Revised Motivations Framework

More recent data on player motivations is available here.

A model of player motivations based on empirical data was first attempted in the Facets study. While it was clear that different players derived satisfaction in very different ways (for example, gender differences), it wasn’t clear what those different elements were or how they should be grouped, assessed or related to other aspects of game-play.

A list of possible reasons players might be motivated was generated based on existing models, such as Bartle’s Types, or anecdotal information from previous surveys. Respondents then rated their agreement to each of these statements. A factor analysis was then performed on this data to separate the statements into clusters where items within each cluster were as highly correlated as possible while clusters themselves were as uncorrelated as possible.

This methodology achieved three goals:

1) Ensure that components of each motivation are indeed related.
2) Ensure that different motivations are indeed different.
3) Provide a way to assess these motivations.

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In a sense, this methodology was testing Bartle’s Types for validity and correcting for inherent problems with a purely theoretical model:
1) Proposed components of each Type may not be related. For example, Bartle proposes that role-playing and socialization both fall under the same Type, but they may not be highly-correlated.

2) Proposed Types may overlap with each other. For example, aren’t members of raid-oriented guilds both Achievers and Socializers? But in Bartle’s Types, they are on opposite corners of the model.

3) The purely theoretical model provides no means to assess players as to what Type they are. But more importantly, without resolving the problem in (1), any attempted assessment of players based on this model might be creating player types rather than measuring them.

There were several problems with the Facets study however:

1) The statements in several factors did not have high enough reliability to be used as assessment tools. Reliability is a measure of whether a combination of statements are a good assessment of a common attitude or trait.

2) The lack of an Explorer Type was unsettling.

3) Perhaps a casual socializer (chatting, conversations) should be included in addition to the heavy socializer (relationships, support).

4) Perhaps a competitiveness factor should be included to contrast the Griefers who like to manipulate other players from the Competitors who enjoy competing with other players in a fair way.


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In light of these concerns, a new set of statements were run, by including elements mentioned in (3) and (4), and by changing the response options to be construct-specific. Literature in survey methodologies has suggested that the “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” type response choices yield lower reliability due to acquiescence and ambiguity. The suggested practice is to match response choices to the variable of interest in the question stem using extreme responses as anchors. For example,

It is very important to me to level up as fast as possible.
- Strongly Agree
- Agree
- Neither
- Disagree
- Strongly Disagree

How important is it you to level up as fast as possible?
- Not Important At All
- Slightly Important
- Moderately Important
- Very Important
- Tremendously Important

This change in response choice construction was made to improve the overall reliability of the statements used.

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Here are the statements that were used:

How important are the following things to you?

- Leveling up your character as fast as possible.
- Acquiring rare items that most players will never have.
- Becoming powerful.
- Accumulating resources, items or money.
- Knowing as much about the game mechanics and rules as possible.
- Having a self-sufficient character.
- Being immersed in a fantasy world.
- Escaping from the real world.
How much do you enjoy the following things?
- Helping other players.
- Getting to know other players.
- Hanging out with good friends.
- Chatting with other players.
- Competing with other players.
- Dominating/killing other players.
- Exploring every map or zone in the world.
- Being part of a friendly, casual guild.
- Being part of a serious, raid/loot-oriented guild.
- Trying out new roles and personalities with your characters.
- Doing things to make other players angry.
How often do you do the following things?
- How often do you find yourself having meaningful conversations with other players?
- How often do you talk to your online friends about your personal issues?
- How often have your online friends offered you support when you had a real life problem?
- How often do you make up stories and histories for your characters?
- How often do you role-play your character?
- How often do you play so you can avoid thinking about some of your real-life problems or worries?
- How often do you play to relax from the day's work?
- How often do you purposefully try to annoy other players?

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The resulting factors are shown here with their reliability score (Cronbach’s Alpha) and the statements they are based on. A reliability of .7 or higher is typically sufficient in psychometrics:

Achievement (Reliability = .78)
Leveling up your character as fast as possible.
Acquiring rare items that most players will never have.
Becoming powerful.
Accumulating resources, items or money.

Casual Socializer / Chat (Reliability = .78)
Helping other players.
Getting to know other players.
Chatting with other players.
Being part of a friendly, casual guild.
How often do you find yourself having meaningful conversations with other players?

Immersion / Role-Playing (Reliability = .75)
Being immersed in a fantasy world.
Trying out new roles and personalities with your characters.
How often do you make up stories and histories for your characters?
How often do you role-play your character?

Serious Socializer / Relationship (Reliability = .79)
How often do you find yourself having meaningful conversations with other players?
How often do you talk to your online friends about your personal issues?
How often have your online friends offered you support when you had a real life problem?

Competition / Grief (Reliability = .75)
Competing with other players.
Dominating/killing other players.
Doing things to make other players angry.
How often do you purposefully try to annoy other players?

Escapism (Reliability = .72)
How often do you play so you can avoid thinking about some of your real-life problems or worries?
Escaping from the real world.

The three statements used to test the Explorer type did not correlate highly with each other, and have low reliability:

Explorer (Reliability = .38)
Knowing as much about the game mechanics and rules as possible.
Exploring every map or zone in the world.
Having a self-sufficient character.

Earlier attempts also included the following statements, none of which correlate above r = .20:

- I like to think about class-balancing issues.
- I try out a lot of things to experiment with the game mechanics.
- I try to find bugs I can exploit.
- What fascinates me is finding out how stuff works in the game.
- I like numbers, charts and tables.

However, in the current data set, the Achievement factor is correlated with interest in game mechanics (r=.46) and self-sufficiency (r=.29). So perhaps all Explorers are in fact Achievers. They are interested in the game mechanics to become better Achievers.

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The following maps out how the motivations differ by gender and how they are correlated with age and hours played per week. All gender differences noted below are significant at p < .001 in a t-test. For brevity, only the direction and effect size of each difference is noted.

In other words, male players tend to score higher on the Achievement and Competition factors, while female players tend to score higher on the Socialization factors. Younger players are more likely to prefer Achievement and Competition, and players who score high on Achievement, Serious Socialization or Escapism tend to spend the most number of hours per week in the environment.