In 4X Strategy, Younger and Male Gamers Prefer Military Conquest. Older and Female Gamers Prefer Cultural Domination.

By | 2016-10-17T20:02:32+00:00 March 2nd, 2016|Survey Findings, Video Games|7 Comments

One of the hallmarks of 4X games is the ability to use different approaches to achieve victory. These may include crushing your enemies on the battlefield, creating an economic superpower, or achieving cultural or scientific nirvana. I still remember watching my father play the original Civilization and being confused as to why he would waste his time with trade caravans and cultural wonders. Why bother when you can build tanks!? Today we are looking at how gender, age, and gaming motivations influence player preferences in 4X titles.

One of the hallmarks of 4X games is the ability to use different approaches to achieve victory.

A Quick Word About The Data

In addition to the Gamer Motivation Profile, we have research surveys that gamers can participate in. These surveys tackle a variety of game preference questions, and we can link gamers’ responses back to their motivation scores. 1,082 gamers participated in this research survey. In the survey question about 4X strategy preferences, 190 individuals indicated that they were not familiar with the genre, resulting in 892 valid responses.

When Not Pursuing Scientific Victory, Men Seek Military Conquest, Women Seek Cultural Wins

While science is the most popular path to victory for both men and women, there are clear differences between male and female gamers in terms of their preferences for other strategies. For women, pursuing a culture win is a very close second to scientific victory, whereas for men, a militaristic approach was a distant second. In fact, men are three times more likely to seek victory through military conquest compared to women, while women in turn are three times more likely to pursue cultural domination compared to men.

Science is the most popular path to victory for both men and women.

Economic victories and “No Preference” responses did not show significant gender differences.

Gender Comparison

Older Gamers Prefer Scientific And Cultural Victories, Younger Gamers Prefer Military Or Economic Domination.

The average age of players seeking scientific and cultural victories is 28, while the average age of those winning through military or economic power is 25. Interestingly, gamers showing no preference for their 4X strategy averaged right in the middle at 26. One explanation for this could be that “no preference” players are in a transition phase where all options are equally compelling before eventually settling into more scientific or cultural play styles.

Age Comparison

The findings are consistent with prior analyses that we have done showing that older gamers prefer less confrontational methods of achieving victory. They prefer to engage from afar in shooters, show less interest in direct competition, and are more likely to seek cultural and scientific victories.

Older gamers prefer less confrontational methods of achieving victory.

Military And Culture Focused Players Show Opposing Motivations

The motivations underlying military-focused players are the exact opposite of those who focus on achieving cultural victories. Military-focused players score higher on Power (powerful weapons, accumulate resources), Destruction (guns, mayhem), Excitement (fast-paced action, thrills), Competition (duels, matches, winning), and Challenge (take on difficult tasks), whereas culture-focused players score significantly lower on these motivations.


In our motivation model, Power encapsulates the drive to attain power characters and weapons as well as the accumulation of wealth and strategic resources. Our data shows that these drives are highly correlated and coalesce around a single factor. In this light, it makes sense that both Military and Economic players score higher on Power.

Competition also trends higher for both of these styles of play. When you consider the head-to-head nature of combat, and the scramble for finite resources required for economic dominance, this is not surprising.

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

What About You?

Are you a world-conquering general? Maybe you prefer the finer things in life and achieve victory through cultural superiority. Or maybe you’re an economic force of nature that controls the world’s resources and wealth. Tell us about your preferred 4X path to victory, and which of the available 4X games provides the most compelling gameplay experience for you.

What’s your preferred 4X path to victory?

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About the Author:

Kaleb Embaugh is an analytics intern at Quantic Foundry. As a lifelong gamer with a background in industrial/organizational psychology, he writes about how the two intersect.


  1. Jake March 2, 2016 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    Hi Kaleb

    Interesting post, if somewhat in line with what I’d imagine your expectations must have been going into the analysis. I have a question about your data – with your survey information, could you see game-specific responses and did you line up men and women accordingly (e.g. comparing men who play civilization with women who play civilization) , or were the responses just generic to the 4x type of game? The reason I think this could matter is that I would argue that people are most likely to play a game in the “most fun” way to play a game. While I think many modern 4x games are moving in the right direction, so many of these games still really have only fleshed out mechanics for militaristic victories – even something like civilization, where you have diplomatic and science victories, has much more depth and thought put into the military aspect of the game than any of the other victory conditions. The AI in civilization, also, is relatively militaristic, so that even if you arent trying to conquest against others, you’ll have to have a military to defend yourself.

    What I’m getting at here is that I wonder if you can discern how much of the difference between men and women is from their gender and mentality, versus from the types of games they play. If the men are playing games where the combat is more fleshed out (which in itself may be a preference revealing decision), then this could be the reason they are more favoring of militaristic victories.

    Related, it would be interesting to know how the player’s perception of the difficulty of each victory type factors into their decision. For example, it may be the case that men and women take the path that they each find “easier” to reach victory, rather than the path they would “desire” most. That is, it may not be that men are more militaristic than women, but rather that this path to victory is clearer to them. Again, you may argue that this says something about them, but it would be another interesting point to expand on.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Kaleb Embaugh March 3, 2016 at 9:01 am - Reply

      Hi Jake, thanks for the great questions. We examined responses across all players who expressed familiarity with the 4X genre. We did not ask specifically which titles they were referring to when considering their play style.

      That said, (and your post alluded to this) I think if what you are describing is happening it would be more evidence of motivators, gender, and age driving play style. These would be folks who have either consciously or subconsciously recognized the type of play they enjoy and are gravitating toward titles that emphasize it. I could even see this helping people segue into new genres. Players that like military victories may move all the way into RTS games while those who like to build could find themselves happier playing something like Cities: Skylines.

      Your last point is an interesting one. It would be neat to have data for difficulty preference to see if there were correlations across many of the factors that we have looked at. We’ll keep it in mind!

  2. Mid March 3, 2016 at 2:31 am - Reply

    Question about the image at the top of the article. What game is that from?

    • Kaleb Embaugh March 3, 2016 at 9:05 am - Reply

      Hi Mid. It’s actually a composite of stock images, not something pulled from a specific game.

  3. Cousarr March 6, 2016 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    I tend to prefer building an economic and scientific powerhouse. I’ll prefer a cultural approach with my excess resources while building enough of a military to protect my assets. What I often find however, is that the AI is so bad in current 4X games (I’m looking at you Firaxis) that my mediocre peacekeeping force is more than capable of marching right over most of the opposing nations. So, I take a balanced approach. When my military might seems to be capable of dominating my neighbors, I’ll use it for such, particularly on ones that have been difficult for me diplomatically. Never once however, have I felt a need to use my military to prevent a computer opponent from beating me to another victory type.

    • captainskyhawk April 8, 2016 at 7:33 am - Reply

      Have you been playing 4X games for a long time? Maybe it’s not the AI is bad, but that you’re just really, really good. :P

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