products. This gives the user more credibility and weeds out fake comments.


Whatever type of points you choose they should be carefully examined before the user starts earning them.

Typical problems

For example, the problem with redeemable points is that people want to know what they can get first and if the reward is not good enough for them they may be discouraged. Reputation points are problematic when it comes to credibility. Not all systems are as developed as or, that show previous activity of the commentator and then the risk of fake comments is very high.


Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps, by Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham

Karma as Social Interaction Design Pattern in Websites