On Citizen Science Players

(2 min. read)


I work a lot with citizen science games, and we get a few different player types coming in to play. Player typologies are a thing in other games too, like Bartle's famous Killers, Achievers, Socializers, and Explorers. So what are the types in a citizen science game?
This typology was told to me during my research by a developer who shall remain anonymous. Credit goes to them for coming up with these groups, I'm simply reporting what I've heard.
As a disclaimer, this is only one possible typology. It doesn't much consider player motivations, like other typologies. But what it does is categorize players in a very practical way for citizen science game developers. Knowing these groups is important in order to design for each of their needs and understand how they affect the overall community.

The Groups


These players don't take the game seriously at all. In the most typical case, trolls are middle schoolers set loose upon the game by a teacher who doesn't monitor their class.


Dabblers are well-intentioned, but they don't get very far into the game. They can be moderately or even highly enthusiastic at the start, but inevitably they will either stop playing or settle into being an occasional, nameless, silent contributor.


Heavies are a pseudo power player. They play for achievements or just to have fun, kill time, and contribute. They don't engage with the community, but they're good at the game. They like to keep their head down and contribute in solo play.

Power Players

The true power players like achievements, but they also want leadership roles and titles. They want power in and around the game. They engage with the community, are highly talkative, and form friendships with other power players. They can get obsessed with the game in a good way, but they are also the most likely to have very strong opinions about design changes, since they have so much invested in the game. They'll bias any surveys you send out because they are the most likely player group to actually fill out any surveys. As such, take player input with a grain of salt, because it's likely there are voices you're not hearing. Power players can be a fussy bunch; their suggestions are often incompatible with what's actually feasible for development. But they are the heart of the community, so it's important to keep them happy and engaged.


Last but not least are the alumni: former power players who continue to have community standing but have drifted away from being active in the game. When they do pop back in, they create community interest and rekindle old friendships.