Gamer Motivation Profiles – The Usefulness or Lack Thereof (Or What I Say is Not What I Do)

Quantic Foundry’s Gamer Motivation Profile has been making its rounds among our common blogging circle lately.

I followed the hyperlink trail as far back as I could, and here’s the list of participants (if I missed anyone inadvertently, apologies):

As an excuse to write a blog post, let me be the first to say that it is -extremely- useful. (After all, I’m doing it too.)

As a nuanced look at various gamer motivations, discussed more in depth than pithier summaries like Bartle or playing card suits (Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds and Spades – Kingdom of Loathing players especially loved to describe themselves as spades), GNS Theory or Nicole Lazzaro’s 4 Keys 2 Fun, I’d also say that the Gamer Motivation Profile has its place. After all, it’s built on Nick Yee’s extremely extensive Daedalus Project.

(For an extensive listing of more than a dozen ways to categorize people and gamers, check out Bart Stewart’s Gamasutra article on Personality and Play Styles. I disagree with his hopeful Unified Model as too much of an oversimplification, but he definitely has a broad survey list in his appendix and references.)

As a way to get data to various game companies (just how common is a preference for say, Competition across the gaming landscape, and how common is it for players who say they play our game? aka Should we cater to them?), it’s probably somewhat useful as well, but self-selecting as presumably more core and hardcore players are going to hear about the profile’s existence as opposed to casual gamers. I suppose that’s why they ask participants this from the get go, so they can at least break it up into self-reported categories.

Of course, players repeatedly taking this survey may end up skewing the results somewhat. Or maybe everyone retakes this anyway, so it balances out in the end. Who knows.

What I’ve found considerably less useful is the takeaways for individual players themselves. It seems to be either “Um, yes, I knew this already. I told you about it” or “Well, it changes based on time and what game I’m playing, you know?”

On a broad sweeping scale, if you scan through the list of bloggers above, the main moral of the story seems to be that we all have distinctly different, individualized profiles, possibly only sharing one or a few points in common.

Yet we might be playing the same games, despite our distinctly different motivations.

Or we might play a game that -seems- good for the point in question, but we find we don’t like it because of other reasons.

To say nothing of how these self-reported preferences might change over time.

Case in point, myself.

I found an ancient link back to when I took this in 2018.

Me in 2018, according to the profile.

(Thank goodness I write things down and never throw things away, eh? Unfortunately I’m not organized enough to find anything older. I’m sure I’ve done this previously before 2018, possibly when gamerDNA still existed as a website.)

Me in 2020, according to the profile.

Okay, some things never change. I’m always going to be a grumpy, asocial, introverted hermit that simply values the need for playing with others on a really low scale in terms of personal motivation.

I’m never going to -like- “failing missions repeatedly in games like Dark Souls because they know it’s the only way they’l’l master the game” and you will catch me selecting Insane and higher difficulty levels over my dead body. I don’t think I’ve ever played a Civilization game beyond Settler or Chieftain. Who needs that kind of masochism when I can just overrun the world as Germany and tell a great story while doing so?

Yet when you compare Endgame Viable’s profile with mine, you’ll never guess that I’m the insane one doing raids in GW2 since 2015 (oh my god, has it been nearly five years now?) given his 89% challenge motivation as compared with my 7%.

Apparently, GW2 contains way too much action for him, while he’s happily gone through Sekiro and Dark Souls (me, I’m still waiting for a Humble Bundle offer for DS3 and Sekiro and I can’t remember where I stopped in Dark Souls 1. DS2 doesn’t register, I may not have started it yet.)

Apparently my stronger need for completion made me raid in GW2 (begrudging most of the journey, mind you, except for, presumably, when I can blow stuff up and set things on fire without utilizing too much brain power to overwhelm my lack of need for challenge).

You’d think that, except that I -say- I value completion, and I’ve left a whole bunch of achievements undone since the Path of Fire expansion and I’ve pretty much given up on that front. I might -try- doing a few chievos here and there, but the quantity and difficulty/cost of tasks has overwhelmed me (not motivated by challenge?) and a lack of confidence and morale in the long term plan of the company has sapped away motivation in general (now wherever can I fit -that- into the profile?)

Not too much unchanged is the Discovery component. That’s one of those “duh” things. Bartle could have told you that I’m an Explorer through and through.

I have spontaneously map-broken and swum downwards in the blackness of the void for 3000+ units (a journey that takes about 20-30 min of pressing the “descend” key to swim down) just to find another GW2 player who was challenging others to find him. His tag was in the center of Lake Mourn in Hoelbrak. He was obviously way below it.

Just passing through. Blub blub.

It wasn’t for the prize he was offering. Luckily, I got there to find one player had arrived before me, so I wouldn’t have to politely refuse the coin. I just wanted to make sure that I -knew- where he was and that I could find him, and prove it to myself.

Of all the people in Hoelbrak, and there were many, it’s a racial city after all, and of the small percentage that were motivated (most by $$$ or the challenge or the competition) to look for this person, two of us got there in the end. These three? Explorers. Through and through. Discovery is the reward. We need to find things. Find things out. Find you. That’s what we do.

I have high Destruction motivations. Still a digital pyromaniac. Things go bang and phwoosh, and I’m happy. I have simple needs in that respect. Oddly, I haven’t played an FPS in ages. They’ve all gone online and become too competitively multiplayer and reliant on cooperative teamwork. I’m sure I’ll like the singleplayer Doom remakes when I get to them, but they haven’t turned up on a Humble Bundle yet, have they? #patientgaming.

The biggest movers over time are Excitement and Fantasy. (Design went up slightly. I attribute it to playing a bit more Minecraft these days.)

Excitement is dubious. This is one of those that is likely to vacillate on any given day. I like action-oriented games, sure. I like them better with a dodge key. I have played  AaAaAA!!! – A Reckless Disregard for Gravity and enjoyed the adrenaline rush of falling. I also play turn-based roguelikes, turn-based strategy games, and calm zen-like puzzlers (of which, may I strongly recommend Evergarden, one of those Humble Bundle gems.)

Fantasy is odd. Perhaps I wasn’t feeling it in 2018. It might have been a grumpy year. Perhaps over time I’ve come to recognize a stronger need for immersion and stories in myself, as visible in this blog.

I’ve explained my understanding of Nick Yee’s immersion component over in a comment at Endgame Viable, but I’ll re-quote myself here:

The difference is this: I rarely play “myself” in a game. People like, say, Belghast will always put themselves as a person into the game. All his characters are Bel something or other. Bearded, mustached Bel. For me, I am rarely just Jeromai unless I feel I need to be identified. Every character has a different name, possibly a different personality and backstory. I end up more serious and aggressive playing a charr, whereas I get seriously more sarcastic and snarky when I play asura characters.

When I play a game like Skyrim or Fallout, I will choose differently based on the name and personality of my characters, and not what “I” as the player might want. The warrior two-handed axe-wielding werewolf lady is definitely joining the Companions (warrior guild), whereas the male sneaky vampire mage is destined for Winterhold. The player playing themselves might just join both, because hey, access to all perks, and see both stories, why not? See the difference?

So I’d say fantasy at 80% is probably more accurate. I mean, I’ve told you all stories about my asura ranger before, and that’s just ONE character.

(I lied, here’s my guardian and my warrior because I’m that nuisance who wants to tell you all about their D&D character(s) while you smile and nod and do your best to run away.)

The comparatively low Story motivation perplexes me.

I mean, I thought I was one of the few crazies out there who bother with interaction fiction, Choice of Games, visual novels, adventure games (anything by Wadjet Eye, play ’em *cough* Unavowed *cough* and the Blackwell series) and other narrative-heavy indie games out there like 80 Days, Cultist Simulator, etc.

I can only conclude that either Story means something else in this survey (maybe people who rate this highly want game designers to tell them a cinematic and elaborate story campaign over multiple series?) Are we talking about the Story as told to us by someone else, or the Story that we create as players?

Or maybe there is so much Story wrapped around every single game out there that it has become rather meaningless as a word. Or there are a lot MORE people out there rating and motivated by experiencing a STORY even higher than I.

Perhaps I’m less motivated by someone else’s storytelling because I can tell myself pretty good stories of my own? Who knows what this dang profile means?

So yeah, here’s another gamer’s profile, to add to the list of dozens of others. How useful is it going to be in the end?

I could already tell you qualitatively that there are a lot of people out there who like competitive games, while at the same time, there are also a lot of people who are turned off by competition. Great, shall we make a competitive game or shall we not?

Everybody loves a story! Let’s put one (or a dozen in our games!) Enter all the bitching and whining about how they could do better and what a crappy story this game has. *cough youknowwhichgameImean cough*

For self-understanding and self-assessment, sure, I guess it’s okay.

As a blog post excuse though, it’s awesome.

3 thoughts on “Gamer Motivation Profiles – The Usefulness or Lack Thereof (Or What I Say is Not What I Do)

  1. I did this way back when (*cough* OK, September last year) off the back of Angie’s tag and I remember there being a lot of confusion over what the heck things meant on this danged survey back then, too.

    Despite having done it so recently in the past… Sort of tempted to rejoin the bandwagon and do it again anyway. 😉

    In any case, they do actually have a reference deck on what the heck things mean, right here:

    They also define the broad groupings or clusterings of motivations too which is also interesting, and not something I really delved into last time.

    In any case, the ‘Story’ spectrum here suggests that those with high ratings in this area have a tendency to prefer scripted stories — with elaborate narrative arcs and large casts of characters with their own motive/personality.

    Rating low on this scale indicates a preference more for blank canvas style games, where possibly you can generate your own stories as emergent from the gameplay itself.

    It does look like you have a mix of those preferences, so likely why it has placed you more in the midground rather than firmly at one end or the other.


    1. Oh, that would make a helluva lot more sense then. I was going by the explanations they gave after taking the survey, which were a bit skimpy regarding what the other end of the scale meant.

      That slide you linked is much more clear. In that case, a preference leaning towards open ended stories is very much more my cup of tea, though I’m open to both.

      Liked by 1 person

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