I am taking a survey of sorts based on something Shamus and I have been discussing off and on for years and now more recently thanks to James Portnow’s panel “The Genre Divide” at PAX East this year.
Shamus and I have spent a lot of time talking about gamer personality and why people play games. Each individual plays games for a variety of reasons and plays different games for different reasons. What I am trying to come up with is a basic list of reasons people play games (video and unplugged).
Mr. Portnow had a decent list of about 12 reasons which had been developed by a group of academics. I don’t have that list because: a. I forgot to write it down, b.we had to leave early to get to another panel, c. the panel is not available online, and d. I can’t find the paper the list came from. Feasibly I could contact Mr. Portnow and ask but instead I would like to continue with the list that Shamus and I already have combined with what we can put together here with your help (and your friends– this is where you get to ask others to come here and respond.) This way I can clarify my list and make it more dynamic and possibly even useful (which is my goal.)
Here is the list so far (no game names because everyone plays for different reasons. Instead, I want to focus on why you play a specific game. Instead of thinking about what type of game it is think about why YOU play it. Most people play for fun. My question is: what makes it fun for you?):
Escape: Pretending to be someone else or getting to place yourself in a world or situation you couldn’t do in real life. You see this a lot in dating sims or games where you get to be a fantasy creature or live in a fantasy world. This could also apply to any time your character is in a situation you personally couldn’t be in and which you put yourself into personally.
Story: Treating a game as an interactive story to be worked through rather than just something to read or watch like a movie or book. This includes people who love using a walk thru so they can just go through the game or even those who enjoy watching a game over someone else’s shoulder.
Goal: The urge to beat a specific challenge or set goals and overcome them. This can be the arbitrary ones set by the game designers or ones set by the individual. Arbitrary goals set by designers could include saving the princess or collecting all the stars. Personal goals could be deciding to beat all the levels in a game with the top score or getting all the power ups. This also includes people who set out to “break the game”.
God Complex: The urge to create something– applies to sandbox games as well as simulation type games but also to any game that lets you play god. Sandbox games are good for this but also simulation games.
Aesthetics: This can include sound effects, visuals, anything you sense or which spawns a specific feeling. Some people adore horror for the feeling it creates, others adore highly stylized art and music, still others prefer lifelike imagery and the more realistic or movie like the better.
Comfort: Some just like the same old and don’t like new things. Others want to relive an old favorite for the sake of the feeling it gives us. Going back to replay favorite games or levels or finding a game similar to a loved game. This includes nostalgia playing, playing sequels (if you are playing for that same old feeling and not for continued story), or going back to a game when you are feeling a certain way because it comforts you.
Achievement: Some people play not just for goals or overcoming a challenge but specifically for a feeling of achievement. Often this is the person who loves a specific type of game because that is what they are good at. It also includes those who just want to unlock all the achievements because it makes them feel good. People who do 4square fall into this category. 🙂
Reflex: Any games that makes you work either physically or mentally, they tickle the brain or get your body moving. Puzzle games fall in this but so do fighting games and Wii and Kinnect games that make you move. These people play certain types of puzzle games in order to get their brain working a certain way or certain exercise games to get their body moving.
Explore: The ability to see and do new things, to open up new sections of a map or new levels. This is the urge to see what comes next and what can I find.
Compete: Playing against others (or against the computer). These are usually the people who love PvP but occasionally you will find someone who just loves beating the computer. Sports games fall into this one as well.
Social (now broken into Social and Bonding): Playing for social interaction (and I would say this too could include npcs) . Includes those who play MMO’s to be with their friends, those who play social games and want you to be their neighbor or are constantly sending requests.
Bonding: Playing in order to be close to someone. This would include playing online with people you know or playing on a couch side by side, and group play– one person controlling and the other helping make decisions.
Risk: This can take the form of gambling but also any time the player just enjoys the randomness of a situation or game. This sort of game play includes most card games like solitaire, any gambling type game, any grab bag events in game.
Added the following:
Zen: Playing in order to get in the zone. Usually involves playing something that you have no real goal, you just want to play and do and not think. Often the game play can be a background noise to other things going on in the room.
Self-expression: This would include people who spend more time with the character design than the actual game as well as people who behave in deliberate ways within the game in order to express themselves. Also would include those who always design characters that think and do the same way they think and do.
Craft: Playing in order to keep up on some element of a game. This includes playing a game in order to be able to talk about said game with others in a coherent manner and people who produce content, whether writing, art, videos, or games themselves, playing in order to keep up on what is out there.
Optimization: Playing for the urge to organize or find the best path or solution to any given problem. This includes micromanagement.
Empowerment: Playing in order to be the strongest or kill or whatever said game allows. Mindless vilence fall sinto this category.
Novelty: Playing something because it is new whether just a new game or a new experience.
Fandom: Playing a game because you like the same content from another medium. This would include video games of card games, pen and paper games, books, movies.
*Most people play for many reasons. For the most part there are usually 3-4 primary reasons and 3 secondary and then elements that are “meh” or even disliked or hated. What I am looking for is why individuals think they play in order to look for patterns (which I am already noticing). And lots of words is understandable– we are analyzing WHY.
Now my questions to you:
Why do YOU play?
Which elements do you not like (had hate but apparently that is too strong for you all. :))?
Are there any reasons to play I am missing?
Anything you would rephrase or add to?
There are several elements that could be divided into two– if so what would you call them?