When Starting a Fight in Video Games, Cautious Long Range Is Most Popular, But Men Like To Rush In.

By |2016-10-17T20:02:30+00:00October 5th, 2016|Survey Findings, Video Games|10 Comments

In this post, we’re taking a look at different combat approaches. Do you play as a stealthy assassin or do you rush in for action that is up close and personal? Do you try to avoid combat altogether? Maybe you prefer to soften up your targets from long range?

See how you compare with other gamers on 12 gaming motivations. Take a 5-minute survey and get your Gamer Motivation Profile.

A Quick Word About The Data

Here at Quantic Foundry, in addition to the Gamer Motivation Profile, we also have additional research surveys that gamers can participate in. These surveys tackle a variety of game preference questions, and allow us to link gamers’ responses back to things like their motivation scores, gender, and age. 1,266 gamers participated in this research survey.

In the survey, we asked gamers to rate how often they use different combat approaches. As a way of simplifying the presentation of the data, we first focus on the gamers who have a strong preference for each combat approach (i.e., they picked “Always”).


Cautious Long Range is Most Popular

Among gamers who have a strong preference for a specific combat approach, the most popular option was Cautious Long Range (34%). Stealthy Evasion was the least popular at only 18%.


Younger Men Rush In

Differences between men and women were minor. The only statistically significant difference was in the Rushing In approach—the men are more likely to prefer it.


In terms of age differences, the only statistically significant pair-wise comparison is between Rushing In and Cautious Long Range; gamers who prefer Rushing In are younger than those who prefer Cautious Long Range.


Combat Approach Profiles

To provide a more holistic look, we wanted to break down each approach, and the type of person who has a strong preference for it. For each approach, we will present the following:

  • Approach Popularity
  • Demographics: Gender + Age Notes
  • Top Motivation Correlates: Strongest significant correlations between frequency of each combat approach and the 12 motivations in our model
Stealthy Evasion Rushing In Cautious Long Range Stealthy Assassination
Popularity Least Popular
3rd Most Popular
Most Popular
2nd Most Popular
Demographics Very small gender and age differences. Men Prefer. Younger gamers prefer. Women slightly prefer. Very small gender and age differences.
Discovery (.14)
Strategy (.11)
Fantasy (.08)
Excitement (.30)
Destruction (.24)
Power (.18)
Discovery (.13)
Design (.12)
Strategy (.10)
Strategy (.21)
Challenge (.16)
Discovery (.15)

There are several interesting aspects of the motivation correlates.

First, we see the interest in long-term thinking and planning (Strategy) reflected in the two stealth-based combat approaches.

Second, it was interesting to see the appeal of experimentation and tinkering (Discovery) reflected in Stealthy Evasion and Cautious Long Range.

Rushing In is most strongly impacted by gender, age, as well as gaming motivations.

And finally, Rushing In is really the odd-one-out in several aspects. It is most strongly impacted by gender, age, as well as gaming motivations. Note also that its motivation correlates overlap the least with the other combat approaches. Among the other 3 combat approaches, there’s an overlap of at least 2 motivations with another combat approach. In this sense, gamers who prefer Rushing In are a highly differentiated player type.

What About You?

Does your combat approach change across games or do you have a strong preference?

We’d love to hear about your gaming experiences. Which combat approach do you usually prefer, and does this change depending on the game or do you have a strong preference? Which combat approach do you have the hardest time using?

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. Erik October 6, 2016 at 11:32 am - Reply

    Interesting and fun read!

  2. franck meloni October 6, 2016 at 11:51 am - Reply

    I tend to prefer long range or assassin, When I rush in I prefer a rocket launcher more than anything else. So basically either extreme is my preferred play style.

  3. Elsa Kelly October 6, 2016 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    56 year old female here. I generally prefer starting out with long range, but don’t have the patience to maintain it. A lot also depends on the game bin PVE situations where I can get swarmed, I prefer longer range. In PVP I like the shotgun and close range. There’s something very satisfying about a shortly kill. :)

  4. Hawke October 6, 2016 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    A lot depends on playing solo vs playing as part of a party. Stealthy approach is preferable in single-player, if killing opponents is optional (or resources required > potential reward). Rushing in is easier to pull out with a random team.
    In RPGs I usually explore alone (as a rogue or similar class), then attack at the same time as the main part of the party (or, when the opponents notice the tank).

  5. Lisa October 6, 2016 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    34 year old female here. A lot of my preference can be shaped by the particulars of the game. I probably default to cautious long range in many shooters, but in Doom I’m rush-in all the way (but that game highly encourages that style of play.) Other games, like rpgs, my preference is all over the place

  6. Luke October 6, 2016 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    I think that the genre of the game being played also has a lot of impact on playing style; the design of the games themselves lead to vastly differing payoffs for the risk\reward matrix of each type of approach. For instance, in Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed 3 and 4, open combat was incredibly easy, so the lack of risk meant that there wasn’t much extra reward for taking the stealthy approach which would normally require extra time to perform (short of challenges appealing to the completionists out there like me). Also, the limited amount of ammo for ranged weapons meant that long range play was comparatively discouraged.

    Compare that to Ubisoft’s other offerings in Far Cry 3 and 4: the extra rewards for taking outposts without being detected increased the reward for the long range and stealthy play styles while the nature of the enemies’ weapons and co-ordination strike-back capability meant that the direct approach was also more risky compared to the other two styles. So it’s probably worth looking at how every game’s design changes the risk\reward payoff for each style which could overwrite a given player’s natural approach and force them to be more fluid for different games.

  7. somnomania October 6, 2016 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    I’m 29 and female, and I use the stealthy + long range approach everywhere I can. Skyrim is the best example; no matter what mods I get in preparation and no matter what sort of character I spend half an hour creating, somehow they always end up as a stealth-based archer. Maybe it’s because my reaction times are fairly bad, and when startled by a close-range enemy I have a tendency to just mash the mouse buttons in a panic. Borderlands 2 is the same, I lean hardest on my good sniper rifle, and clear out an area from as far away as possible.

  8. xeno October 11, 2016 at 5:47 am - Reply

    40/M. I vastly prefer long range, and only switch to melee begrudgingly. Whenever possible, I prefer to take out targets at draw distance. When I must switch to melee range, I prefer stealth and a silenced weapon such as a pistol or hand xbow.

  9. Video Game Deep Cuts: Emotional AI Self-Destructsy - Arcade Bulletin October 16, 2016 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    […] When Starting a Fight in Video Games, Cautious Long Range Is Most Popular, But Men Like To Rush In (Kaleb Embaugh / Quantic Foundry)“In this post, we’re taking a look at different combat approaches. Do you play as a stealthy assassin or do you rush in for action that is up close and personal? Do you try to avoid combat altogether? Maybe you prefer to soften up your targets from long range? 1,266 gamers participated in this research survey.” […]

  10. Christopher A. Hunt October 20, 2016 at 11:59 am - Reply

    excuse me please:
    I would like to state that the above statement is entirely too general, and potentially stereo-typical.
    I am a gamer of age 46, and a how one enters into a “combat situation” does severely depend on character class (plate wearer, chain, leather, etc.) and whether there is a support element within the group. To coin a phrase about fools (i.e. those who lack wisdom) rushing in, this is true of those younger, regardless of gender.
    For another example, if I am running a plate armor wearing character, and have a dedicated (read: real person) healer, I know we together can handle situations of greater difficulty, then were I alone as a chain armor wearer without a healer.
    A more detailed, or specific question about the combat situations would allow for a clearer understanding and avoid generalizing and/or stereo-typing.

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