Motivations: Why Play Board Games?

The boardgame sub-reddit featured a link to the syllabus for a Games & Learning class at West Virginia University. The syllabus linked to an interesting blog post on the primary motivations of board gamers.

The authors used a survey to measure people using a model with four basic motivations:

  • Conflict: measuring yourself against the other players, possibly taking hostile actions.
  • Strategy: the cognitive puzzle of planning your moves.
  • Immersion: assuming a role and pretending you’re carrying out the theme.
  • Social Fun: the chatting, teasing, and other conversation that goes on around the game.

The authors can then compare the differing motivations between men and women and between younger and older players. The most common primary motivation for men is “Need to Win” and the most common for women is “Accessibility”. Older gamers (36 years or more) value Discovery more highly than younger ones, which means they like exploring new mechanics and rules more; younger players prefer simpler, accessible games.

You can take their survey and figure out your profile according to this model. For example, my profile is 65% Conflict, 5% Strategic, 12% Immersion, 73% Gregarious. This means I like games where the players are competing, and the gameplay is relaxed and doesn’t have an overly complicated ruleset. I don’t care very much about theme but do like games to be aesthetically pleasing, and strongly enjoy the socializing around the game board. My profile is pretty accurate — I like the demolition-derby struggle during the game but am pretty indifferent to whether I win or not, and have a threshold where games have rules that are too complicated to be fun.

What’s your gaming profile like?

2 Replies to “Motivations: Why Play Board Games?

  1. My profile ( is 10% conflict, 64% strategy, 23% immersion, and 17% social fun. I like “low conflict, grounded and independent” games. That makes sense – I prefer games where I can mostly concentrate on making my own “thing” better while not worrying about screwing with others too much.

  2. My profile ( is 12% conflict, 66% strategy, 32% immersion, and 29% social fun. I like complex games that require strategy and thinking ahead and I like playing them with smart people who are good at games. Winning is somewhat important to me, but I don’t mind losing so much as I mind not being able to figure out how to win a game.

    I’m surprised my social fun score is so low. Maybe that’s because the question wasn’t “how much do you talk?” I like socializing when I’m playing games, but it does distract me from concentrating sometimes.

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