Player Characteristics and Video Game Preferences

Gustavo F. Tondello, Lennart E. Nacke,
University of Waterloo

Gustavo Tondello
Oct 1 · 4 min read
Photo by Anthony Brolin on Unsplash

Understanding why people play games and what different types of games or mechanics they prefer is a major interest in the Games User Research (GUR) community. This knowledge is important because it facilitates player-centric design and helps designers build games better tailored to what their audience wants. In addition, marketing practices of segmentation and differentiation are increasingly common as a part of game design with the goal of better selling virtual goods to specific players. But this is only possible if the game studios have a good model of player preferences to segment their audience. Therefore, in our previous work, we created a classification of the elements commonly found in games and a player traits model to understand player preferences. Player traits are continuous scores representing individual player preferences such as goal orientation, social orientation, challenge orientation, aesthetic orientation, and narrative orientation. In the present work, we examined what games participants listed as examples of the games that they like and studied how their player trait scores, preferred game elements and playing styles, and their gender and age reflected their game choices.

The Player Traits (© 2019 by the HCI Games Group)

Results showed that the social aspects contributed more to differentiate game choices by participants. The preferred games for participants of high social orientation and preference for multiplayer gaming and competitive communities were Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, DotA, FIFA, Fortnite, League of Legends, Overwatch, Rainbox Six, and World of Warcraft. On the other hand, participants with low social orientation and low preference for multiplayer gaming and competitive communities prefer games such as Civilization, Dragon Age, Fallout, Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, Persona, and The Sims.

The outlook of the scores for aesthetic and narrative orientations are similar between games. The games preferred by participants with high aesthetic and narrative orientations were Assassin’s Creed, Fallout, Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, The Witcher, and World of Warcraft. Interestingly, there were not many games with low scores for these traits, but these include Dark Souls, Fortnite, Pokémon, and Super Mario.

For challenge orientation, the games preferred for players with high scores were Dark Souls, League of Legends, Rainbow Six, and The Witcher, which are all recognized by their difficulty. Contrarily, games preferred by players with low challenge orientation include Dragon Age, Persona, and Super Mario.

Regarding goal orientation, the differences in scores between games were not significant overall. However, the scores deviated considerably for a few games: Minecraft, Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and World of Warcraft showed the highest goal orientation scores, whereas Rainbow Six showed the lowest scores.

Together with social preferences, gender was the other variable that accounted for the different game choices with a large effect size. The games that were mentioned more often by men were Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, Dark Souls, DotA, Overwatch, Rainbow Six, Rocket League, and X-COM. On the other hand, the games that were mentioned more often by women were Dragon Age, Kingdom Hearts, Persona, Pokémon, Stardew Valley, The Sims, and The Legend of Zelda. Looking at these lists, it seems that men are more attracted to intense, challenging, or competitive games, whereas women are more attracted to immersive and relaxed games.

Our work provides evidence that player trait scores, preferred game elements and playing styles, gender, and age can significantly explain players’ preferences for different games. The paper contains many more relationships between these variables than we could include in this short summary, so be sure to check them out. These findings are important because they can help understand the characteristics of the player base of each game. The set of games we analyzed is representative of the most successful commercial video game franchises, such as The Legend of Zelda, The Elder Scrolls, and Pokémon. But although these games are frequently studied, copied, or used as inspiration for new games, it is not always clear what types of players enjoy each game because the companies behind them may not publish their player demographics. By better understanding the characteristics and preferences of players that enjoy each game, we provide insights about them, which can serve as references to target the design of games inspired by these incredibly successful franchises.


Contact author: Gustavo F. Tondello

CHI PLAY session:
Emotions, traits and player experiences
Thursday, 24 October 2019, 14:00–15:30

Please feel free to also write comments or questions for the authors in the space below!

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