Most Popular Games by Gaming Motivations

By |2016-10-17T20:02:35+00:00August 11th, 2015|Analytics, Video Games|8 Comments

In the Gamer Motivation Profile, we asked gamers to list their favorite genres and games in open-ended text fields (up to 3 of each). With data from over 100,000 gamers, we are able to identify the most frequently mentioned games for each gaming motivation.

Our Approach

It is difficult to do fuzzy string matching on such a large possibility space of game titles (with acronyms, abbreviations, series numbering, variations, and misspellings). We used a more simplistic approach as an initial pass and leveraged the sheer scale of the sample.

For each of the 12 game motivations, we took the gamers in the top 20th percentile and pooled the games they listed. We then extracted the top 80 games mentioned. To remove the confound of generally popular games (e.g., World of Warcraft and GTA), we normalized the local frequency by the base rate frequency. We then resorted these 80 games according to this weighted popularity.

We then started from the top of each list and looked for variations of the game title in the remainder of the list (e.g., Civ 5 = Civ V = Civilization 5). This also included specific games from a game franchise (e.g., Mass Effect 2 -> Mass Effect Series). We grouped together games and game franchises until 10 distinct sets were identified.

The Achievement Group

Power (Making Progress & Becoming Powerful)
World of Warcraft, Diablo 2/3, DoTA Series/2, Runescape, Destiny, Call of Duty, League of Legends, Counter Strike, God of War, Resident Evil

Completion (Collect, Complete, & Finish)
Final Fantasy Series/IX, Assassin’s Creed Series, Legend of Zelda Series, God of War, Animal Crossing, Elder Scrolls Series, Destiny, Pokemon, Guild Wars 2, Fire Emblem

The Action Group

Excitement (Fast-Paced & Intense)
Super Smash Bros. Melee, Battlefield Series/3/4, Counter Strike, Call of Duty, God of War, Destiny, Kingdom Hearts 2, Resident Evil, League of Legends

Destruction (Blowing Things Up)
GTA Series/V, Battlefield Series/3/4, Destiny, Call of Duty, Gears of War, Halo, Borderlands Series/2, Doom, God of War, Counter Strike

The Creativity Group

Design (Expression & Customization)
The Sims Series, City of Heroes, Animal Crossing, Guild Wars 2, Final Fantasy XIV, Dragon Age Series/Origins, Mass Effect Series, Monster Hunter, Pokemon, Elder Scrolls Series/Oblivion/Skyrim

Discovery (Experiment, Explore, Tinker)
Elder Scrolls Series/Oblivion/ Morrowind/Skyrim, Fallout Series/3/New Vegas, Fable, Legend of Zelda Series/Ocarina of Time, GTA Series/V, Minecraft, Earthbound, Kerbal Space Program, Metal Gear Solid 3, Metroid Prime

The Immersion Group

Story (Plot, Narrative, Characters)
Dragon Age Series/Origins, Mass Effect Series/2/3, Persona 3/4, Tales of Symphonia, Xenogeras, Final Fantasy VIII/IX/X, Knights of the Old Republic, Fire Emblem, Kingdom Hearts Series/2, Planescape Torment

Fantasy (Being Someone/Somewhere Else)
Dragon Age Series/Inquisition/Origins, Elder Scrolls Series/Morrowind, Dishonored, Mass Effect Series/2/3, Skyrim, Fable, Fallout New Vegas, Knights of the Old Republic, Journey, Legend of Zelda

The Social Group

Community (Teaming Up & Social Interaction)
Final Fantasy XIV, Battlefield Series/4, Destiny, Guild Wars Series/2, EverQuest, League of Legends, Monster Hunter, World of Warcraft, Counter Strike, DoTA Series/2

Competition (Duels, Matches, Leaderboards)
Counter Strike Series/GO, Super Smash Bros. Melee, DoTA Series/2, League of Legends, Street Fighter, Heroes of the Storm, Starcraft 2, Call of Duty, Battlefield Series/3/4, FIFA

The Mastery Group

Strategy (Thinking & Planning)
Europa Universalis 4, Crusader Kings 2, Civilization Series/5, EVE Online, XCOM, Starcaft Series/2, Fire Emblem, Age of Empires, Warcraft 3, Kerbal Space Program

Challenge (Practice & Take On Challenges)
Super Smash Bros. Melee, Devil May Cry 3, World of Warcraft, Dark Souls, Counter Strike, Street Fighter, Monster Hunter, DoTA Series/2, Starcraft 2, Warcraft 3

Next Steps

We’ve added these lists of popular games as toggled information boxes in the Gamer Motivation Profile. We’re also hoping to refine this analysis over time with more precise name matching.

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.


  1. Kieron August 12, 2015 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    There’s a lot of controversy over scores on game reviews. There are many gamers who look at scores as objective measures, but scores don’t really have any universal objective meaning.

    I think it would be possible to have an objective measure for games if games were given 12 scores each considering to the 12 motivations rather than having a single score.

  2. Ramon August 12, 2015 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    I’ve taken pretty much every survey Nick Yee has offered and while I’m 100% behind the value of academic research, I’m pleasantly surprised to see what amounts to a “Steam Shopping List” for my motivations. Thanks, Nick et al.

  3. Nick Yee August 12, 2015 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    More personalized recommendations based on the gaming motivations is something we have on our near-term development roadmap, and this initial textual analysis is a stepping stone in that direction. We wanted to make sure we had a way of meaningfully parsing the open-ended text entry before slicing the data more finely by mixes of motivations and perhaps also gender and age. After that, we’ll have to figure out how to do all the proximity matching efficiently in real-time.

    So thanks for the feedback. It’s good to know that this is something gamers want to see more of.

  4. Sarah August 12, 2015 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    Great idea on how to adjust for “generally popular” titles.

  5. Milo Howser September 1, 2015 at 1:02 am - Reply

    Stanford, over 100,000 gamers took Quantic s survey, a huge data sample. Notable that hardcore multiplayer action games like Battlefield and League of Legends ended up in the Community motivation category.

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