Eros & Thanatos. Some other gamification profiles

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Author: Flavio Escribano >> @ludictador

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“At the time when the Eros and the Thanatos meet each other a new sexuality dimension awakens inside the subject who -at the limit act of death- finds the key to the profound and absolute experience of desire” (González-Molina, 2013: p22)

In gamification there are some players’ typologization systems (most of them based on Bartle’s test) that divide the action map into four basic cardinal axis which classify the cartography where to place such types: Action – Interaction on one side and World – Players on the other. From these emerged the famous “Killer” (Act on other Players), “Achievers” (Act on the World), “Socializers” (Interact with Players) and “Explorers” (Interact with the World).

Los ocho tipos de jugadores por A. Marczewski
The 8 types of players according to both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Source: A. Marczewski

Other approaches exist such as Marczewski’s to complexify the map by including a third axis to overlap both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations driving us to a new range of players. In Marczewski’s typologies there are up to a total of eight:

  • Philanthropists,
  • Achievers,
  • Free Spirits,
  • Socializers (on the intrinsic motivation side)
  • Self Seekers,
  • Consumers,
  • Exploiters,
  • Networkers (on the extrinsic motivation side).

Usually some contexts as marketing, human resources, etc. appear to avoid these roles related to death and sexuality. The mention of such topics seems to be a taboo and a self-censorship accepted by all of us, maybe because what Sapetti (quoting Callois) tell us about the profane time (work) and the sacred time (game and sexuality): “Roger Caillois, in Man and the Sacred tells us about two kinds of timings: one is the profane time (work time) which is characterized by respect to injunctions; on the other hand there is the sacred time (sexual liberty) […] In this case work time demands a reasonable attitude in which both exasperating and boundless movements which have been released during transgression times (partying or playing games) are not allowed” (Sapetti, 1998). On the other hand Tornos states: “Capitalist Society’s rules have incorporated desire into themselves but stripping its own transgressive capacity. Desire doesn’t happen as a consequence of a law or rule which must be transgressed; desire becomes incorporated to the norm and, therefore, the transgressive experience proves unnecessary.” (Tornos). That means, using sexuality (even when it’s closely linked to the game) on capitalist gamification contexts would be like a transgressive invasion. Marketing has been and is precisely one of the most effective mechanisms to incorporate the desire stripped from transgression.

We can say marketing has become an expert on appealing our most basic instincts –sometimes in a very crude manner- (there is nothing more gratifying than using computers in lingerie, playing arcade games accompanied by a girl in sheer fabric or taking part in a bits threesome) bounding them into a normativity scheme of “polished and superficial morality”. I think this superficial morality is the same which drives some “gamificators” to reject these elements from the majority of the observations about users’ motivation elements on their gamification research cases: breeding, sexualized socialization, self-preservation, instinct and the fear of death… to give some examples

A Libidinal Framework

“To Bataille sexuality and death would not be more than severe moments in a party celebrated by nature with a sense of limitless profligacy against any wish of living (…) and affirming eroticism’s ultimate meaning is death” (Sapetti, 1998).  

Going deeper on intrinsic motivation ideas or instinctive domains, I would like to move these player typologies to the sphere of human’s most primary passions in a kind of “bataillian” turn. According to Bataille we could say that the most important human motivators are related to the Eros (breeding and or sexualized socialization needs) and the Thanatos (the fear of death and the intense desire to live). With this in mind, my objective would be to distribute these typologies in a Libidinal scheme. Because of this, I’ve decided to create two vectors based on two tensions that –according to Bataille- aren’t counterposed but complementary: the Eros and the Thanatos, so this way they become two vertically projected parallels axis on a new Maslow Pyramid cartography: From the fear to death (physiological and primitive self-preservation) to the full enjoyment of life (self-selfness); from desire satisfaction to love building, relationships and environment development contribution.

User/gamers profiling schema according to a research on libido. Source: Flavio Escribano (
User/gamers profiling schema according to a research on libido. Source: Flavio Escribano (

In all other players’ typology models (such a Bartle’s) almost always we start on players’  roles on the upper part of the Maslow’s pyramid, that is, this models assumes everyone’s desires have been satisfied (even the most primary ones) or even that we are not influenced by them, but… Is that really the case? Today we are sexual satisfied but not tomorrow, we have a partner today but not tomorrow, today we have a bad day and want to “share” it with others, etc. On all of these gamification models we assume that all of those Achievers, Free Spirits, Socialisers and Philanthropists (maybe the Exploiters are an exception) have no more than good intentions, that they are politically correct and don’t let basic instincts to drive themselves. In short, we have ascended beyond the Maslow’s pyramid and such our basic and genetic needs are covered and consequently some player’s roles or reactions would never happen. Alternatively it should be noted that our range of decisions brings us up or down depending on how we feel ourselves related to when and what we have to decide, therefore the roles wouldn’t remain changeless.

Other roles and their motivators.

According to this Libidinal Framework I define new six player’s roles. These are not fixed types neither incompatible with Bartler’s or Marczewski’s types. They appears as more exciting to me thanks to the strong motivators and how they could affect our gamification experiences:

  • Survivor. Fear of my Don’t Starve character’s death was an important intrinsic motivator to me. This videogame double deals with death in some ways, as aesthetics: Are you dreaming? Are you on underworld’s fields? The world looks like a kind of hell, half Divine Comedy and half Doom II 3D, interesting and hostile alike. Hunger, pain and sanity threaten your character’s survival which you are determined to save, night after night, at all costs. It is true that Don’t Starve is interesting and wonderfully addictive not only because this survival concept but also because the close identification with your game character and how this identification drives you to work hard in order to save him or her. Possibly the most important extrinsic motivator for survivors is avoiding pain, hunger… whatever the consequences of getting closer to the Fates (death).
  • Spiv. It is a rather positivist profile whose main intrinsic motivator is the pleasure to enjoy the goods offered by the environment. Depending on each archetype, pleasure can derive from making a trip, socializing, having a good drink and food or even good sex. In short: The enjoying and having a good time as modus vivendi. In my opinion the most important extrinsic motivator for this dionysiacal profile (to return to our Bataillain’s references) could be to show off its outings.
  • Creator. The most intrinsic motivator of this profile is to make things grow: knowledge, life, relationships, etc. Some people strongly need to grow any terrain ready to be fertilized. It is about this kind of people who establish strong links among their friends, fill their balcony with flowerpots… someone who is even capable of rejecting a Farm Ville participation invitation… Its way to avoid death is not about satisfying its own needs but about satisfying others, this is, to generate life around it. To obtain some crowd/social recognition to its labour could be this profile’s extrinsic motivation.
  • Lover. Here it is a profile whose most important intrinsic motivation is to satisfy its own sexual needs (not the social ones).  Badoo with 54mill active users, Match with 24mill or Tinder with more than 10mill app downloads are solid evidence of how intrinsic and powerful the motivation to find a bedroom partner is.  In general users are not “loyal” to only one of these apps but rather use several of them to maximize the probabilities of an encounter or, once one of them is proben as useful (generally moving to a premium account) the promiscuity of apps usage ends. It is not unusual to find complaints in MMORPGs (where 70% of female players change their avatar gender to male in order to not feel themselves harassed) about the way this sexual impulse is expressed. As an extrinsic motivator we would find the attempt to avoid the unease resulting on not having satisfied these inner impulses.
  • Emotional. People who wish to find a couple/partner with a higher level of compromise than lovers, they are capable to bet much more resources, efforts and time to achieve it. As matching/dating apps users they make clear that they are not looking for any one-night-affair. They also appear as active users on F2F kind-of apps like MeetUp, cultural events, sports, etc. They try to get the chance to find a partner  thanks to their social events participation. To show off their new partner could be in particular one of the strongest extrinsic motivators.
  • Romantics. This profile “players” want to build an Ideal of Love, to enrich their actual relationship with some new experiences. Between and Couple, having around 1-5mill of downloads, are apps to keep in touch with your partner in order to manage all those exciting everyday life troubles’ as… Doing the shopping, joint expenses, drink beers with friends at meetups, etc. It is interesting how much energy is used to find a partner (54mill Badoo users) in comparison to sustain or enrich relationships (Between with barely 5 mill).
User/gamers profiling table according to a research on libido. Source: Flavio Escribano (
User/gamers profiling table according to a research on libido. Source: Flavio Escribano (


“Survival instinct impels the human being to seek refuge into the discontinuity (to accept prohibitions and repress desire); but the human being strives to continuity, where the sovereign being is revealed, free of ties” (Tornos)

In my opinion one unique player can adopt some different profiles or evolve according to its desires, circumstances or needs. Even when is almost obvious that we -developed world lucky ones who enjoy gamification kindnesses- often have the base of our Maslow’s pyramid of needs covered, we had not to underestimate the use of components related to our most basic instincts to design some aesthetic experiences into our gamification designs: survival dynamics, life enjoyment, creation, sexualization, etc. Alternatively seems that motivators with more impact are indeed related to our most primary/lower instincts (in the pyramid’s base).

Some data such as the number of users searching affair/relationship partners in comparison with users who want to cultivate more elaborate relationships suggest that maybe it is needed to activate other kind of more complex –and maybe extrinsic- motivators, due to assuming more active roles through an intrinsic manner takes us out from the comfort zone  we usually like to stay on (the medium-bottom part of the pyramid, the physiological, protection and socialization needs). Climb the Eros and Thanatos pyramid is harder than staying in the base. Some effort, energy, creativity, communication… are needed to climb, that indicates us that basic intrinsic motivators of fear of death or having sex needs are more powerful at the base and become weaker as we go up.


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