We finally had time to dive into our board game data. As some of you know, we created a Board Game Motivation Profile from the ground up (using the same method as the Gamer Motivation Profile), and over 90,000 board gamers have taken part in it.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the primary motivations of board gamers—the motivation that each gamer scores highest on (and is most important to them), and slice those findings by age and gender.

Data From the Board Game Motivation Profile

The Board Game 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 board gamers. Over 90,000 board gamers have taken this survey. The 11 motivations that are measured in our model were identified via statistical analysis of how gaming motivations cluster together.

Do you play board games? Take a 5-minute survey to get your Board Game Motivation Profile and see how you compare with other board gamers.

Each motivation score we calculate is normalized against the full dataset—i.e., how other gamers responded to those same questions. Thus, a perfectly average score is 50th percentile, while an 80th percentile means that you scored higher than 80% of board gamers in the data. For the current analysis, we assigned each gamer’s highest ranked motivation as their primary motivation.

1) Men’s Primary Motivations Are Highly Varied

In all the charts we present in this post, we list the 11 motivations in descending order, from most common to least common primary motivation. Thus, in each chart, the numbers add up to 100%.

For men, the most common primary motivation is Need To Win (the importance of winning, soundly beating an opponent) followed by Discovery (learning about new games / systems / mechanics). While these two motivations together would imply that male gamers are constantly looking for new ways to beat you, it bears pointing out that these two motivations account for only about 23% of all male gamers. In fact, most of the bars in the chart are within a few percentage points of each other.

The least common primary motivations are Social Fun (lighthearted social interaction, simply having a good time with others) and Aesthetics (beautiful artwork and components that reflect the theme).

When we were putting the pilot inventory together for board games, we realized that it didn’t make sense to ask about Competition because almost all board games are multiplayer and competitive (in contrast with the large number of video games that can be played solo). It would be like asking accountants whether they like math. Instead, we broke down Competition into several contextually-relevant components, such as Need To Win, Conflict, Social Manipulation, and Cooperation.

2) Women’s Primary Motivations: Board Games as Social Catalysts

For women, Accessibility (easy to learn, easy to teach newcomers) and Social Fun (lighthearted social interaction, simply having a good time with others) are the most common primary motivations. Together, these two motivations suggest that female gamers are more likely to see board games as important props and catalysts in a larger social interaction—the game is a tool that facilitates having a good time with others.

The least common primary motivations are Conflict (hostile player interactions, high conflict mechanics) and Discovery (learning about new games / systems / mechanics).

3) FYI: Women & Men Equally Likely to Want to Kick Your Ass

As a proportion of their frequencies, the biggest gender difference is in Conflict (3.5 times more men than women had this as a primary motivation).

Even though Need To Win is the most common primary motivation for men, it is also the motivation where male and female board gamers are the most similar (13% vs. 12% respectively). So in terms of primary motivations, women are just as likely as men to want to kick your ass. It’s just that women care about some other motivations even more than winning.

4) Non-Binary Gender Gamers Want To Be Immersed In Alternate Worlds

Among our respondents, 1.1% identify as non-binary gender. In our current data set, we have data from 1,011 non-binary gender board gamers.

Accessibility and Immersion (elaborate lore and characters, immersed in alternate world) are the most common primary motivations among non-binary gender gamers. Conflict and Discovery are the least common primary motivations.

This pattern is similar to what we saw in the video game data. There, Fantasy (being someone else, somewhere else) was the most common primary motivation among non-binary gender gamers.

5) Younger Gamers Prefer Easy Wins

For gamers ages 13-25, the most common primary motivations are Need To Win and Accessibility. This combination suggests an interest in game mechanics that are easy to learn and get into, so they can focus on defeating their opponents.

Their least common primary motivations are Discovery and Cooperation (being on team, working towards common goal).

6) For Older Gamers, Discovery Tops The List.

For older gamers (ages 36+), the most common primary motivations are Discovery and Accessibility. This combination points to the appeal of board games as a relaxing discovery process for older gamers.

The two least common motivations are Social Manipulation (deceiving, bluffing, persuading other players) and Conflict. Note that both were middle-of-the-pack motivations among younger gamers, and this implies a decrease in the appeal of high conflict mechanics as gamers get older.

7) Gender Accounts For More Than 3 Times The Variance in Board Gaming Motivations Than Age Does

One common criticism of exploring gender differences is that we’re fixating on gender rather than considering other variables that likely impact gaming motivations. When we explored the video game data, one way to put gender differences in a broader context is by comparing the effect size of gender differences with age differences. For example, age explains more than double the variance in Competition than gender does. As we’ve pointed out before, even though (video) gaming forums are often obsessed with gender differences, the elephant in the room is actually age.

One way to put gender differences in a broader context is by comparing the effect size of gender differences with age differences.

When we examined the board gaming data however, we saw the opposite pattern. After collating the effect sizes of gender and age across all the motivations measured, we found that gender accounts for more than 3 times the variance compared with age. This means that the difference between young and old board gamers is relatively small compared to the differences between male and female board gamers.

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Yes, we do! In the profile tool, we ask gamers to provide their BGG name if they have one. We’re planning to link the motivation data to BGG metadata, but haven’t gotten to it yet. But this gives us a way to isolate and analyze BGG members specifically. In the full sample of 91,035 gamers, 21% (or 19,108 gamers) provided a BGG name. When I analyzed just the BGG members for their primary motivations, here’s what I got.

Apart from the Discovery stand-out, it’s also worth pointing out that neither Strategy nor Aesthetics made it into the top 3 in any of the charts in this blog post, but they did here in the BGG sample.