Van Gaalen, A. E. J., J. Schönrock-Adema, R. J. Renken, A. D. C. Jaarsma, & J. R. Georgiadis (in press). Advancing game-based learning (GBL): Identifying player types to tailor GBL-design to learners. JMIR Serious Games. (Link:

Abstract: Background: Game-based learning (GBL; gamification and serious games) seems a promising instructional method because of its engaging properties and positive effects on motivation and learning. There are numerous options to design GBL; however, there is little data-informed knowledge to guide the choice of the most effective GBL design for a given educational context. The effectiveness of GBL seems to be dependent on the degree to which players like the game applied in GBL. Hence, individual differences in game preferences should be taken into account when selecting a specific GBL design. Objective: This study aims to identify patterns in students’ perceptions of play and games – i.e., player types – and their most important characteristics. Methods: We used Q methodology to identify patterns of opinions on game preferences in undergraduate medical and dental students. We included 102 participants and asked them to sort and rank 49 statements on game-preferences. These statements were derived from a prior focus group study and literature on game preferences. We used by-person factor analysis and varimax rotation to identify common viewpoints. The resulting factors and participants’ comments about their sorts were used to interpret and describe patterns on game preferences. Results: We identified five distinct patterns in game preferences; the social achiever, the explorer, the socializer, the killer and the troll. These patterns revolve around two themes that are salient in existing scientific and grey literature on play and player typologies: sociability and achievement. The five patterns differed mostly regarding cheating, playing alone, story-telling and the complexity of winning. Conclusions: The patterns were clearly interpretable, distinct and showed that medical and dental students range widely in how they perceive play. According to existing literature on game preferences, such patterns may imply that it is important to take students’ game preferences into account when designing GBL and demonstrates that not every GBL-strategy fits all students. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first study to present a scientifically sound approach to player types. We present a novel theoretical framework that can help future researchers and educators select effective GBL game elements in a purposefully and student-centred way.

AEJ van Gaalen <> is in the Section Anatomy & Medical Physiology, Department of Biomedical Sciences of Cells and Systems, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands.