Game Player Motivations

by Jon on May 19, 2011

I included a simple way to break down the major categories of motivation for any game in my recent book, Game On. This can help you think about the different things that motivate players in almost any game:

Four Quadrants of Player Motivations

My goal with the four quadrants of player motivation draw upon prior work by Richard Bartle. Bartle broke player motivations down into explorers, socializers, killers and achievers. Subsequently, he expanded this into eight categories. Nick Yee also developed his own version of player motivations, based on his MMORPG research, identifying three major categories that split into ten subcategories of motivation.

My goal is to provide everyone with a new model of player motivations that have the simplicity of Bartle’s original formulation, yet which can apply to nearly any game that exists–not simply MUDs or MMORPGs. Furthermore, I’ve attempted to address some of Yee’s criticisms based on his quantitative analysis of player motivations.

In my formulation, there are two axes that define the environment the player is in: the horizontal axis is the number of players involved in an element of gameplay. The further to the left you go, the closer to a single player; the more to the right, the more players (such as is experienced in massively multiplayer games or social games). The vertical axis is the measurement used to communicate to the player whether they’re ‘winning’ in the category of motivation: as you go upwards, things go from very quantitative (leaderboards, points, etc.) to more qualitative rewards (emotions, stories, etc.)

According to these axes, the four quadrants are:

Immersion: stories, roleplaying, exploration, imagination, and a sense of connectedness to the world of the game.

Achievement: sense of progress, mastery of skills and knowledge, etc.

Cooperation: player involvement in activities where they are helping each other, through creativity, shared adversity, etc.

Competition: player involvement where individuals complete over scarce resources, comparison, and win/loss situations.

For an expanded description of the categories, how you can use them in designing games, and a discussion of the way player motivations have been handled in the past–please check out Game On.

Thank you for reading this article. Please follow me on Twitter to hear more from me on innovation, games and entrepreneurship. If you'd like to learn how games can transform your business, also check out my book, Game On: Energize Your Business with Social Media Games.

{ 10 trackbacks }

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Savin DwarfNo Gravatar April 24, 2013 at 11:15 pm

Interesting perspective. Are you still actively analyzing approaches to categorizing gamer types?

I’ve been coming at this from a different perspective.
We know that we can categorize gamers in many different ways, so
Rather than coming up with new systems I’m
Trying to devise a system to correlate them and
As a result see which are dedicated. I’m also trying
To reference back to mbti .

Anyway, if you are interested let me know by email.
I’m doing this as a hobby/academic exercise.

All the best,


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