A Gamer Survey for YOU

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?


75 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Heather
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 12:57:28

    Personally, my primary ones are Goals,Story, and Aesthetics with a bit of Comfort and Explore thrown in. Which would be why this site is called Game-Story-Art.


  2. Mari Menix
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 13:26:16

    I play a lot of different games for different reasons. Reasons for playing include: story, goal-setting and fulfillment, God complex, achievement, reflex, and exploration. Interestingly, I play a lot of card-type games but I do it more for reflex and achievement than for the risk involved.

    Social interaction is a minor reason for playing for me in certain types of games but it’s very specific and limited. I don’t like just logging into an MMO and looking around for new friends. I’d rather play LAN style with established friends, even with MMOs and other internet-online games. I really only enjoy social, though, when combined with exploration and/or story and even then, I value cooperative play over competitive. So you’re not likely to find me playing Super Mario Brothers with a friend so much as Guild Wars.

    I’m not sure if this is more competition or achievement but I frequently play games to beat myself. I love seeing if I can set a new high score personal record. Even in games with global high-score tables, I play more against my personal score than against others on the table.

    Also, a need that might tie in with some you mentioned but isn’t specifically mentioned is that I game because of a craving for order and organization. I know it sounds weird but half the fun of many games for me is sorting, ordering, listing, etc. It ties in to God complex gaming in a way but it’s less of a need to create and more of a need to control. One of my favorite parts of Minecraft is organizing the contents of chests and storage rooms (and yes, that is sick, but it’s ok). I sometimes compulsively mine simply to generate another stack of items because I need one more stack to finish out a chest. The pleasure isn’t in having the item, it’s in having a perfectly filled chest. That also ties into achievement gaming and goal-oriented gaming. It feels “weird” to leave one item off of the “100% completion” table I create. Also, in simulation games it shows up as building unnecessary things in certain areas to create “symmetry” in the game world. In civilization-building games instead of using each city to do what they do best, I build everything in every city, even unnecessarily, because it bugs me to have one city with a building and not another.

    I’m not sure there’s a game element that I really hate. I may not notice some elements or may deliberately ignore them (for instance, I frequently turn off sound on my games, even when they feature stunning music or hugely expensive voice acting) but I can’t think what I hate.


    • Heather
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 13:43:52

      Interesting , yes. I think the list needs some sort of “Control” or “Organization” group for those who want to get everything just so. Also I would say a lot of what you describe as competition or possibly achievement would really be “Goal” — you have goals you want to reach that are specific to you. I am very goal focused in many types of games, except strangely enough Puzzle games which I prefer to play to just play except for occasionally social competition (mostly trying to beat my brother at Angry Birds). I do play socially but I am a side by side on the couch type of social gamer whereas Rachel PLAYS GAMES SOCIALLY– she games in order to be with her friends.


  3. GarrickW
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 13:54:09

    1. Why do YOU play?

    Of the reasons listed here, several apply. Frequently: Story, God Complex, Explore. Occasionally: Aesthetics, Comfort.

    I’m on the fence about Compete. I really like playing skirmish or random map RTS games against the AI, for instance, but not on an extremely challenging level – just enough to keep me busy and enjoy the flow of the game, but not enough that I’m panicking trying to get things to work. I don’t like the competition, but I like what the competition enables – that sort of zen-like flow state. And in generally I deeply, deeply dislike PvP of all stripes.

    2. Which elements do you HATE?

    This is kind of hard. Do you mean things that will actively turn me off a game, or things that hold zero interest for me whatsoever and don’t contribute to positive experiences?

    Actively turn me off: Reflex, Compete (when versus players), Social (unless it’s optional and I get to decide exactly who I play with).

    No interest: Goal, Achievement

    Again, on the fence here about one – Risk. If it’s a highly complex system, I’m not really averse to if (like the Civilization games, for instance), even if I get overwhelmed by the complexity. I don’t like highly *random* systems much, however.

    3. Are there any reasons to play I am missing?

    As I said above, I like to play RTS games against the AI because they get me into a zone where I’m no longer focusing on the details but rather on the broad, impressionistic flow of the gameplay. I’m not sure where you would set that in.

    Also, I get there are a lot of people who play for sh*ts and giggles, be it messing with physics systems, pranking/griefing players, abusing the AI… I myself have occasionally opened up the console in some games to spawn random monsters in towns, or else turned on cheat codes in GTA or committed wanton acts of violence in SimCity. Maybe that fits into God Complex, but it seems to be an interest of its own.

    4. Anything you would rephrase or add to?

    Nothing too salient.

    5. There are several elements that could be divided into two– if so what would you call them?

    I would differentiate, in Social, between getting to know new people/interacting with strangers on the one hand (which I don’t like), and using a game as something to do within a pre-existing relationship, such as family, a partner, or friends from beyond the game (which I like). Maybe call them Connecting and Bonding, respectively?

    Also, I really think “Story” should distinguish between actively determining the course of a story of some kind (which could encompass dialog trees as well as player-driven narrative and role-play), and passively enjoying a story. How about Roleplay and Spectatorship?

    I suppose I could figure distinctions in all cases, but those are the ones that jump out at me the most.


    • Heather
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 14:00:34

      Very interesting. As far as hate goes I guess I do mean things you avoid or things that kind of bug you. I am not big on competition (except with siblings) and I don’t like social in terms of meeting new people but do like playing games socially with friends and family.

      I agree Social should be broken up into element. That is interesting about story– it hadn’t occurred to me because I like both aspects that you mention.

      And Breaking the game should definitely be in there. (Though maybe worded differently.) One of my kids is a game breaker. She loves to test the limits of it and see what she can do outside of the box the designers intended.


      • Mari Menix
        Apr 19, 2012 @ 16:23:33

        I mentally lump “game breaking” into achievement. It’s a different kind of achievement than the designers “intend” but there’s a satisfaction involved in achieving the destruction of a game engine.

      • Heather
        Apr 19, 2012 @ 16:38:15

        Ooo, very true. Or possibly into Goal– your goal being to break the game. Hmmm.

    • Heather
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 14:05:17

      I wonder if by zone you mean that it is a zen like experience where you can stop focusing and just relax? Maybe a classification called “Relax” or “Zen” where the player games in order to not think and just do? Kind of a subset of Escapism in my mind but maybe not.


      • GarrickW
        Apr 19, 2012 @ 14:23:22

        Oops, sorry, I started a new thread down there. In the interests of tidiness, you can delete that one and keep this one instead!

        Yeah, that sounds about right – kind of like gardening. It takes effort, but it’s a sort of semiconscious effort that doesn’t require focused, sharpened mental attention. It could be a kind of Escapism, although of a different kind to the make-believe sort of Escapism that you get in other games. Maybe another two subcategories!

        I also like both playing and enjoying a story, but I tend to like them in different moods, or maybe modes, so I see a difference, I suppose.

        Anyway, this is an interesting post! I’d be curious to see what a representative sample of the gaming population would say.

      • Heather
        Apr 19, 2012 @ 14:46:18

        I am pondering creating subcategories for the main categories for differentiation OR making new ones. Might be good to have fewer simpler general categories then more complex subcategories for those who like that sort of thing.

        I do that sort of escapism as well– it is one of the reason I like playing puzzle games in zen mode.

      • Heather
        Apr 19, 2012 @ 14:47:36

        I am really hoping it gets more response because I too am VERY interested in this (as well as Shamus. This is something we often discuss and we think that if people recognize WHY they play it will help them make better choices about which games TO play.) But first I need to work out the categories. 🙂

    • Heather
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 23:12:42

      Hmm, I missed the “Role Play ” vs Spectatorship…. need to consider that one.


  4. hborrgg
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 14:48:01

    1. Biggest one by far would probably be the god complex BECAUSE I AM G-, partly because I like the control, I like the simulation, I like to develop and experiment with my own theories, but also because I feel that with enough control I could probably fill in most of the other elements on my own as needed. Make my own challenges, make my own stories, etc.

    2. None in particular, I’m not a fan of multiplayer but I loved playing SW Battlefront with the bots. I think any game that seems intentionally too limiting with any of the factors. Such as Battlefield games intentionally roping off maps and weapons as “multiplayer only.”

    5. My own theory (which still needs some refinement) puts them on a scale between “active experience” and “passive experience” but not meaning exactly that (I also need to come up with some better names). It’s not “active” as in work but active as in shaping the experience yourself as opposed to merely absorbing what the designer crafted for you. It’s sort of “the best story is the one you come up with yourself” vs. “hearing an awesome story from someone else’s imagination,” or “playing with toys” vs “reading a book or watching a movie,” the utter randomness and freedom of Minecraft vs a finely crafted experience like Portal.


    • Heather
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 15:07:57

      1. Very interesting. That is how Shamus is. For me, I like to see the story that the designer intended but want to play choosing my own goals within those confines.

      2. So hate railroading?

      5. Interesting. See for me that would depend solely on the type of game being played. Because I play for aesthetics (the music of Animal Crossing is a comfort thing for me, and I love the art of FFVIII and Harvest Moon which brings me back repeatedly) those don’t really apply. I do all the things you list but it depends on the game type and style. I think that says a lot about why YOU play that you are thinking that way. I like story worlds but I also like worlds I can shape myself. That said I call that particular theory (because I have considered it) content producer vs. content consumer. I do tend to wards content consumer in many things while Shamus and the kids tend towards content creator.


      • hborrgg
        Apr 19, 2012 @ 15:59:00

        Well, and this is why I think this distinction is in a whole other class than the others, like many people I do like the story ‘if’ it’s the right kind, I do like the aesthetic ‘if’ it’s the right kind, i like the challenge and risk and reward ‘if’ it’s the right kind. And if any of those things don’t fit my definition of right then I’ll take the freedom to fix it instead.

        There are pros and cons to either side of course. With the “passive” title i sort of make it sound like people who like stories are lazy, but in many ways those who like to step out of their comfort zones are being far mor open minded and receptive than I am.
        “Expressive vs Receptive” would that be a better name for it?

      • Heather
        Apr 19, 2012 @ 16:31:29

        Ah yes, I see. That makes sense. I am super picky about style so a style or genre will completely sell me on something I wouldn’t ordinarily play game mechanics wise. This is why I think gamer personality alone can’t predict. Frankly you need 3 levels of information (I have another post about this that I am working on but…) I believe you need the information on game mechanics that the current game genre system gives you, you need the current movie and book genre system (or an adaption of it) AND you need to know a bit about yourself and why you game. (Gamer personality.)

        I despise war stories/games. I have nothing against it it just really really isn’t my thing and if the art or story is set in a war then I am not interested. On the other hand I adore 1920’s-1950’s stories/art and if war is the background but not the story then I will love it. A good example is I love Tower Defense games. They tickle my brain. That said Shamus just got iBomber recently and I am NOT INTERESTED. Ooo, tower defense ga… oh, never mind.

  5. Heather
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 14:52:36

    Should add “Self-expression”.


  6. beardiemcwarren
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 16:15:42

    Why do YOU play?

    I find that story is the driving factor for me. I have to have a reason to care. I can play an action game for a while but if I don’t care about the characters or the story I’ll likely never finish the game. Note that this can also apply to games where you create your own story as well.

    Escape would be my second reason, games are a great way to just get away from the pressures of the world for a bit.

    Which elements do you HATE?

    Hate is a strong word but I’m not a big fan of direct competition in games. Multiplayer has rarely held my interest for very long and I could never stand playing on a PvP server in MMOs.

    I’ve also never been a big fan of the social aspects of gaming. This is mostly because I’ve never been very good at integrating myself into an online community so I always feel a bit left out. I think I’m getting better at it but I still don’t know that I could ever fully integrate myself into a guild or be really present in a multiplayer shooter.

    There are several elements that could be divided into two– if so what would you call them?

    I’d say that social could be split into social and bonding, I’d consider more of a personal bonding experience to play a game in person with someone I know that a purely social experience like an MMO where you have to interact with strangers a lot of the time.


    • Heather
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 16:35:36

      I totally agree about the PvP thing and know this is a big thing for Shamus as well.

      Interesting. I really in the end Social really needs to be clarified into social and bonding and I agree.


  7. Ben
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 16:23:00

    All of the above 🙂 different games for different reasons…

    Here’s a few additional ideas:
    One of the biggest games within World of Warcraft is raiding, which requires a high level of coordination between 10-25 people to accomplish goals in the game, so it’s sort of a combination of social/goal/achievement. It requires interesting logistics, skills, and is a triumph to complete, not as an individual, but as a group, which adds a whole different feeling to it.

    Here’s a slightly wacky reason: keeping up with pro esports. I play Starcraft 2, but I am also a huge fan of watching pro Starcraft 2 matches. Playing the game is fun on its own, but one benefit of playing is that I have a better understanding of the high-level games I watch, and, for example, I can give very insightful analysis when watching pro games with friends.


    • Heather
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 16:37:31

      It sounds like you are saying that a lot of it for you is social. I would say keeping up with esports would also be social. Though that might also fall under a new category– craft maybe. I know Shamus plays a lot of games that he might not choose for his craft (writing and developing).


  8. scowdich
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 16:39:26

    Why do I play? I’ll go with a range – escape, story, goal, aesthetic, reflex, achievement, and explore are practically equal for me. Different games fulfill different sets of these (Borderlands, for instance, which I’m playing now, fills escape, goal, reflex, achievement, and some aesthetic, while Alan Wake, my previous game, was primarily story, with aesthetic and explore as the main secondary characteristics).

    Hate? Hate’s a strong word. I don’t like competing much – when I play Left 4 Dead 2, it’s always co-op campaign, and never Versus. I’m sort of indifferent toward “god complex” games – games where you’re basically omnipotent offer little challenge, unless you love micromanagement. One type of game I really don’t like is MMOs – I’ve never really seen an MMO with story and graphics compelling enough to make me pay for it, over and over, for years. I like to pay once for games and have them forever, and MMOs typically are the opposite of that.

    Anything missing? Nothing comes to mind.


  9. arron
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 16:45:40

    Why do YOU play?

    To experience, to understand, to enjoy the game on offer. I like games that allow you to solve challenges, present you with novel experiences or to create things. As a scientist and a programmer, I like to fit things together and try different solutions to the same problem. I tend to enjoy games like Fallout 3, System Shock/Bioshock games, Deus Ex, Skyrim and creative games like Minecraft.

    So on your scale of elements – God complex, Escape, Story, Goal, Aesthetics, Reflex, Explore

    Which elements do you HATE?

    The sort of game genres where you just drive around a track, or mindlessly shoot things as directed by some mission controller like a lot of the modern FPSes. Casual games where you’re basically clicking endlessly to progress slowly up a achievement tree. I don’t have that kind of time or patience for useless achievements. Not a fan of racing games, mindless FPS shooters like Call of Duty, Social games and most stuff that hasn’t got a lot of imagination behind it.

    So on your scale : Comfort, Social, Achievement

    Are there any reasons to play I am missing?

    Understanding – I play games like an experiment to determine how the game mechanics works, or to find out how I feel in various situations that I find myself in. I do quite like finding glitches in games to find places that the designer hadn’t previously considered you could reach. Most games are driven by rules and situations and I like to work out what those rules are. Like trying to work out how the enemy AI works so it can be counteracted effectively.

    It’s interesting how the choices that I would choose in real life will affect the situation I find myself in. What happens if I play like someone isn’t me? So freedom in games like sandbox games or RPG hybrids can change myself or routes through the game tend to the ones that appeal to me.

    There are several elements that could be divided into two– if so what would you call them?

    Risk can be separated into gambling and strategy. I consider that a game with both an element of chance and skill can have Risk, but gambling is not the same as a game where you’re playing a military simulation. I’d do the latter if the mechanics are interesting, but I’d never do a gambling entertainment.

    Comfort is also not a good example. I don’t play sequels to games because I’m interested in reliving an old experience. I’m interested in continuation of a story with new mechanics and game changer experiences. Fallout NV and System Shock II are not the same as the original games. So Retro/Flashback is “playing the past” and “Serial Playing” is playing through the games in a series.

    Social is also another one that needs changing or splitting. I tend to play co-op with people I know on some games like Portal II, but I’d never play one of those awful FARMCITYRPGSCRABBLE games on Facebook. I’m more interested in cooperating with people with different abilities or solving problems to get through something like Portal 2 co-op, but casual stuff like Draw Together can just go away.


    • Heather
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 17:15:07

      I just added “Optimization” though Shamus and I were debating on whether it should be Optimization or Engineering. Optimization might include what you are talking about but maybe not. It could also fall under Goals– you have a personal goal of finding glitches or figuring out the best route. In fact I suspect that is what it is since I know Goals is a huge one for me and I love all the elements you just mentioned.

      Gambling and strategy: Hmm, I think risk and gambling might work since they are different to some extent but I don’t think strategy works in that same category. Strategy would be planning ahead and risk would be dealing with the possible outcomes during a strategy situation.

      I used sequels as an example because I know some who DO play sequels looking for old gameplay. Others play sequals looking for continuation of story. So really it is my example that is poorly explained not the element itself.

      A lot of your objections here are mixing up game mechanics (current game genres) with gamer personality which is what I am talking about here. Game mechanics and what people like is a whole ‘nother post. As I say in another comment there are actually three aspects that I think need to be addressed for a person to choose a game– gamer personality (why you play games), game mechanics (currently known as game genre), and real genre (setting, plot type, etc– similar to book and movie genre). When you combine those three aspects you get why a person who enjoys Mass Effect doesn’t get into Harvest Moon and visa verse– they actually have similar game play elements and even similar potential for personality types (lots of goals, story, aesthetics) but they appeal to very different people because of their real genre and style.


      • arron
        Apr 19, 2012 @ 19:28:25

        I think the sorts of games that I predominately enjoy playing are those which have an immersive depth of experience rather than based on simple excitement. I think that depth transcends genres. Take Half Life 2 for example. Watching the Spoiler Warning episodes sort of solidified how I felt about that game. The environmental narrative that doesn’t spoon-feed the player, the range of gameplay learning through the elements included in the map and the experience of being in a place which had gone seriously wrong such that humanity itself was stripped of assets and turned into tools of oppression and labour. And you’re not told to go from A to B killing X along the way. At the end of the day, it’s just a FPS, but if you take out all the environmental narrative and sense of freedom, it would be just a empty maze of areas where you just shoot things to get to the next place you shoot things. Many games are a collection of set pieces where killing bad guys is how one progresses from one set piece to another.

        There are many games that I like which one can’t really put in a genre but they tick several of the categories you outlined above. One of these is Uplink (an Introversion Game). Not sure if you’ve played it, but you can get an idea of how it works here:

        Another is this one here. http://0x10c.com/ where you’re stuck on a burned out spaceship in a universe where most of the stars have burned out, and most planets are cold hard frozen bodies in a sea of collapsed stars. I don’t know what to call it gamewise, but the potential depth of experience is enough to make me salivate to how it might turn out. It ticks all my boxes for atmosphere, creativity, storytelling and problem solving.

        Both of these are completely different to anything that I’ve played before, and I’m interested in these because they offer a completely novel immersive experience off the mainstream whilst not being a simplistic “ghetto game” that doesn’t have that depth.

        I think that you’ve got a difficult job trying to find categories to fit all these things as despite some common ground, there’s a lot of difference between responders and why they play games. I’ve no idea whether I’m unique or a category. It’s like a twenty sided dice. Depending on which side of the dice you’re looking at, you’ll see different numbers from someone sitting opposite you..but the face that is upwards will be the same for both of you. Good luck!

      • Heather
        Apr 19, 2012 @ 23:22:29

        I agree and I am not talking about genres. Genres in video games are game mechanics based. Real genres would be like those in movies and include setting, plot, style like zombie versus horror versus romance.

        Though maybe I need a category for novelty. That is what it sounds like you are saying and you are absolutely right– that is one that I forgot.

        And I agree– people are different, but just like you can fit people into various personality types I see certain patterns in gaming and those are what I am looking for. Some of the categories may get renamed or rephrased or adjusted but already people are falling into very similar patterns.

  10. Irridium
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 17:00:05

    1. Why do you play?

    For a bunch of reasons, I suppose. From your list I play for: story (all games), goals (all, again. Both designer-made and player-made), god complex (grand strategy like the Civilization games, Mount and Blade series, and RTS games), Comfort (mainly older games from my childhood), and explore (games like The Elder Scrolls and most RPG’s fall into this. Nothing I like more than exploring a new world full of new people and cultures and all that. This is also why I love sci-fi settings. Just so much to explore and see and do. Hope the space-sim genre gets revived soon. Who knows, maybe Notch’s new game or Rodina will give it the shot in the arm it needs. Also, fun fact, Rodina is pretty much the game of my dreams).

    I love experiencing a good story, love the feeling of completing a tough goal I set for myself (beat all the Halo games without shooting. Was a pain but I did it!), love starting out as a small, scrappy nation and building it up to be the best in the world (Civ) or starting out as a lone, broke mercenary and becoming one of the richest and most feared men with a highly trained army (Mount and Blade) or just building a bunch of units and sending them into battle (RTS). I love going through old games, to relive my experiences with them and see them with a new perspective. Went through the PS1 Spyro games a while ago, smiled the whole way through. The games have aged remarkably well.

    And I just love exploring. Finding new things, new places, new people… it’s just so much fun. Or even exploring a game’s mechanics. Figure out how it works, how I can make the most of it. Finally getting how a game works and being able to then dominate based on the knowledge I gained from exploring the mechanics is one of the best feelings ever.

    2. Which elements do you hate?

    Don’t really hate any. They all have their place. But what’s been really bugging me lately is how “social” everything’s getting. I don’t hate it, but it seems it’s getting put into everything. Sometimes I just want to relax and go through a game and not be connected to the world. It’s slowly getting harder and harder to do that, which makes me sad.

    3. Are there any reasons to play I am missing?

    None that I can think of.

    4. Anything you would rephrase or add to?


    5. There are several elements that could be divided into two– if so what would I call them?

    Not sure. They all seem pretty good to me.

    Hope this big wall of text helps.


    • Heather
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 17:16:51

      Thank you, it does. Your wall of text is really helpful. 🙂 I am queen of the wall of text so not a problem. 🙂

      And it really is getting harder to play a game without being forced to be social. 🙂


  11. SougoXIII
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 17:47:41

    Why do YOU play?

    I have been fascinated by video games ever since I was very little. At first, I treat them as small burst of rewards (I grew up in Vietnam, my education schedules were … grueling) Soon enough, it became an inseparable hobby 🙂

    Going by your list, my main reasons a combination of these:

    Escape, Aesthetics and Story: I tend to treat each games like an entire breathing living world. Often I found myself drifted off to that landscape and imagined what life was like if for a normal person in that setting. This applied to nearly any games I play: from linear corridor shooters to massive RPGs.

    Explore: For the reason above, I like to see as much of a game as possible. Interestingly, I’m more interested in what they can’t show me than they can if that make any sense. In the back of my head, I always know that the game will never be able to match whatever I have in my head due to technology limitation but the information I have, the more concrete that world will be in my mind.

    Achievement & God Complex: These two fit perfectly with me because I LOVED breaking a game in any conceivable way. I enjoy beating impossibly strong mob when I was a weakling and laughing maniacally while curb stomping a supposedly strong boss. RPGs are my favourite genre for solely that reason.

    Which elements do you HATE?

    I refrained from using the word hate because I don’t really feel that strongly about the above elements. However, I play games to relax and my own pace and so I would avoid Reflex and Competing. I find Reflex games enjoyable in short burst but Competing with computer is useless since AI can always be exploited and I feel uncomfortable playing with people I don’t know online. Though I love it when I can play something with my friends. (Those occasions are rare since few of my friends are interested in the games I play). 😦


    • Heather
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 17:52:03

      Interesting. I am starting to see a pattern for different overall game play types. Aesthetics and story often go together, and Escapism usually goes with it though no always. Also I think Exploration and God Complex go hand in hand.

      I suspect competition and reflex go together as well.


  12. anaphysik
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 17:51:57

    (TwentySided reader)

    Those categories are all quite good, but one common gaming experience of mine doesn’t seem to fit any of them. Specifics: my friend and I would, as our default hanging-out activity, throw on some music the other one hadn’t heard (the whole gamut of it, at that) and boot up Super Smash Bros. Melee, beating the tar out of each other as we held our long-winded nested conversations, intermittently discussing the music around us and the gameplay before us.

    Note that this is quite different from using gaming as a ‘background’ or distraction (though that could also be a potential category; you’d have ask someone more acquainted with it, though). Rather, it was the opposite, as I’d say the overall feeling was one of total engagement, as we were simultaneously focusing on music, game, and conversation. (“Engagement”)

    Perhaps this is something like Zen, but considered very differently due to its inherently social component (friends hanging out). Indeed, probably the most annoying thing that could happen was one of us getting a phone call, since it disrupted the flow of all three simultaneous activities. Very frustrating.

    On the other hand, it’s also a bit like “Ritual,” if you will. Although it wasn’t in the background, it did serve as the most consistent current of the three (well, along with music, though albums do need to be changed, and albums rarely ended in between matches) – sometimes conversation threads die before new ones emerge, and in that sense the game facilitated the conversation by absorbing focus until new thoughts arose. Certainly, I could always tell when hang-out-times would begin, since one of us would utter the simple phrase, “So, Smash then?”

    [/rambling, slightly coherent thought on the matter]


    Another potential (unrelated) idea to explore would be something akin to Kinaesthetics (frex, as per Chris’ (Campster’s) talk here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrFK4NlGCo0 ). That is, the ‘feel’ of the interface between gamer and game, and of the game mechanics themselves. (For a real-life game/sport analogy, this would be like how it feels to kick a ball, and the visceral enjoyment therein.)


    • Heather
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 18:00:14

      I would say that what you are saying would be Bonding gameplay. Hanging out together playing though in your case you have added elements. Much of my dating and early marriage was spent playing games together with Shamus, often at different times but working through the same game with one person looking on and the other playing but both actively engaged. Definitely bonding.

      As far as Ritual I would say that falls under Comfort (though I am not happy with the word comfort for the whole.) Basically nostalgia/comfort/ritual all rolled into one– need a better word for it.

      I see kinesthetic as falling under game mechanics (currently called game genres which I am not addressing here) but maybe no. If not then I would say that falls under reflex (though I am not happy with reflex for that category either.) Possibly though kinesthetic would fall under aesthetic– just the physical feel of the game.


  13. Arvind
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 19:27:01

    I think escape, story, aesthetics, explore and bonding are the reasons from the list that I think I play games for.

    The only thing I avoid in games is competitive – I just don’t like to play those games, mostly because they have a habit to bring out the worst in people.

    One think I like to do very much is try and strech the limits of the game, break it and do something the designer didn’t want me to do – this is part of the reason I love games like Fallout (original and new), GTA (other than the missions), Elder Scrolls, Deus Ex etc. I think what appeals to me is fighting two battles at once – one with the game and one with the designer. Don’t know what to call that.


  14. dudecon
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 19:31:34

    I like the thought that’s gone into this. Keep in mind that people may play the same game for different reasons at different times (or even the same time)

    I really like the idea of nested categories as well. Allow me to offer a possible top-level set of motivations.

    * Blessing/Cursing, Choice/Rejection: Choosing one thing over another, love and hatred. I think “goal” “God Complex” “Comfort” and “Social” fall in this category. This is the motivation of making a decision that means something.

    * Action/Inaction, Alteration/Preservation: Changing the state of something, altering it from one state to another, or maintaining the state of something in the face of opposing forces of change. I think “Achievement” “reflex” and “compete” fall mainly in this category. This is the motivation of doing something.

    * Observation/Disbelief Reality/Imagination: Observing and accepting the way things are. Coming up with other ways that things could be. I think “Escape” “Story” “Aesthetics” “Explore” and “Risk” fall mainly in this category. This is the motivation of learning something.

    There are several “game types” that bridge these categories. “Puzzle” games tend to incorporate both Action and Observation. “Sim” games bridge all three.
    I think that we all, in different ways, want all three of these categories. We all desire to understand, choose, and act.

    My two cents.


    • Heather
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 23:27:54

      Possibly. At this point I am just gathering information (this project has been an ongoing back of the brain one for Shamus and I for about 5-6 years.) Eventually, once I gather enough info and figure out the best way to put them together I want to find where ther eis conflict between two categories or if there are larger groupings like you suggest. So, what you are suggesting is down the road.


  15. hangingrope
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 21:48:47

    1.Why do I play?
    I tend to play for goals, story, reflex, exploration and optimisation.
    i.e, I play first time for goals, story , exploration and/or reflex, then in playthroughs after that I optimise, find the fastest route, etc.
    2. Which do I dislike?
    God-complex, compete, bonding, [kind of achievement]. That’s just not my style.


  16. 13cbs
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 21:54:46

    As Mari and many others said, I rarely play games to satisfy only one or two of the listed reasons, but to satisfy several of them. Here’s a list of some of my favorite games and why I play them:

    “Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura”:
    This is a Fallout-style RPG made by the now-defunct Troika Games (appropriate, since Troika was largely manned by the folks who made Fallout 1), set in the Fantasy-Steampunk setting of Arcanum. It mixed Tolkeinic Fantasy (Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, good and evil, etc.) with some standard fantasy stuff (a wide variety of classic fantasy spells, elementals, golems, etc) juxtaposed with steampunk (steam-powered robots, late 19th-century firearms, etc.).

    I rarely play and enjoy turn-based games, mostly because I find turn-based combat (and pseudo-turn based combat, like the stuff in Knights of the Old Republic or World of Warcraft) difficult to get immersed into. The story wasn’t something all that spectacular, either, though I’m no literary analyst the way Shamus is, so take that with a grain of salt. But Arcanum remains one of my most favorite games of all time because of the aesthetics of the setting (fantasy + steampunk) and the game’s hauntingly beautiful chamber music.

    Reason for enjoyment: AESTHETICS

    “Tribes 2” + the “Meltdown 2” mod:
    Tribes 2 was an online FPS game that heavily emphasized 3d movement (almost everyone had a jet pack and almost all of the maps were enormous) and teamwork. Meltdown 2 was a modification for Tribes 2 that added all sorts of neat weapons to the game.

    This game was not only fun and unique because of the emphasis on 3d movement, but the Meltdown 2 community also happened to be quite close. In one moment I’d be blasting someone into the aether with my Mitzi Blast Cannon, and the next I’d be talking to them on the official forums. The friends that kill together stay together.

    Reason for enjoyment: BONDING, REFLEX

    “Prototype”, “Assassin’s Creed” series, “Dark Messiah of Might & Magic”, “Dynasty Warriors” series, and a variety of other highly violent games because 13CBS is a violent psychopath and the poster child for the whole “Videogames make you violent” thing:

    I have a special love for virtual violence. While I suspect that I’d never have the willpower to ever murder a real-life human being on purpose, I must admit that I take (highly perverse) pleasure in ending the lives of virtual people by the thousands. It doesn’t have to be bloody; in Dynasty Warriors, smacking someone with a giant axe only results in flashes of light, kind of like the “POW!”s of comic books. It doesn’t have to be realistic; in Prototype you slaughter your way through entire armies by shaping your amorphous body into whatever weapon suits you at the moment, while bounding from building to building and leaping tens of stories. It doesn’t have to be a carnage-fest; I thoroughly enjoy removing the kidneys of half the population of Venice as the sneaky assassin Ezio in Assassin’s Creed. It doesn’t even have to involve weapons in the usual sense; kicking a slimy cut-throat into a wall of spikes or cutting a rope that unleashes a log-trap that smacks an orc into the abyss is buckets of fun.

    These games certainly aren’t literary giants. Prototype’s story is passable, and Assassin’s Creed tries at times, but Dynasty Warriors suffers from Capcom’s reluctance to hire some decent English voice actors, among other things. But these games are such tremendously fun for me to play because I can spend hours and hours doing nothing but mindlessly killing hundreds, thousands of virtual people.

    Reason for enjoyment: ESCAPISM, ZEN

    “Dawn of War” + expansions, “Dawn of War 2” + expansions:

    The Dawn of War series are set in the popular tabletop wargame Warhammer 40,000. The 1st game is a more traditional RTS, with resource-collecting and unit-moving and whatnot. The 2nd game (or at least its single-player campaign) is more of a Real Time Tactical game, as there is almost no resource-collecting involved.

    I primarily play these games because I enjoy Warhammer 40k, or at least its setting. I’ve always wanted to give the tabletop games a try, but they’re somewhat inaccessible due to the high cost of the miniatures that you need to play, so I instead I vicariously fulfill my desire to play Warhammer 40k with Dawn of War.

    Oh, and there’s lots and lots of killing in the Dawn of War series. Blood for the Blood God, etc. etc.

    Reason for enjoyment: ESCAPISM, [I’m not sure if you have a category for “enjoy because you like products that are from the same line as the game”]

    “Total War” series

    One of my hobbies outside of gaming is military history. I particularly enjoy studying Classical Mediterannean warfare (Roman, Greek, Carthaginian, etc.), and Total War is, as far as I know, the only real-time battle simulator for wars set in this period and others like it. Watching your perfectly-positioned heavy cavalry slam into your opponents’ vulnerable flanks is a thing of beauty.

    I should note that I typically don’t particularly enjoy RTS games outside of Total War and Dawn of War.

    Reason for Enjoyment: ESCAPISM (I think? I’m not certain where this one would go.)

    I don’t think there are any games I play for exploration and risk. God complex and sandbox can be pretty fun, but curiously I’ve never really gotten into Minecraft. I’m not a professional artist in that I don’t produce artistic works for a living, so I don’t play games for Craft. I particularly dislike Competition in games, as that tends to stress me rather than let me relax and enjoy the game.


    • Heather
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 23:35:28

      Interesting breakdown– thank you. That is one of my ponderings and something I want to address in the future– game mechanics and real genres as separate from gamer personality– basically your gamer personality is why you enjoy certain elements and look for those elements. Your favorite game mechanics + your favorite real genres are why you will be attracted to a game and combined with the reasons you play, enjoy it or not. Games are much more complex than movies or books and therefore analyzing why people play is much more complex.

      As far as “enjoy because you like products that are from the same line as the game” I would call that “Fandom” and have added it. Thank you.


  17. deadyawn
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 22:42:14

    1) I play games for a multitude of reasons, primarily as a form of escapism although I also play for story and reflex.

    2) I don’t really like exploration elements in games partially because I don’t know what I’m doing but mostly because I’m petrified that I’ll miss something. I also don’t enjoy competetive gaming much because it tends to suck the fun out of a game for me.

    3) Perhaps mindless violence? Sometimes I just want cave a guy’s head in with a big hammer or run down some civillians in a car. Or hell, just shoot some guys. Yahtzee (of zero punctuation fame) wrote about this in a recent collumn, of how some elements combine to form a gratifying playing experience. While it doesn’t really seem to fit within any of categories you have listed, just gunning down legions of Nazis or headbutting an alien into submission can still be fun and a valid reason for playing videogames. I don’t really know how to classify it but I think it should fit in somewhere.


  18. jennifer
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 22:45:32

    I think I like the goal part and a little of the achievement as well. Sometimes it’s just so I can beat my oldest daughter ’cause she gets a little too braggy sometimes!!!!


  19. Mari Menix
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 22:47:33

    I didn’t mention this earlier because I’ve never known anyone else that’s this way, but someone mentioned above me using gaming as a “background” or “distraction.” I do that a lot. The majority of my card-based or “casual” type games are played as “background gaming.” The way some people sit on the sofa and knit while watching TV, I guess. Only I sit on the sofa and play Bejeweled while watching TV. Or Mahjohng or logic puzzles or solitaire or Zuma. Basically, those games are “something else to fill up the 3/4 of my brain that isn’t occupied with television.” I’m not sure how you would phrase it on your list, but it might be worth adding


  20. Halceon
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 00:48:34

    Oh boy, love the question.

    Ok, so. I play mostly turn based strategies/tactics, then the real time or stop-time variety of those. Then I play the odd shooter, platformer, RPG, puzzle game or dungeon crawl. The reasons are often different. The strategies are my favourite because a) I like the sense of superiority I feel for playing a thinking man’s game b) I love cerebral challanges and overcoming them. So, yeah, I play them for status self-perceived or otherwise. And I play them for a combination of challenge and craft. For most strategy games I play, there’s also the story component which provides extra incentive to play. The difference is between having 37 hours on Europa Universalis and only 3 hours on SpaceChem.
    Well, part of the difference is in the fact that SpaceChem is a programming game which tends to set efficiency requirements from time to time and at some point I’m just not good enough. But I digress.
    I play shooters for zen, competition and bonding. Most often this happens in the form of an all-nighter at an internet cafe with 10 friends doing all sorts of crazy matchups. There’s a bit of status thrown in there, but that’s more specific to the event than to the games we play.
    Then there’s a nebulous subset of games that I play for the art and experience of it. Things like Bastion, Grimrock, Thief, Machinarium, Loom, Soul Reaver. Those are games that provide either an excellent narrative, an immersive mood, evocative mechanics or ask some good questions.
    One more reason with its subset of games is expression. I play minecraft, because I want to build a 3D maze. I play dwarf fortress, because I want to build a dwarftech replica of The Cube (from the movie of the same name), operated by an adorable army of kittens on pressure plates. I play SimCity because I want to build a self sustaining city. In terms of Magic the Gathering, sometimes I am such a Johnny.

    What I don’t like, and this can be ignored if given the right context and people, often is a sense of pointlessness. And not in the sense like bejeweled is pointless, knows it and revels in it. More like nascar-pointless – having a set goal which is considered important, but I just can’t identify it as such. That’s actually a problem I have with most racing games – often the gameplay seems to be testing my patience, not my skill.
    Similarly with most social network games. They provide a framework that looks like a type of other game, say, city builder or rpg. Then they remove the challenge and point. You could pay 5 bucks and get another field for your crops, but it’s not like your people are starving or anything.

    So in short, I play for Challenge/Skill, Status, Experience, Expression, Zen and Bonding. I hate not having a sense of a goal or agency.


    • Heather
      Apr 20, 2012 @ 01:01:53

      I think the sense of pointlessness can also come from not enough story to cover the game play. Bejeweled and the like work because the point IS the gameplay– it tickles the brain or gives a sense of Zen. And the social game thing, exactly. By forcing the social or putting arbitrary things up for sale that enable you to “cheat” you remove the original challenge and therefore winning becomes who wants to spend the most money.


  21. JPH
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 02:18:27

    I probably have enjoyed games for most of the reasons you’ve listed, but as for what makes me tick the most?

    Well, my four general favorite genres are platformers, stealth games, shooters, and brawlers. I think the reason for all of these comes down to what some have called “kinesthetics” and others have called “game feel.”

    I like platformers because I like the feeling of nimbly running and jumping across complex environments. I like stealth games because I like the feeling of quickly and cleverly backstabbing an unsuspecting guard. I like shooters because I like the feeling of running across the battlefield and blasting the enemies to smithereens, and I like brawlers because I like the feeling of bashing down (or slashing, or using whatever weapon the game gives me to down) a cavalcade of mooks. Above all, I love the feeling of being in fast, intense situations, and of being fast, smart, powerful and capable.

    This is probably a combination of Aesthetics and Empowerment. Those two would probably be highest on the list for me, though Self-Expression would likely be third (I spend HOURS adjusting my characters’ cosmetics and sometimes make up backstories for them).

    As for what I don’t like: Risk, as you’ve called it. I HATE when luck is deliberately made a deciding factor in what happens. When I lose, I want to know it was my fault so I can improve myself and do it right next time. If I die because the d20 landed on a 1, I’m going to feel cheated by the designers of the game.

    A few possible nitpicks:

    I’m not sure whether setting out to break the game would count as a goal or as exploration. Possibly both, or either depending on the player?

    Could Optimization count as a subset of Reflex, since it’s basically puzzle-solving in a way?

    Other than that, I really like this list you’ve compiled. Reminds me of BrainHex, but more subdivided.


    • Heather
      Apr 20, 2012 @ 12:01:38

      Definitely Aesthetics and empowerment. And luck is a good word for Risk– maybe should switch that.

      I would say Optimization might be a subset of reflex for some people but not all therefore it needs to be separate. Shamus plays for Optimization (or as he calls it Engineering). It isn’t God Complex but it is a similar thing.


  22. Paul
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 02:40:57

    Goal/Achievement (Guild Wars, I play single player PvE almost exclusively just to do quests and complete content), Social (Discworld MUD, I mainly log on to chat to friends, but for Goal/Achievement as well).

    God Complex, maybe? I like to create things, but it’s not a driving force for me (Minecraft cathedral is the only real example).

    I don’t actually play a lot of games now…I read about them more than I play.


    • Heather
      Apr 20, 2012 @ 12:03:56

      So God Complex would be a secondary for you though maybe in your case it is Goal. For me any thing I do in sandbox games is really just my urge to fulfill my goal and once that goal is accomplished I am done unlike the rest of the family who are full on with the God Complex in games. For instance the younger two adore Garry’s Mod while the older is like me and is only interested in it when she has a specific goal she wants to reach.


  23. Jokerman
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 03:29:37

    Escape, Story, Aesthetics(Horror) Explore sum it up for me.

    I think for Escape you can really put that to any setting im not hugely into fantasy or dating sims but i do feel you escape into the sc fi worlds of Mass effect or Metal gear Solid.

    As for Story i have always loved films and books but interaction enhances the story for me – if i hear a game has a good story you can bet ill be going out and buying it…even if it is outside of my comfort zone gameplay or setting wise (Dragon Age:Origins is a good example for me)

    I love the aesthetics of a good horror film, although i feel the progression in graphics and power is hurting how scary the game can be…you just dont get the scares of a Silent hill 2 these days.

    Explore, i think my love for the old adventure films like Indiana Jones carrys over to games here – the though of explore some random dungeon in skyrim or walking through a dingy cave in Uncharted.


  24. Khazidhea
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 03:49:58

    Why do YOU play?
    Overall I play a game for Story, but individual game playing sessions I keep playing for Goal/Achievement based reasons (get to the next zone, til I level up, just until I beat the next boss etc). A ideal game for me is one that has a great story and some motivating factor. In addition to this I enjoy a mixture of Craft and Empowerment, I like creating an ‘ideal’ character that I can enjoy feeling strong via proxy. Secondarily I enjoy Escapism, Aesthetics and Exploration, and a good example of this would be playing as a strongly realised character, viewing the world from their eyes and enjoying situations I couldn’t otherwise experience from their point of view/skillset.

    Which elements do you not like (had hate but apparently that is too strong for you all. 🙂 )?
    I don’t like play as a character meant to represent myself, I come to games for something different. I don’t particularly enjoy god complex, and dislike competition (1v1 style, I actually enjoy socialising as part of a team, often in a support type role).
    I don’t like exploring every nook and cranny of a new world, just enough to get a sense of the overall impact of a place would be good for me. Sadly I’m too obsessive about getting every single item/experience point/collectible out of some compulsive need to have a ‘perfect’ playthrough and not miss anything that might have an impact later on in the game.
    I dislike simulations, and sandbox style games. While fun for an hour or two I inevitably get bored quickly. I enjoy defined goals, with the option of doing my own thing if/when I feel like it, rather then creating goals of my own.

    There are several elements that could be divided into two– if so what would you call them?
    I don’t know if there’s a way to break up the goal category, but as I’ve said I enjoy smaller goals rather than long term goals. It’s likely at the border where Goal and Achievement meets.


    • Heather
      Apr 20, 2012 @ 12:07:26

      “Sadly I’m too obsessive about getting every single item/experience point/collectible out of some compulsive need to have a ‘perfect’ playthrough and not miss anything that might have an impact later on in the game.” Sounds like an urge for Optimization to me.


  25. Michael
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 03:50:08

    I play a lot of video games, but the games I enjoy most are Tabletop RPGs – primarily for ESCAPE and STORY.

    I feel incredibly awkward actually role-playing at the table, but when I’m home I’ll write pages and pages of meticulous back-story for a particular character I’m fond of. When I come to the next session my DM will sit for a few minutes, doing nothing, just reading the stuff I’ve brought. (I’ve even drawn a select few characters I especially liked.) All that aside, I love putting myself into someone else’s shoes, going “Now, how would so-and-so respond?” or “Why would so-and-so respond this way to the situation?”

    As for STORY… well, it’s much easier to get an enjoyable story out of something when that something is a human being, sitting across a table from you. I love drama: things that make the characters need to stop and think. I love watching character wrestle with ethics and morals. I like things that engage me on an emotional level. I like things that make me think about them years after I’ve finished with them.

    With the way you’ve worded REFLEX, it describes almost perfectly why I enjoy the combat: you said puzzle games fall into this category, and that’s the same way I approach combat – simply another problem to be solved. There’s hundreds of rules to keep track of, dozens of stats, enemy and ally positions, turn orders, etc. The turn-based tactical combat in D&D and the like make me think. Not just about now, but about a few turns ahead, a few turns behind. Is where I’m standing safe? Is there an ability I need to use now, or should I save it? Is this a legal move? Are these all the enemies, or are there more around the corner? Does this enemy have abilities I don’t know about? It’s quite stimulating, though I don’t think REFLEX is quite the right word for it.

    I guess with a bit of OPTIMIZATION, given the extensive equipment and magic sections in most tabletop games.

    I dislike games primarily focused on EXPLORE and COMPETE. If a game doesn’t have a clear goal, I’m generally not fond of it. It’s the main reason I don’t play MineCraft. MineCraft seems more a tool to build things than a game. I don’t see a purpose for it, so I don’t play it. I’m also not very competitive by nature, and I don’t enjoy it when there needs to be a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’. The negative conditioning in games like Team Fortress really turn me off from them.

    AESTHETIC isn’t usually a draw for me, but there have been a game or two I picked up simply because of its stylized artwork. Though Okami is the only one I can think of off the top of my head. Extremely colorful, big bold lines, simple shapes. It was very striking.

    Suppose you know, but this is all very general. I have been known to, on occasion, goof off and squash rats with year-old rock-hard stale ham.


    • Heather
      Apr 20, 2012 @ 12:10:42

      Yeah, I am not 100% happy with Reflex and think maybe it needs divided up but not sure specifically how. That is why I am asking people why. As I read descriptions I start to see patterns emerge and those lead to better categories.

      And of course it is general– I am just looking for the big reasons not all the little ones. I have games I would not normally play that totally tickle my fancy (for me Aesthetics or story usually) and therefore I play them for a time. They aren’t my go back to games,rather my brief interest.


  26. thegoddessca
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 09:42:35

    I play both digital and analogue (board/card) games, and the reasons for each overlap some, but aren’t identical.

    I play (and design) analogue games because I love story, exploring, and bonding. And I suspect that the designing means I also enjoy self-expression.

    I play and enjoy digital games largely for the exploring and the puzzle aspect of your reflex category (these should be split into puzzle and reflex, as I can’t be the only one who can’t get past level 18 of Portal, which is where the gameplay moves from puzzle into reflex, and which I found extremely frustrating), and a little bit for bonding (why else would a 30-something mom play Battlefield 2 on the home LAN if it wasn’t to bond with her adolescent son)?


    • Heather
      Apr 20, 2012 @ 12:15:33

      😀 Awesome. Yeah, I think for wives/mothers a lot of time gameplay involves bonding. A lot of my game play involves the kids nowadays though I still play the games I specifically love. I know they have joined in BECAUSE they love the bonding experience.

      Also I agree that the reasons for analog vs digital games tend to be different. For me analog games are mostly bonding and tickling my brain (I really need to divide up reflex between physical and brain.)


  27. Darren
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 10:38:27

    I fall into the categories reflex (for puzzles) and explore. I have to say I don’t care for social games. My daughters seem to have a reason you do not state – they play as a creative outlet – they love to build things. It may fall into the category of God Complex but really it does not seem to be that way. I see them spends tons of time playing zoo tycoon. We even tweaked Black and White so the oldest can just spend her time setting up her villages in various ways and ignore the competitive elements.


    • Heather
      Apr 20, 2012 @ 12:23:30

      Yes, I think maybe I need Creative as well though I see that as self expression (my kids do it all the time) combined with Empowerment or God Complex (depending on why).


  28. hborrgg
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 18:17:09

    Reblogged this on We Might Not be Playing the Same Game. . . and commented:
    Alright, time to try out this Reblogging thing:
    Heather at Game-Story-Art is trying to figure out why people game. I know these things are extremely hard to quantify, but many others, including me, also are extremely interested to hear your responses, so please follow the above link and leave a comment there.


  29. Trackback: Game-Story-Art: A Gamer Survey for YOU « Ninja Game Den
  30. verbosestoic
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 07:46:23

    Well, in my case, it’s:

    1) Story. Any game that has a story gets bonus marks for me and I’ll invent stories for games that don’t that I really like.

    2) Escape … maybe. When I think of “Escape”, I generally think that it means to escape from your everyday grind and be someone somewhere else for a while. I don’t really have a strong desire for that, although mostly for variety I don’t really want to play games that are just like my everyday life. But tying it in with story, I more want to act out and play a role, again even inventing roles if they’re not well-defined. I like playing roles, sometimes of myself and sometimes of other personalities. Is that more Story or Escape?

    None of the others really fit for me, although I will use some games just as “something to do that is me doing something but isn’t all that intense” as well, and sometimes have goals (like finishing an entire baseball season with the actual number of games in MLB that I did once).


    • Heather
      Apr 22, 2012 @ 12:17:05

      That definitely sounds like Escape to me. Escape would be basically role playing a part different from your own natural role, which is what it sounds like you are describing.


  31. Nick Bell
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 08:29:42

    Why do I play:

    Story – this is probably my primary goal, though not in the traditional sense. I’m far more interested in character interaction than the general plot. Mass Effect is less about saving the galaxy as it is about Garrus, Tali, Mordin, Wrex and Liara. Uncharted isn’t about treasure; it’s about Drake, Sully, and Elena. Dragon Age 2 isn’t about mages or templars; it’s about Isabela, Aveline, and Varric.

    This is why I don’t have any of the rage about the Mass Effect 3 ending. I didn’t really care about the conclusions of the bigger story. I got fantastic conclusions of my side characters. Mordin’s moment of glory is one of the finest pieces of video game ever, and it meant so much less because of its place in the greater story, but because it was the ultimate expresion of who he was. Had to be him, someone else would have gotten it wrong.

    Craft – I like digging into how games are built, why they are built that way, and how they could be changes. I tend to play Bioware games more than once, simply to see which other ways those stories can go. My favorite jouranlism stories are ones that go behind the scenes, that dig into these kinds of details. This leads me to play a great variety of games, even in genres that I don’t “enjoy” in the traditional sense, like racing and fighting. I like being a part of the conversation of current games.

    Explore, social, bonding, optimization, fandom and escape all play a secondary role.

    Which elemends do you not like:

    Compete – I’d much rather work WITH people than against them. Left 4 Dead is a far more enjoyable game than Call of Duty. And even when I play competitive multiplayer, it’s with friends, who are on my team, so it’s still a sense of playing with people. Highly competitive games simply don’t click with me.

    Risk – I do not like randomness as a determiner of outcomes – it is good only in small doses. A good RPG combat has randomness built-in (roll d20, random number generater, etc), but these should just be a part of the bigger picture. A well-built, prepared, and played D&D party should defeat all appropriately leveled encounters. The dice should not be so influencial that they dominate over the players decisions and actions. Same goes in games: little random is okay, but let me stay in control.

    I also hate random drops as goals. Random loot in Diablo? Fine. Random drops from enemies in an MMO quest of “bring me X of Y?” Hate, hate, hate. Make everyone of that type drop it and give me a larger number to kill if you want to extend the time. Randomness like that is shitty design, and I won’t put up with it for any length of time.


  32. Jarenth
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 12:46:51

    Why do I play? Multitude of reasons. I play to see new things, hear new things, experience new things. I play to find out what happens next, to see what’s over the next hill, to see what happens if I go left instead of right. In your list, this would probably be Story and Exploration.

    I play because games are a virtual sandbox of infinite possibilities. What happens if I push where I’m not supposed to push. If I heave instead of ho and zig instead of zag? A certain friend and me have made a hobby out of going out-of-bounds in any MMO. That’s Breaking The Game from the comments list.

    I play because I like the feeling of being good at something, being skilled, being able to set and achieve goals, and because I like skill practice, up to a certain degree. I generally (though not always) crank the difficulty up to the highest level from the start, because I don’t want to feel like the game’s holding back on my account. Beating a scenario, finishing a story or getting a hard achievement all trigger the same rush of yay-I-can-do-things. So Achievement, Challenge/Skill, and an element of Practice, too, for as far as games count as that.

    I play to hang out with friends, and/or blow them up. I mostly play with known people / friends, which would be Bonding, but there’s rare pleasure to be had in hanging out online with a complete stranger, only connected by a common game goal. So Social goes, too.

    Ultimately, in my case, it boils down to this: I am a highly intelligent person. Gifted, if you want to believe my mother. As a consequence of this, I am also highly curious: I love to seek out new information, learn new skills, dream new daydreams. Games are an excellent outlet for me to keep my brain stimulated: there’s stories to hear, challenges to master, people to hang out with, rules to bend, sights to see, objectives to achieve, and all the lore and fluff a man could ever want to know and more. So, I guess you could say I play games mostly to satisfy my own Curiosity.

    Conversely, I dislike games that do not allow for this. Most sports and racing games, for instance, are only skill challenges, over and over, and while there’s a certain satisfaction to be had from mastering those skills, the payoff is usually too limited to make it worth my while. I also dislike competing against other humans in general and my friends specifically, because I’m kind of conflict-averse and also a major wuss.


  33. Emily
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 14:26:56

    I care most about the *feel* of a game, so escape, comfort and aesthetics are usually why I play, or the “atmosphere” of a game. I’m not much a goal or achievement seeking gamer. Hell, a lot of the time I don’t even completely finish a game because I don’t want it to be over. But when I do seek to finish I game I can be one hell of a complete-ist.


  34. Trackback: More on the Gamer Personality Survey « Game-Story-Art
  35. Cuthalion
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 16:35:38

    I think I play primarily for:
    Optimization, Bonding, Goal

    and secondarily for:
    Story, Self-Expression, Explore

    I tend to enjoy tactical RPGs the most. Real-time strategy and open-world games, such as the Elder Scrolls series, come in second.

    Both western and jRPGs, along with tabletop RPGs also appeal, as do many card games (from Pinhochle to Magic: The Gathering), a few board games, fighting games (more Super Smash Brothers though), 3rd-person action games, and first-person shooters.

    Puzzle games tend to frustrate (except simple ones like Nyet/Tetris), and adventure games get boring quickly (even the popular action-adventure ones such as the Zelda series).


  36. Aadel Bussinger
    May 15, 2013 @ 20:32:39

    I thought I had answered this survey but apparently I just read it and left.

    Why do I game?

    I know that I am not a goal or competition motivated player because I don’t mind not finishing a game nor do I focus on any goals really.

    I think my reasons are a combination of story, god complex, bonding, and self expression. I play tabletop rpg’s because of the amazing ability to “play” with the characters I create and to bond with the other players as we create a story together. I like the social aspect more than finding loot or beating a bad guy. An rpg is a deeply intimate and personal thing for me and I don’t like playing with people I am not acquainted with.

    I play a lot of games because my husband likes them and we can bond over that. Army of 2 is one of our favorite games because it requires us to work side by side. We also play MtG as a family (and a bunch of other tabletop games).

    When I play a video game alone, I am more likely to play an elaborate sandbox game or something that allows me to have control (I especially like control over social aspects). Games like Sims2 & 3, Black & White, and Fable appeal to me because I can play out various scenarios.

    I tend to play games that I am familiar with. I don’t like long drawn out narratives where I have no control (like watching 20 flash scenes in a row). I also go back to games that I have played many times but I can still create a new scenario like Minecraft, Sims, tabletop rpg’s. I guess that is comfort and also explore because I like exploring the boundaries of a game.

    I also play a couple games for craft. MtG is something my husband is seriously interested in (and very good at) and so we both keep up with the culture, the cards, the tournaments, and the mechanics in order to stay sharp and competitive. I don’t keep up nearly as much as him, but enough to be knowledgeable about the game and talk about it with other serious players.

    What I don’t like:

    I don’t like goals. I hated Fable 3 because it forced you to stay on the story-line (and I beat that game in 3 days – I never beat games), rather than allowing me to seek out the next level of the story when I was ready. For some games that works for me (Army of 2 is very linear) but I have to be getting something else out of the game (bonding in that case).

    I don’t like competition and empowerment. I get really upset with players in our Pathfinder game who rush through the story in order to get to the next fight and gain xp and money. It’s pointless to me. I enjoy a good fight, but it is not what drives me to play the game.

    I guess there is a difference between games that have friendly competition (like Mortal Combat, Tekken, etc) and games that should be cooperative but instead are played every man for himself (tabletop rpg’s, Call of Duty). I stay far away from most MMO’s because of the competition/empowerment elements and because I don’t know the people. There is little satisfaction in playing because I can’t bond. I can explore and express myself and that brings me around sometimes.


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