[This post is co-authored with Chris Karzmark, a mixed-methods UX & games researcher, and recent Ph.D. graduate from UCSC in Cognitive Psychology.]

Many games ask players to pick a faction. Strategy games typically put this choice at the beginning of a match (e.g., Zerg, Terran, or Protoss in Starcraft) while RPGs might offer branching versions of a questline (e.g., Imperial or Stormcloaks in Skyrim) or even determine the perspective of the entire game (e.g., Blue Stripes or Scoia’tael in The Witcher 2).

In this post, we’ll take a look at how choosing between archetypal factions might create self-selected cohorts with different demographic and motivation profiles, which in turn would lead to important considerations for game/faction balancing and divergent feature preferences between the faction audiences.

The Gamer Motivation Profile

The Gamer Motivation Profile is a 5-minute survey that allows gamers to get a personalized report of their gaming motivations, and see how they compare with other gamers. Over 500,000 gamers worldwide have taken this survey. The 12 motivations that are measured in our model were identified via statistical analysis of how gaming motivations cluster together. You can get a more detailed description of our gamer sample here.

See how you compare with other gamers. Take a 5-minute survey and get your Gamer Motivation Profile along with personalized game recommendations.

The Faction Preference Dataset

Alongside the Gamer Motivation profile, we run a series of optional surveys that gamers can take. In a survey we ran between March 2020 and December 2020, we focused on in-game decisions including faction choices and collected responses from 2,956 gamers (69% male, 27% female, 4% non-binary). The median age was 24 (mean = 25.9, SD = 8.15).

We asked players to pick a faction in 3 archetypal scenarios:

  1. Light/Order Faction vs. Dark/Shadowy Faction
  2. Technology/Engineering Faction vs. Magic/Spells Faction vs. Nature/Animals Faction
  3. Alien Aggressor Side vs. Human Defender Side

For the Light vs. Dark choice, players had to pick one side or the other. For the other two questions, we provided a “No Preference” option.