Last week, we presented a handy reference chart of our Gamer Motivation Model based on our data from over 140,000 gamers. Here it is again for ease of reference.

Gamer Motivation Model (Overview)

Want to know how you compare with other gamers on these motivations? Take a 5-minute survey and get your Gamer Motivation Profile.

As we mentioned, motivations in the same column tend to be correlated, while motivations in different columns tend to be less correlated. But that doesn’t mean that each column is completely unrelated to each other. And indeed, some columns are more related than others. So wouldn’t it be nice to get a visual map of these motivations that could capture these relationships better? Luckily for us, there’s a statistical method for that.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get a visual map of these motivations?

Multidimensional Scaling (MDS) is a technique that compresses the distances between a set of variables into a 2D map while preserving the original distances as much as possible. Variables that are more correlated are put closer together, while variables that are less correlated are put further apart. When we applied this technique to the motivation data, we found a higher-level structure to the motivations.

Map of Gaming Motivations

At a high-level, 3 clusters of motivations emerged.

  • In the bottom-right orange cluster, there’s an Action-Social cluster that combines the interest in fast-paced gameplay with player interaction.
  • In the left yellow cluster, there’s an Immersion-Creativity cluster that combines the interest in narrative, expression, and world exploration.
  • In the top blue clusters, there’s a Mastery-Achievement cluster that combines the appeal of strategic gameplay, taking on challenges, and becoming powerful.

We found motivations that act as bridges between these major clusters.

  • Discovery is a bridge between the Immersion-Creativity cluster and the Mastery-Achievement cluster.
  • Power is a bridge between Action-Social and Mastery-Achievement.

We didn’t find a bridge between Immersion-Creativity and Action-Social. This map might be hinting to us that there should be something here. On the other hand, there’s no reason why motivations need to fall neatly into balanced models where everything is bridged.

Think of it as a proximity map.

What the map is showing is the relatedness between all these motivations. So if someone scores high on a particular motivation, they are more likely to score high on the nearby motivations.

The opposite isn’t true though. Motivations that are farther apart are independent of each other; they don’t suppress each other. For example, gamers can score high on Action-Social and high on Mastery-Achievement.

The axes point to 2 primary dimensions on which motivations vary.

The axes produced by Multidimensional Scaling are not always easy to interpret. In this case though, we think they point to two interesting dimensions.


  • Acting on the World vs. Acting on Other Players: We think the horizontal axis reflects a distinction that Richard Bartle made in his Player Types model. The left side of the map emphasizes action on elements of the world and its narrative, and the right side emphasizes interaction and action on other players.
  • Cerebral vs. Kinetic: In terms of the vertical axis, we think the top part of the map emphasizes careful, long-term oriented gameplay while the bottom of the map emphasizes dynamic, fast-paced gameplay.

This motivation structure is consistent across all the regions we have data for.

We found this exact same structure across our data from North America (N = 81k), South America (N = 7.6k), Western Europe (N = 13.8k), Eastern Europe (N = 6k), Southeast Asia (N = 14.3k), and Australia + New Zealand (N = 6.3k).

Gaming Motivations Across Regions

We’ve been hinting at this structure in our web app and reference chart.

This higher-level structure is the rationale behind our layout of the radar graph on the Gamer Motivation Profile, and the ordering of the motivations on the reference chart. In both, the motivations that are more related are placed closer together.

new graph 2

Stay Tuned

In our next blog post, we’ll describe how these 3 high-level clusters intersect with personality psychology and explain why the unintuitive Action-Social cluster actually makes a lot of sense.