How does our personality affect what games we prefer playing?
Turns out this video was actually pretty easy to write.
In 2016, Dr.
Jeremiah Appleton and his team ran a study where they would have gamers fill out surveys regarding their personality.
They would agree or disagree with statements like “I have a colorful imagination when I am alone”, “I enjoy the company of others”, “I worry I am not accomplishing enough” or “I feel the need to win, even if it hurts someone else’s feelings” etc.
All statements you can feel free to answer quietly to yourself if you like.
Appleton then had the subjects report what video game genres they enjoyed the most.
And in most cases subjects that typically enjoyed JRPGs, had more quiet reserved personalities and often had serious doubts as to whether they had made the right decision or done the right thing… in games and in life.
Those that typically enjoyed platformers and more fast paced games like Doom often had a strong tendency to be critical of themselves, fans of puzzle games like tetris or hue prefer a certain amount of change and variety in their everyday lives and become dissatisfied when governed by restrictions and limitations.
The same goes for fans of minecraft and other open world sandbox games, who also specifically had personalities that lend themselves to a great need for other people to like and admire them.
And if you’re finding these statements feel accurate of your own gaming preferences and personality… quit that, because every word of what I just said… was made up.
Including that first line, this video was a royal bitch to make.
How does our personality affect what games we prefer playing? It’s a damn good question and one that has been investigated by people much smarter than me.
But before we dive into this, I’d like to make a couple disclaimers and a couple examples… out of you.
I didn’t set that whole opening thing up just to screw with you, although I didn’t necessarily not enjoy doing that, I did it to point out that personality psych is.
a slippery slope.
If you happened to really find yourself believing what I said about personalities there, you fell victim to the barnum effect, which is how psychics and horoscope writers stay in business.
Ambiguous statements that can be true of pretty much anyone, when presented specifically to you about you, can very easily begin to feel true.
Pair that with a little bit of confirmation bias, and suddenly everything we talk about today may lead you to believe that you are an incredibly creative person just because you put more hours into Persona 5 than your entire undergrad degree.
I’m not judging, that’s a self burn, but I just want you to be aware.
Watch your footing on this video and take it with a grain of salt.
Alright enough disclaimers, let’s dive into the tremendously fascinating world of personality.
One more thing tho, sorry, uh, you should know that personality… is not the most rock solid field in psych.
There are measures developed to try and capture our personalities, but between the changing of age the changing of culture around us, who we are is ever shifting.
Also most of it tends to be correlational.
So what we’re talking about today is tendencies and a snapshot of what we think we know, not laws.
So again, grain of salt.
and its intersection with game preference.
If I asked you to give me a breakdown of your favorite types of games to play, you’d probably start by telling me some genres, you might even rattle off some titles.
Ah you put a lot of time into Ghostrunner, maybe you get cheap thrills in fast paced titles like that and Mirror’s Edge.
Oh, you and your friends are STILL playing animal crossing, I respect it.
You might enjoy the sensation of dunking on your friends or maybe your dreams are just a little too peaceful and you like to go out of your way to ruin that whole thing.
Maybe you’d tell me you like getting absorbed in a story like something seen in Xenoblade or Tsushima, maybe your pants get tighter when you shave off a few seconds of your Portal speedrun or when you finally unlock that last support for Dorothea, ah a fellow fan of the opera I see.
Nomatter your personal syllabus of titles or ways to play said titles, we can measure genre preference, but if I asked you to give me a breakdown of your personality, you’d probably talk in more circles than your buddy trying to get you to invest in dogecoin.
It’s hard to… get a true read on personality, but psychologists have come up with a few methods.
And the one we’ll be using today is the Big 5 Personality Traits developed by Lewis Goldberg.
The big 5 traits are sort of the most accepted, replicable, and used measure in the world of psych today, and each trait essentially works on a sliding scale with most people falling somewhere in the middle.
Generally personalities don’t sit at the extremes, just closer to one end.
Remember, we’re ever changing.
We’ll dive more deeply into each individual trait as we get to some of the bigger points of the video, but just as an example.
Openness, to wildly oversimplify it, refers to our willingness and desire to seek out/think about new things.
People with high openness tend to be very creative, enjoy trying new things, are extremely curious, and are happy with change.
Those with low openness despise change, you won’t catch them rearranging their room or changing their schedule much, they don’t like new, and don’t like abstract ideas.
Conscientiousness sotra deals with how organized one is, do you pay attention to detail and strategize or act on a whim? Agreeableness refers to our interest in others, are we empathetic and helpful or are we self serving and oblivious to others? Neuroticism deals with emotional stability and how you handle stress, and I think you’re already familiar with Extraversion.
At our core, we all land somewhere on each of these 5 scales.
Maybe you’re pretty low on the extraversion scale, but you are highly Agreeable so you really empathize with people therefore you might enjoy a good emotional story but don’t much care for participating in real world human interaction.
As an introvert, I can relate to you.
Maybe you’re highly conscientious so you love games where you plan ahead and strategize, but due to your high neuroticism, you often get stressed when you have to make a tough decision.
maybe you over prepare for that mission or get choice paralysis when trying to decide on an outfit or a skill.
This is all my speculation by the way, I’m just trying to give you an idea of how your personality might affect how you approach titles.
Luckily though, we don’t have to speculate, there has been some remarkable work done here by one Dr.
Nick Yee of Quantic Foundry.
In 2015 Yee and his team gathered data from over 140,000 gamers using their homegrown gamer motivation profile, which you can still take now if you like and I recommend you do at some point, it’s really eye opening and fun.
Link in the description, pop in it a new tab and take it after you finish this.
From this data, they found that gamers typically play due to a combination of any of these 12 motivations.
You might play to stretch your creative muscles, you might play to get wrapped up in a story or to feel like you’re someone else.
Some folks do it for the challenge, some do it for the power trip, many of you crave the community and the competition, and some of us just like to blow shit up.
Likely tho, we are all some combination of any of these; people are rarely so one dimensional.
And since most folks exhibit multiple of these motivations when playing games, Yee and his colleagues used a little technique called Multidimensional Scaling for the data which maps out the correlation between these variables… if two motivations are more correlated, they are put closer together, whereas motivations that are less correlated are placed farther apart… meaning since these two dots are close to each other, if you are really into gaming for destruction, you are likely also into it for excitement, but less likely to be into it for strategy… When you take a look at the full map from the data, you can get a better idea of what motivations are related….
Aaaad you might see that you probably fall into one of these 3 clusters or maybe even dip your toes into 2 of them.
which is exactly what Yee and his team noticed.
There were 3 higher level structures, 3 primary types of players that most motivation correlations fall under: Action-Social – which combines the love of fast-paced gameplay with player interaction, Immersion-Creativity – which combines the interest in stories, player expression, and exploration, and Mastery-Achievement which mixes the appeal of strategic gameplay, tough challenges, and chasing achievement.
The discovery and power motivations are tricky.
they don’t really fit in just one cluster, and according to Yee they sort of act as bridges between the 3 major groups.
Meaning if you identify with the Immersion-Creativity cluster and the Mastery-Achievement cluster, discovery likely really appeals to you.
Now keep in mind, this is simply… motivations we’re talking about, not how personality affects them.
But what’s fascinating is that much like the big 5 personality traits, the gamer motivations mapping is consistent across several different regions and cultures.
Which could suggest that gaming motivations and personality are both in some ways universal for all of us and furthermore could be related in some sort of consistent manner.
As I was reading up on this and writing the script for this video, I realized that all there was left to do was find proof of that relationship.
And as I embarked on this noble quest into the sweaty migraine inducing DMV that is google scholar to try and find research that could connect the two, I was surprised to find that Dr.
Yee had already broken ground on that research making my job a lot easier.
God bless this man.
Only a few weeks later, the folks at Quantic gathered data from the gamers who filled out their gamer motivation profile AND a big 5 personality test.
They then analyzed the correlations between the participants’ offline personality traits and their gaming motivations… pretty much what I mentioned in the beginning of this video, but this time I’m not juicing your kiwis Connor, they actually did this and did it correctly.
And what they found was statistically significant correlations, meaningful connections that based on the sample size, did not happen by chance.
They stumbled upon the invisible strings that connect who we are to the experiences we love.
The Action Social cluster, which contains the high motivations of excitement, competition, and community were largely connected to high levels of extraversion.
Now extraversion is usually characterized by most folks as being outgoing or being good around others, but research supports that it’s more accurately characterized by excitability, emotional expressiveness, cravings of excitement, and gaining energy in social situations… not necessarily by being “good” in them, but gaining something from it.
Even if it’s simply competition or attention.
Consider this, you don’t have to like people to be an extrovert.
and yet you may still gain something from being around them.
So you may very well choose to pick up fighting games because your extraversion makes you crave the competition just as well as you may play action adventures for the constant excitement or mmos and social sims because you do actually like the people in your life and get something meaningful from kind interaction with others.
Another correlation they found was between Openness and the Immersion-Creativity cluster.
RPGs, Sandboxes, Open worlds, anything with a deep immersive story or a way to express creativity… Most players that enjoyed these games tended to have high levels of openness which like we discussed earlier is characterized by imagination and creativity.
Folks high in this tend to have a broad range of interests, enjoy change, and are open to new and varied experiences.
Which may explain why these people can finish JRPGs even after weird interactions like.
I joke, but this 100% me, I’m here for the story and I don’t care how weird things get.
I’d be willing to bet the undertale fanbase is full of high openness people because again, that trait is all about painting outside the lines.
Which is probably why it also correlates highly to the enjoyment of sandboxes like minecraft and games with hefty customization like monster hunter world.
Conscientiousness was slightly mapped to the mastery-achievement cluster, which.
HIghly conscientious folks are preparers, strategizers, task oriented schedule followers that likely find challenging strategy games like advance wars and Xcom to be just the right scritch to their itch.
The correlation here wasn’t as strong as the others, but it may shine a little light on the type of people that enjoy finding all of the achievements.
Again, that highly conscientious detail and task oriented nature probably lends itself to finding some pleasure in unlocking all the achievements and getting all of the collectibles.
Okay… I’m gonna come up for air now, that was a lot of big words.
Couple things to note.
The correlations here are significant and they are insightful, but they aren’t exactly.
high meaning that this only gives us a glimpse of what is usually the case but certainly not universal truths.
After all, you may be the most detail oriented conscientious person on earth and yet hate playing strategy games because your personality ruins them.
Maybe they just come off as a chore and you have too many of those in real life so you’d rather unwind with something relaxing (gris).
Like I said earlier, phat grain of salt, if episode one and psychology studies have taught me anything, it’s that there is always a bigger fish and there is always an exception.
But I do think there is a lot of truth in these correlations.
After all if you’re super introverted, you likely would like playing alone.
If you are high in openness, the stranger and more novel a world is, the more likely you are to really want to sink your teeth into it.
Which by the way, this kinda supports my theory of why when a new game trailer drops you may find yourself going ehhh, not for me whereas your buddy gets hype and just tosses it on their mountain of a backlog because they want to play it all.
High openness is great and all, but if everything new is appealing, RIP to your buddys wallet and free time.
Or maybe you’re the buddy, I’m the buddy, my backlog is bigger than my future.
For what it’s worth, my take on how who we are affects what we play has to do with personality reinforcement.
We seek out not just games but media in general that reflects our personality.
Like Yee mentioned in his closing statements of this study, games are often stereotyped as escapist fantasies so that we can be who we’re not… but we may in fact play them to better experience who we truly are, how we actually tick, and better understand our own identities.
A few studies gathered in a meta analysis by NCBI reveal that our music and television consumption is for often purposes of identity development, emotion regulation, and companionship, especially in younger people.
Which leads me to believe that in a lot of ways, gaming may influence our personality in the same way personality affects our gaming.
Personality may in fact be the original spark that triggers our interest, but I think over time they act upon each other back and forth.
Games may serve as a mirror that reveals what we do and don’t enjoy which especially in our earlier years might structure who we are.
Personality often runs into the nature vs nurture debate which….
Is almost always both when it comes to most psychology topics.
Genetics certainly plays a part in personality, as has been shown in studies with twins.
In fact based on this study, genetic influence on the big 5 traits were all estimated to be around 50% which means that personality is likely half formed by our genes and half by our experiences.
So the reason you keep coming back to fighting games may be because you are highly extraverted, but it may also be because your first gaming experience as a kid was melee.
It may not be as black and white as your personality affecting what you play, it may go both ways.
A couple stray thoughts before we pull this video out of the oven, age is also a huge factor.
Some research presented in 2003 suggests that as we age, our personality shifts.
Conscientiousness and agreeableness tends to go up through your 20s and openness tends to decline.
Meaning for a lot of people, you may really find yourself narrowing the genres you play, maybe not everything new will be quite as appealing.
Which I think kind of reflects the whole notion of identity management and formation in your early years.
Though I could just be seeing what I want to see with that.
There are also other models of gaming motivations than Yee’s you might want to consider.
Bartle’s Player Types for example, plots you as one of 4 different player types depending on if you tend to be more interested in the world vs other players and acting upon those things or interacting with them.
Jason Vandenberghe’s Domains of Play model may also be worth checking out.
Ultimately, it is extremely difficult to pin down just what exactly the relationship between our personalities and our game preferences is.
It could be something we just can’t quite grasp yet and the research I’ve gathered for you today only reveals the tip of the iceberg.
But then again, it could all be white noise, grasping at the wind, small tendencies that reveal more about what we think is true than what is actually the case.
But what it most certainly is, is delicious food for thought.
If you take away anything from this video, know that there is no right or wrong personality type just like there is no right or wrong game preference.
We’re all different and all seek what fulfills us.
Above all, I hope that this research encourages you to make a diligent effort to understand your personality, and not try to correct it.
It’s often said you should “just be yourself”, but I know from experience that’s not such a simple task.
I think a better piece of advice would be, get to know yourself.
Take the time to learn who you are, pay attention to what makes you smile, and don’t be ashamed of it.
Games have always helped me do that and regardless of how your personality truly affects what you play, I think as long as you’re enjoying yourself, it doesn’t really matter.
Howdy partner, thank you so much for watching today.
You could have watched any video in the world, but you’re here with me, and I appreciate that.
I hope you got something of value out of this and hey if you want more videos on personality like how it might affect your in game decision making or how quickly you find yourself getting tilted, let me know by liking the video, sharing it with a friend, or subscribing if you haven’t done so already.
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Much love my friends, go take Dr.
Yee’s survey, and until next time, have yourself a damn good one.