Personality and gaming – how our traits affect our choices?
- October 8, 2021
- Dawid Zalewski
People are different, and so are their gaming behaviors and preferences. What we play, how much we play, and how we play may depend, among other things, on individual differences in intelligence, cognitive styles, temperament, abilities, or personality traits. In this research, I will discuss the relationship between personality and game genre preferences. This paper aims to present both the results of previous research on this topic and my own study, conducted within Try Evidence.
What is personality?
There are many definitions of the word “personality”. Psychologists working in this field believe that personality is a set of psychological characteristics that contribute to a person’s characteristic way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Put simply: regardless of the situation, a person with a specific personality will most likely behave in a similar way, and perceive the situation in the same way as another person with a similar set of personality traits.
There are many theories attempting to distinguish these fixed patterns, and personality psychologists have long argued about what the underlying factors shaping personality might be. The most popular models in modern psychology are the Five Factor Model of Personality (FFM) and the Big Five Model. Both models are very similar to each other. Personality in their view includes Extroversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness to Experience (in FFM) or Intellect (in the Big Five). In simple terms, we can say that the “mental structure” of an individual can be described by a unique proportion of these five factors. For example, a person can be very extroverted, moderately agreeable, not conscientious (or undirected), neurotic, and not open to experience. This unique combination, according to the Big Five model, defines personality, and the structure remains mostly unchanged throughout a person’s adult life. You can read more about personality traits here.
Conscientiousness, openness, hardcore and game addiction
If personality consists of consistent patterns of behavior, feeling, or thinking, then it can be assumed that its influence will be evident in many areas of a person’s life. The different forms of entertainment a person chooses or activities they undertake provide different stimuli and satisfy their different needs. Thus, certain types of behavior, consumer decisions, or preferences may be more prevalent in people who demonstrate a certain level of intensity of specific personality traits. And they usually are.
Dollinger’s (1993) study, for example, found that extroverts prefer those music genres that provide them with stimulation and are stimulating. Personality also affects the way and intensity of use of certain social media (Moore and McElroy, 2012) or the preference for specific movie genres over others (Martin, 2019)
Gaming is no different.
While the influence of personality on gaming preferences and behaviors is not big, it undoubtedly exists, and the differences can be observed at the overall level of gaming engagement.
Gamers are characterized by lower levels of conscientiousness than non-gamers (Teng, 2008; Braun, et al., 2016). Due to the amount of time they spend on their hobby it could be difficult for them to focus on other duties. A similar difference has also been shown between hardcore (daily) and casual (less frequent) gamers (Potard et al. 2020). The former were characterized by lower levels of conscientiousness than the latter, and moreover
hardcore people are less extroverted than casuals.
Research has also shown that personality may predispose a person to Internet Gaming Disorder, which positively correlates with neuroticism (Lehenbauer-Bahm et al., 2015; Braun et al., 2016) and negatively with extraversion (Müller et al., 2014; Braun et al., 2016) – the less extroverted one is, the greater the chance of addiction. So
the more neurotic someone is, the higher probability of gaming addiction,
The results of the research on openness to experience are also interesting.
Women gamers are more open to the experience than women non-players.
In contrast, the opposite has been observed for men – the more open a man is, the less likely he is to be a gamer (Braun et al., 2016). This may result, for example, from the still widespread stereotype that gaming is a men’s pastime, so women who are less open to experience may not decide to try gaming.
Game genres preferred by different personalities
Unfortunately, most research to date has only focused on a small number of game genres, making it difficult to look at the relationship between personality and genre preference from a broader perspective. That’s why we conducted our own study at Try Evidence. The study was attended by 960 people (70% men and 30% women) aged between 13 and 51. Respondents declared their preference for 19 different computer game genres. The vast majority of currently popular species were on the list.
Extroverts like violence
Research shows that extraversion is associated with preference for games that are stimulating and contain violence, especially FPS, Action or Fighting games (Zammito, 2010; Sick and Goodboy, 2011; Braun et al., 2016). This is also confirmed by the results we obtained in Try Evidence. The reason may be the high demand for stimulation in extroverted people, which is undoubtedly provided by games full of car chases, shooting, and fighting.
Moreover, as Veronica Zammito (2010) has shown,
the higher the level of extraversion, the greater the liking for sports games.
The reason for the higher interest in sports games among extroverted people may be both the social aspect that accompanies sports (watching and cheering together during games, etc.), and the fact that many titles in this genre offer a multiplayer mode: online play or couch co-op.
Of particular interest, however, are the women’s results. We observed a positive correlation between extraversion and preference for strategy games (both RTS and turn-based strategies). A possible explanation is that
extroverted people tend to be dominant and are more likely to see themselves in leadership roles,
and strategy games address these needs. The difference between men and women in this aspect may be due, among other things, to social inequalities that make women less able than men to achieve leadership positions and excel in leadership roles (e.g. due to the so-called glass ceiling), so that they turn to strategic games to fulfil their needs.
Although the results of our study confirmed previous findings that agreeable gamers particularly enjoy adventure games (Zammito, 2010), they partially stand in opposition to the other results.
In her study, for example, Zammito found that agreeableness negatively correlates with liking sports games, fighting or action games. In our study, we did not observe any significant correlations for the listed game genres.
However, the correlation between agreeableness and survival games observed in our study is interesting.
The more agreeable the player, the more they liked survival games.
Conscientious players like shooters
As mentioned earlier, gamers have in general lower levels of conscientiousness than non-gamers. However, even between players with different preferences, there are some differences. As previous research has shown (Braun et al., 2016),
fans of simulators demonstrate the highest level of conscientiousness.
Games of this type are characterized by high realism and often require from players a high level of commitment, concentration, and meticulousness, to which people with a high intensity of this trait are more predestined.
Although our study did not show such a relationship, this may be due to the design of the study itself. The results may be influenced by the specific games a person plays, and we did not control it in this study. It is very likely that people play a game like Goat Simulator for entertainment and humor rather than for the realism offered by, for example, games like Microsoft Flight Simulator.
However, in the results we obtained, we observed an interesting correlation between conscientiousness and FPS games. The more conscientious players are, the more they like first-person shooters. The reason for this dependency may be that many FPS games require skill, practice, and experience to play at a satisfactory level (especially for multiplayer games, where eye-hand coordination and good map knowledge are crucial to winning). Achieving mastery requires dedicating a great deal of time and consistent practice, which comes easier to diligent people.
Neurotic gamers like simulators
Previous research did not resolve how neuroticism affects game preferences. Research (Sick and Goodboy, 2011; Braun et al., 2016) suggests that neurotic individuals avoid games containing violence and a large number of stimuli (because they have difficulty coping with stress and stimulation). Others (Zammito, 2010) indicate positive correlations of neuroticism with fighting or action games (which may be due to high impulsivity and frequent experience of anger or frustration by individuals with high intensity of this trait).
Our study partially confirms the results of the first group.
We observed that the more emotionally stable (i.e. non-neurotic) a player is, the more they like FPS games.
For the other violent game genres, we did not observe any significant relationships with personality.
In our study, emotionally stable (non-neurotic) individuals enjoy sports games more than others. This is interesting because previous results (Zammito, 2010) indicated that the relationship should be inverse. These differences may result from both the different titles the respondents played and their motivations for choosing the game modes. Sports games are different in nature and satisfy different needs – depending on whether you play them alone or with other players.
In contrast, one of the most interesting results regarding neuroticism in our study is its positive correlation with simulators.
Simulators are generally quite predictable and repetitive, and the gameplay is rather relaxing, which can be a great choice for people with low emotional stability (high neuroticism),
allowing them to have pleasant and comfortable gameplay.
RPG fans have a high openness to experience
Zammito’s (2010) study indicated a positive correlation of openness to experience with puzzle games (which is also confirmed by our study). Imagination and creativity, commonly exhibited by individuals who are open to experience, may facilitate their problem solving and thus increase their enjoyment of puzzle games.
As our study showed, high intellect also goes hand in hand with liking RPGs. Intellect is understood here not as wisdom or intelligence, but as the equivalent of openness to experience. People characterized by high intellect also demonstrate great intellectual openness, imagination, creativity, or a tendency to reflect. This is why
RPG games – full of morally ambiguous decisions, freedom, and activities – seem to be perfect games for those with a propensity for reflection and broad interests.
The correlation for sports games is also interesting, although in line with intuition.
The more open someone is to the experience, the less they like sports games.
This is confirmed by both the results of previous studies and the Try Evidence study. The reason for this correlation may be the very simple rules of gameplay and rather low artistic value of sports games.
Personality is not a decisive factor in a player’s preference for specific game genres, and although the relationship between personality and liking particular genres is generally rather small, it undeniably exists. Knowing what personality traits fans of certain genres display and what makes them different from other players, can help developers create better, more engaging games that better respond to their needs. Besides, it’s worth remembering that game genres are only one aspect of gaming. It is possible that personality has stronger connections to other aspects of gaming.
Want to cite this article? Do it in an elegant way:
Zalewski, D. (2021, 08 10). Personality and gaming – how our traits affect our choices?
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Potard, C., Henry, A., Boudoukha, A. H., Courtois, R., Laurent, A., & Lignier, B. (2020). Video Game Players’ Personality Traits: An Exploratory Cluster Approach to Identifying Gaming Preferences. Psychology of Popular Media, 9(4), 499-512.
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