Player types

In our previous whitepapers we already briefly discussed the concept of gamification and how this could be applied concretely in the physiotherapy practice. Although gamification can have a positive effect on an individual’s motivation [1], it is also important to consider a patient’s personality when adding these elements.

The motivation of a person is a complex fact and is determined by several factors. In addition to the theoretical frames of thought surrounding the concept of motivation (e.g. self-determination theory), an individual’s personality also strongly determines what motivates or does not motivate. As a therapist it can therefore be important to choose the right approach for the right type of patient.

By approaching the motivational aspect of the rehabilitation process from the perspective of gamification, the rehabilitants can in a certain sense also be seen as ‘players’. Given the individual differences between individuals, it is impossible to motivate or challenge everyone equally with a single exercise/play. That’s why it can be important to take a step back and define the player type of a rehabilitant. This way, a therapist can adjust his/her exercises in a targeted way and motivate the revalidant optimally.

Differentiation Player Types

The differentiation of player types occurs within the literature in different ways depending on the specific type of game, playing system or theoretical angle [4]. A simple example is the Bartle Taxonomy of Player Type [2], a common way to divide players into 4 character types:

  • Killer
    Players who are motivated by beating other players. This group is very competitive and gets a lot of satisfaction from actively changing the system and the rules.
  • Achiever
    Players who are driven by gaining ‘points’ and status. This group follows the rules closely and wants to achieve as many goals as possible.
  • Socializer
    Players who get the most satisfaction out of contact with others. Above all, this group wants to experience a sense of connectedness.
  • Explorer
    Players who mainly want to go on research. This group is motivated by variation and knowledge. 

Framework as inspiration

However, it is important to nuance this kind of thinking and place it in the right context. Bartle’s taxonomy is a simple example, but it is by no means the only one. Among other things, there is a similar (but 6-part) division according to the principles of the Self-determination Theory or a more elaborate model with 9 player types [1-5].

Regardless of the way in which the player type is determined, it is important to keep some important remarks in mind. A first important point is that these types depend on many other factors (such as age and gender). In addition, different types are often found in the same person and the main type of an individual can change over time [4]. A second point is that most of these frames of thought have been developed within the scientific context of (video)game design. As a result, their relevance is sometimes somewhat limited depending on the type of game or system the user or player is working with. Nevertheless, these kinds of frameworks can be a useful source of inspiration for therapists who want to make their rehabilitation process extra motivating.

Player types in practice

For example, we can use Bartle’s taxonomy above to dress up a similar rehabilitation in four different ways.

Rehabilitation goal: Promote condition and endurance through gait training.

  • Tony – Killer

    Tony is incredibly driven and wants to return to a competitive level as soon as possible. To motivate Tony it can help to work with an opponent. In the first phase of the therapy the therapist himself can serve as the opponent by doing the course together with him. By putting Tony to work on one of the many running-apps he can share and follow up his progress with others. It can also be an option to let Tony himself act as an opponent and challenge him via his own results. In this way he will always be stimulated to improve himself over and over again.

  • Veerle – Achiever

    Veerle is very result-oriented. She likes to set herself a goal and likes to work towards it. In order to motivate Veerle optimally, it can help to set some specific goals together with her (e.g. travel 10 km in less than an hour and a half). By setting concrete, measurable and achievable (SMART) goals, she always has something new to work on. Achieving a goal is for her a reward in itself.

  • Sofie – Socializer

    Sofie enjoys a lot of social interaction. In order to motivate her, it may be sufficient to do the running trainings together with her. Organizing group trainings with rehabilitants of the same level can also be an ideal source of motivation for her.n van motivatie vormen.

  • Ruben – Explorer

    Ruben loves variety and discovery. In order to keep him motivated, it can be important to inform him extensively about his injuries and related rehabilitation. In addition, his gait training can be organized in different ways to keep him engaged. For example, there can be alternated between outdoor training (with different routes nearby) and treadmill training (with different settings).

Jorn OckermanPhysiotherapist / Researcher
Within Creative Therapy, Jorn researches applications of innovative technologies, such as Matti, within rehabilitation therapy.
Arno PendersCEO Creative Therapy
With a history as a researcher at UGent, Arno likes to share his knowledge on the application of innovative technologies within rehabilitation therapy.


  1. Marczewski, A. (2015). User Types. In Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play: Gamification, Game Thinking and Motivational Design (1st ed., pp. 65-80). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
  2. Bartle, R. (1996). Hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades: Players who suit MUDs. Journal of MUD Research, 1 (1). Retrieved October 3, 2006, from
  3. Garris, R., Ahlers, R., & Driskell, J. E. (2002). Games, Motivation, and Learning: A Research and Practice Model. Simulation & Gaming, 33(4), 441–467.
  4. Dixon, D. (2011). Player Types and Gamification. CHI 2011 Workshop Gamification Using Game Design Elements in NonGame Contexts, 12-15
  5. Klug, G and J Schell. Why People play games: An Industry Perspective. In Playing Video Games: Motives, Responses, and Consequences, ed. P. Varderer, and J. Bryant, 2006, 91-100.