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Profiling Gamers

June 24th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

Only a Game has released some of the results from a survey they took of gamers. The intent of many of these question is to establish whether gamers who prefer certain genres approach games in different ways. Judging from the results, strategy gamers tend to enjoy messing around in a game world, whether or not progress is being made (Question 3) and want to take care of a game character (Question 8 ). This latter finding is attributed to an “X-Com effect”, but sort of presumes that these gamers remember what X-Com is.

And that leap of logic is my big problem with this survey as it is presented. Even when coupled with data on the hardcore/casual distinction derived from the same data set, there is a lot we don’t know about these gamers. Even leaving aside that the sample size is only 319 gamers, split into a number of overlapping catergories, the deciding factor in what gamers look for in a game might be determined by more boring stuff than genre boxes.

How old are people who prefer progress to sandbox games? Are student gamers more or less sociable than adult gamers? Until this basic and obvious question is answered, you really can’t draw a lot of firm conclusions about what gamers are looking for. How long have they been gaming? How many games do they buy a year? Console or PC?

In fact the Demographic Game Design 1 survey used as the basis for this study doesn’t even track this sort of information, sort of missing one of the big parts of demography. Gender, education, etc. – these sorts of things determine who has the time to play certain types of games and the environment in which they do so.

But real insight into what types of experiences certain gamers prefer is clearly not the purpose of the study. The purpose of the DGD is to slot gamers into four archetypes of game players (Conqueror, Manager, Wanderer, Participant) so that designers can build around these archetypes. I’m a Wanderer (according the survey) but this is based entirely on the boxes I clicked in regards to what I look for in games.

Take a look at the DGD. It asks the respondent for three games they like and a single game that captures what they don’t like about gaming. (My responses were Civ 4, EU 2 and with Baldur’s Gate with Superpower 2 as my bad experience.) There is no way that this information can be used to generate the result unless the surveyor knows what I like and don’t like. After all, the design documents for Superpower 2 and Europa Universalis 2 are pretty similar. How can the computer survey slot me in as a Wanderer without asking me what separates these two broadly similar games?

The survey is too short to be useful in drawing any meaningful conclusions about gamers, especially by using mere percentages as your analytic tool. While I support and encourage the use of data collection and analysis by anyone interested in gaming, no one should make too much of the DGD.


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