What are the Hidden Motivations of Gamers?

What motivates you?

For many people, the answer is simple: free food. But for gamers, motivations can be far more complex. For our first episode of the Fyber Pulse Podcast, we sat down with Nick Yee and Nicolas Ducheneaut, co-founders of game analytics consultancy Quantic Foundry, to see what motivates people to pick up specific games and play.

By observing and surveying gamers, Quantic Foundry found 12 motivations that drive players to engage with games and ads: 


The motivations cluster into three highly correlated categories:


This high-level structure is the same across geographies and coincides with psychological theories such as the Big 5 personality traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.  

So what are the hidden motivations of gamers? We’ve covered the highlights that Nick and Nicolas shared below:

1) The games that motivate us are the ones that allow us to be more of ourselves

Motivations like the Action-Social cluster relate closely to personality traits like extraversion.

“People who are extraverts tend to seek out fast-paced, exciting gameplay. They tend to prefer competitive gameplay as well as gameplay that involves teams and social interaction.”

“In places like Second Life, the social virtual world, where you can be anyone and do anything you want, a lot of energy and money is being spent on purchasing clothing knock-offs and big houses, and it’s more of a mirror… In fact, it’s more materialistic in a way than the physical world. ”

2) Different factors drive men and women to play 

“Destruction is the primary motivator for men…”

“There is a bias towards a younger male market [in gaming] and it’s the level higher testosterone and that is what we are seeing here. [The motivations of] competition, destruction, and excitement, all of those decline rapidly with age.”

“Fantasy, design, and completion were top motivators with women… Casual games are tapping into the [completion] motivation. This is where we got the draw for older women who got into gaming who were never into games.”

3) There’s one (weird) trick to enticing female players

“The perception of availability of free time is different between men and women… because of how housework is traditionally split up among gender lines. Even when women are at home they feel more pressure and have less free time. Marketers exploit this with the motivation of guilt and completion.

“[For example,] advertisers market yogurt as a women’s food… it’s always ‘take this moment for a guilt-free indulgence’ and this plays into this social norm that women are supposed to feel guilty about making use of leisure time.

“Advertisers never use guilt to market to men. The reason games are so difficult to market to women is because the entire game industry has been marketing games as an escape and men have the license to play.”

“The reason completion works [for women is that] these games like FarmVille and Candy Crush are productivity tools in disguise. You’re at home, you have 10 minutes to spare and you can still feel productive with a game and level up. There is this deep chicken and egg question. I know that the data we are seeing is an artifact of these cultural and social norms. I think over time as gender equality happens… there will be changes in these motivations.”

4) Gamer motivations evolve with age 

“You think that gender is a huge differentiator for motivation… but if you look at age, that’s where the difference actually is.”

“It is more useful to design games for younger and older audiences.”

“The median age of the gamer is 35. What is the motivation profile of gamers age 35 and above? Once a first-person shooter, always a first person shooter… this is not true. Games have to follow people as they get older.”

You can find out more about Quantic Foundry’s methodology, Nick and Nicolas’ backgrounds, and even learn how advertisers can tap into these gamer motivations in the full podcast below. And check out Quantic Foundry’s blog for even more insights.

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