Since releasing the initial version of the Board Game Motivation Profile, we’ve gathered data from over 40,959 gamers. This has allowed us to revise the motivation model, improve the survey inventory, and generate more representative norms for the profile reports. In this blog post, we’ll describe how we developed the current model and how it’s different from the initial model.

Quick Background: How Do You Make a Profile Tool?

What are the main motivations for playing board games? Are there 3 core motivations, or 8? Do people who care about strategy also tend to care about winning, or is the latter more related to people who enjoy high conflict mechanics?

See how you compare with other board gamers. Take a 5-minute survey and get your Board Game Motivation Profile.

There’s a standardized process in psychology research to address these questions, and it centers on a statistical method called Factor Analysis. This technique identifies how variables cluster together and surfaces underlying commonalities. For example, if we find that gamers who care a lot about having a good time with friends also prefer accessible games that are easy to learn, we might label this as the Social Fun cluster.

The Initial Profile Tool

The initial model and profile tool were developed from a sample of 1,549 gamers. It went live on August 3rd, 2016 and we publicized it on BGG, /r/boardgames, and via social media on Facebook and Twitter.

Gathering The Data & Sample Notes

Overall, we gathered valid data from 40,959 gamers (counted as unique IP addresses). Based on our web analytics, about 80% of the traffic came from social media (primarily Facebook).

We gathered data from 40,959 gamers.

Of the sample, 75% identified as male, 24% as female, and 1% as other (primarily non-binary and genderfluid). Ages ranged from 13-78. The median age was 31, with a mean of 32.66, and a standard deviation of 8.41. The interquartile range was 27-37.

In terms of gaming frequency, 10% play board games very infrequently, 29% play about once a month, 38% play about once a week, and 23% play multiple times each week. And in terms of who they play with, 91% regularly play with friends, 48% regularly play with family members, and 21% regularly play with strangers (e.g., at local meetups, tournaments).

We also asked about Kickstarter/Indiegogo/etc. participation. 50% have never contributed to a crowdfunded board game. 26% have contributed to 1-2 games. 16% have contributed to 3-10 games. And 7% have contributed to more than 10 games.

The 4 Motivation Clusters

As before, we used factor analysis to identify the main motivations for playing board games. The analysis revealed 4 motivation clusters, each composed of a primary component and one or more secondary components. The primary component is the more dominant motivation in each cluster, and the secondary motivation is often (but not always) aligned with it. For example, gamers who like Social Fun are often (but not always) interested in collaborating with other players.

The analysis revealed 4 motivation clusters, each composed of a primary component and one or more secondary components.

Here are short summaries of the motivations in our model. For more detailed descriptions of each motivation (along with game examples), check out an example profile report.

1) Conflict

Gamers with high Conflict scores tend be more competitive and enjoy games where players can take hostile actions directly against each other. This could be stealing another player’s resources, forcing them to discard, blocking their move, or directly attacking and destroying their units/buildings.

Social Manipulation (Secondary Component): Gamers who score high on Social Manipulation enjoy playing psychological mind games, where outcomes aren’t determined by dice or rulebooks, but instead by their ability to bluff, deceive, and persuade other players.

2) Strategy

Gamers with high Strategy scores enjoy taking on cognitive challenges. For them, games are a way to hone and test their intellectual abilities. Thus, they prefer games that require a lot of thinking and planning and reward sound decision-making.

Discovery (Secondary Component): Gamers who score high on this motivation are discoverers who have a broad interest in rulesets, game mechanics, and the play spaces that are enabled and emerge from different game systems.

Need To Win (Secondary Component): Gamers who score high on this motivation care a lot about winning, and are especially happy when the margin of victory is overwhelming. They enjoy soundly beating an opponent.

3) Immersion

Gamers who have high Immersion scores enjoy taking on a role in a believable alternate world, with its own lore, history, culture, and cast of interesting characters. Being able to choose or customize their starting character/city enhances this sense of taking on a role in another world.

Aesthetics (Secondary Component): Gamers who score high on Aesthetics like high-quality components that strongly reflect the theme and setting of the game. For them, amazing artwork and beautiful component illustrations are particularly important.

4) Social Fun

For gamers who score high on Social Fun, playing board games is first and foremost about having a good time with other people. The board game itself is simply a convenient prop around which friends and family can gather and have fun together.

Cooperation (Secondary Component): Gamers who score high on Cooperation enjoy board games where they can work with others players towards a common goal. They would rather team up with other players instead of beating them up.

Chance (Secondary Component): Gamers who score high on Chance enjoy luck elements in their board games, usually in the form of card drawing or dice rolling mechanics.

Accessibility (Secondary Component): Gamers who score high on Accessibility prefer games that a broad range of people can pick up and enjoy.

Key Differences/Changes From Initial Model

Based on feedback from gamers and the statistical analysis of the data, we’ve implemented a variety of changes in the profile tool and underlying math.

  • New Motivations: We’ve identified 3 new motivations. Under Strategy, we’ve added Need To Win. And under Social Fun, we’ve added Cooperation and Chance.
  • Wording Changes: Based on community feedback, we renamed the “Fantasy” motivation to “Immersion” because fantasy has an established meaning in the gaming community that was different from how we were using the word.
  • Double Layered Graph: We’re experimenting with graphing the primary and one secondary component on the same radar graph. Compared with graphing the means of each motivation cluster (as we do in the profile tool for video gamers), we believe this double layer method provides more transparency and better visualizes interesting divergences in the underlying motivation scores. We will monitor community feedback and decide whether to also implement this in the video game profile tool.
  • Improved Inventory: Based on statistical analysis, we’ve replaced a number of survey items in the profile tool with more robust variants.
  • Improved Norms: The profile tool now calculates the percentile scores based on the data from over 40,000 gamers. These new norms are more robust and representative than the preliminary norms from the earlier smaller pilot sample.