Mapping the Shooter Genre

By | 2016-10-17T20:02:32+00:00 June 22nd, 2016|Analytics, Video Games|9 Comments

Previously on our blog, we’ve looked at genre maps of Strategy games and Open World games. This week, we’re doing maps of the Shooter genre.

The Shooter genre is much maligned in mainstream media, and it’s easy to end up with a monolithic view of who Shooter gamers are. In this post, we’ll dive into the motivation data to explore the many interesting variations among Shooter gamers.

If you’re a regular reader of our blog and familiar with our motivation data and how we generate these genre maps, feel free to skip the next 2 sections.

Data from the Gamer Motivation Profile

The Gamer Motivation Profile allows gamers to take a 5-minute survey to get a personalized report of their gaming motivations, and see how they compare with other gamers. Over 220,000 gamers worldwide have taken this survey. The 12 motivations that are measured in our model were identified via statistical analysis of how gaming motivations cluster together (based on data from 30,000 gamers).

Want to see how you compare with other gamers? Take a 5-minute survey and get your own Gamer Motivation Profile.

In the Gamer Motivation Profile, we also ask gamers to list some games they’ve enjoyed playing. This allows us to generate motivation profiles not only for individual gamers, but also for game titles. We do this by aggregating the motivation profiles from the gamers who listed that game as a game they enjoy.

From Gamers to Game Titles

Our working assumption is that the core audience a game manages to attract provides the best proxy score for the game as a whole. A game with a good elaborate narrative will generally attract gamers who are interested in elaborate narratives. And a game might try to do many things at once, but its core audience will reveal whether only certain aspects of the game were playable and appealing.

The core audience a game manages to attract provides the best proxy score for the game as a whole.

Certainly, the top 1% most hardcore gamers of any game (on any dimension) will play it in a dramatically different way from everyone else, but we would argue that a game’s core audience is most representative of what a game is about.

Creating the Shooter Genre Maps

For our Shooter genre maps, we aggregated some popular Shooter game titles and franchises. In the maps below, game labels with

[square brackets] refer to all games under the franchise, while game labels without square brackets refer to a specific game title. When reading the maps, keep in mind that we’re zoomed into a specific genre space, so “lower” and “higher” are relative to games within this genre.

The Primary Axis in Shooter Games: Competition vs. Story

Asking Shooter gamers whether they like to use guns and explosives isn’t a very revealing or interesting question, because there is very little variation among Shooter gamers. On the other hand, if we could identify the motivations that vary the most among Shooter games, then that provides insight into how to best differentiate Shooter games as well as Shooter gamers.

Factor analysis is one way to identify the primary axis within a variable space. In the case of the Shooter genre, the primary axis turns out to be Competition (duels, matches, high on ranking) vs. Story (elaborate plots, interesting characters). These two motivations are strongly negatively correlated in this genre space: Shooter games that are high on Competition tend to be low on Story, and vice versa.

Shooter Genre Map - Story x Competition

Here’s what the genre map looks like. On the bottom right are games (like PayDay and Destiny) that emphasize interesting characters and narratives over player competition, and on the top left are games (like Counter-Strike) that emphasize player competition over elaborate stories and characters.

Do you enjoy Shooters because they are a great way to challenge other gamers, or because they provide you with interesting weapons in an unfolding narrative?

This primary axis highlights two very different approaches to Shooter games that lie on opposite ends of the same spectrum: Do you enjoy Shooters because they are a great way to challenge other gamers, or because they provide you with interesting weapons in an unfolding narrative? Where do you fall in that spectrum?

Friend or Foe?

Most modern Shooter games combine team-work and competition in different proportions. So we decided to plot out the games on a map of Competition and Community (teams, working together, chatting).

Shooter Genre Map - Community x Competition

There are 2 striking outliers on this map. First, Counter-Strike is far more competitive than the other games here. If you’re looking for a very competitive Shooter, Counter-Strike seems like a good bet. Second, there is essentially only one game on the right half of the map with a very high emphasis on Community—Squad.

So what’s going on with Squad? It’s worth noting that Squad is technically still an early access game on Steam, so its current players may be more hardcore and niche in comparison. On the other hand, reviews on Steam repeatedly point out that doing well in the game requires highly-coordinated teams (compared to other Shooters), so the game itself might be more niche by design.

Let Me Think About That

The amount of thinking and planning varies among Shooters. The Call of Duty franchise is known for encouraging more of a run-and-gun mentality, whereas Rainbow Six has an actual planning phase before the actual mission. In this final chart, we’ve plotted Strategy (thinking ahead, making decisions) against Competition. The chart shows the more tactical shooters on the right, with the more action-oriented shooters to the left.

Shooter Genre Map - Strategy x Competition

At the Quantic Foundry office yesterday, Nic Ducheneaut and I had an interesting discussion about the relative sparseness of the map on the right side. One idea is that the range of Competition is constrained beyond a certain amount of Strategy, an effect we saw among Strategy games.

Another idea is that we’re now in MOBA and 4X territory, and that space only looks empty because we’re not plotting MOBAs and 4X titles on the same map. Or in other words, at that level of Strategy, first-person shooters become unwieldy in terms of managing and processing information compared with top-down maps (as in Civilization or League of Legends).

Tactical Shooter Gamers: What are games you like to play when you’re not playing Shooters?

Here’s a question for you tactical shooter gamers, what are games you like to play when you’re not playing shooters?

Laying the Groundwork

We’re using these Shooter genre maps to lay the groundwork for an upcoming post where we describe a technique for articulating the core and differentiation design pillars for game genres. Stay tuned!

By | 2016-10-17T20:02:32+00:00 June 22nd, 2016|Analytics, Video Games|9 Comments

About the Author:

Nick is the co-founder and analytics lead of Quantic Foundry. He combines social science and data science to understand gamer behavior in large-scale game data.

9 Comments

  1. Elsa Kelly June 22, 2016 at 11:51 am - Reply

    I mostly only two genres – FPS games (MAG, CoD, Battlefield, Destiny) and WRPG games (Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Dragons Dogma, Witcher, Mass Effect, Borderlands). There is a fair cross over in the two genres but I enjoy having concurrent online games (usually FPS) and offline game (usually WRPG). Online gives me competition and social interaction while offline gives me private relaxation time.

  2. nakilon June 23, 2016 at 7:19 am - Reply

    Where is Quake 3, cmon?

    • Nick Yee June 23, 2016 at 10:52 am - Reply

      With Quake 3 (which came out in 1999), as well as other shooter games in that era such as Doom and Unreal, the problem is that the people who mention those games now are on average about 10-20 years older than people who mention more contemporary shooter games. And because gaming motivations change with age (see http://quanticfoundry.com/2016/02/10/gamer-generation/), Quake/Doom/Unreal would appear to have much lower scores on Excitement and Competition simply due to the age confound. Trying to correct this confound may lead to other statistical distortions, so we decided to focus on more recent shooter titles/franchises.

  3. Mapping the Shooter Genre | Scopely Industry Di... June 23, 2016 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    […] The Shooter genre is much maligned in mainstream media, and it’s easy to end up with a monolithic view of who Shooter gamers are. In this post, we’ll dive into the motivation data to explore the many interesting variations among Shooter gamers.  […]

  4. Curt J Sampson July 9, 2016 at 8:53 pm - Reply

    I’d love it if you could get World of Tanks in to your list. Whilst some might argue that it’s not a “proper” first-person shooter (you can between first-person and third-person PoV, and playing effectively requires a fair amount of work in third-person PoV), but I don’t really buy that argument since aside from this tweak, which is very much related to the mechanics of a tank turret, it works very much like any other PVP short-battle shooter.

    The big difference between this and many other shooters is the slow movement, firing rate, etc. Combined with the lack of respawning this makes the game require a lot of planning and a lot of attention to what other players are doing, which is why it’s sometimes been called “the chess of shooters.”

  5. Aggropop July 16, 2016 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    Why are the COD games low on story? I’d rated them high, because in single player it is all about cineastic experience. Or is it because they are strictly linear?

    • Nick Yee July 18, 2016 at 11:39 am - Reply

      A game’s opportunity/feature space is different from the audience it attracts. As an extreme example, it’s possible to form dance troupe guilds in World of Warcraft and simply dance in battlegrounds. But of course, the majority of gamers don’t play WoW for this reason. The low Story score for CoD implies that most gamers who enjoy CoD don’t enjoy it for the campaign, but rather for the competitive multiplayer aspect.

  6. HungAPresume September 9, 2016 at 6:04 pm - Reply

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  7. Phil January 8, 2017 at 4:02 am - Reply

    One game I would be interested to see plotted here is Natural Selection 2. It seems to me that it has a very strong strategic component (playing like an RTS for the commander) while also being an FPS.

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