Video games give billions worldwide an interactive outlet for entertainment, exploration, and imagination. From action-packed first-person shooters to immersive role-playing games, the types of video games that individuals enjoy can be as diverse as the players themselves. But have you ever wondered why certain types of games appeal to some people more than others? Don’t worry–we’re not here to pitch yet another gamer typology system, even though everyone loves a matrix. While gaming-specific motivations such as QuanticFoundry can capture themes and mechanics that are preferred by different people (e.g., explaining why you like collecting rare items while your friend prefers explosions), a more satisfying answer would explain individual differences in terms of personality traits, the stable patterns of thought and behavior that make you – you, and for which psychologists have developed valid and reliable measures. Here, we will explore the fascinating connection between video game preferences and personality – including our research revealing links between the two.
Big Five Personality Traits: A Brief Overview
The Big Five personality traits, also known as the Five Factor Model (Soto & John, 2017; John and Srivastava, 1999), is the most widely accepted scientific framework for understanding and assessing personality. The model identifies five broad dimensions of personality:
- Openness to Experience - characterized by an individual's curiosity, imagination, and willingness to try new things.
- Conscientiousness - reflects a person's level of organization, reliability, and self-discipline.
- Extraversion - refers to the degree to which someone is outgoing, sociable, and energetic.
- Agreeableness - represents a person's kindness, compassion, and cooperation.
- Emotional Stability - indicates a person's emotionality (sometimes known as neuroticism), with high levels being associated with moodiness, anxiety, and emotional reactivity.
Importantly, the Big Five theory measures each trait on a continuous scale, which can be scored as a percentile. For example, if you are 55th percentile on conscientiousness, you are at least as conscientious as 55% of people. Since most people’s trait scores fall near the middle of the distribution (50th percentile), the Big Five’s continuous scales mean it is more reliable than popular personality typologies such as the Myers-Briggs Typology Indicator (MBTI), which split people into one of two categories, based on which side of the distribution they fall on. For example, if someone scores 48th percentile score on Extraversion one week, the MBTI will label them an Introvert, but they may well score 51st percentile the next time they take the test, and thus be labeled an Extravert.
The Big Five has been studied in relation to individual differences in a variety of areas, including relationships (White, Hendrick, & Hendrick, 2004), parenting styles (Prinzie et al., 2009), reading preferences (Schutte & Malouff, 2010) – and even academic achievement (Noftle & Robins, 2007).
Below, we summarize a new study from our data at Skillprint of over 500 gamers, investigating how their Big Five personality scores relate to their preferences for different types of games.
Video Game Preferences and Personality Traits
Let's delve into the key findings.
We asked 500 people who are interested in video games to participate in a study about personality and preferences for 18 different game genres on a 5-point scale ranging from ‘Strongly dislike’ to ‘Strongly like’. Our participants had a broad age range (31% 18-24 year-olds; 43% 25-34 year-olds; 26% 35-50 year-olds) and the sample was largely gender-balanced (52% male; 44% female; 4% non-binary). Let's delve into the key findings.
Openness to Experience and Role-Playing Games
Individuals with high levels of openness to experience tend to be drawn to role-playing games (RPGs), which offer rich narratives, diverse characters, and expansive worlds to explore. The imaginative nature of these games, often featuring fantastical elements and creative problem-solving, appeals to players who are curious and open to new ideas. More open-minded individuals are also more drawn to indie, word, board, and puzzle games, whereas less open-minded people tend to prefer sports and casino games.
Conscientiousness and Strategy Games
Conscientious individuals are typically organized, disciplined, and focused on achieving their goals.
The game genres most associated with conscientiousness were word games, sports, and racing games. These types of games often require close attention to detail and optimization, and thus may appeal to the more focused and organized. Less conscientious people tended to prefer indie games and RPGs.
Extraversion and Multiplayer Games
Extraverted individuals might be expected to gravitate towards multiplayer games that offer a social component, such as massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, online shooters, and cooperative team-based sports and party games. These games provide an opportunity for extraverted players to engage with others, build relationships, and experience the thrill of competition. Our study indeed revealed a link between extraversion and liking sports, party, racing, and casino games–but no significant link between action or shooting games. More introverted people prefer indie games and RPGs.
Agreeableness and Cooperative Games
Agreeable individuals, who are generally kind, compassionate, and cooperative, tend to enjoy games that emphasize teamwork, collaboration, and helping others.
Our data showed agreeable people did indeed prefer positive games, including lifestyle, party, puzzle, children’s, board, word, and arcade games, as well as casual games. Less agreeable people tended to enjoy shooting, sports, and action games.
Emotionality and Casual Games
People with higher levels of emotionality may prefer casual games, which often feature simple mechanics, quick play sessions, and lower levels of difficulty, offering a relaxing escape from stress and anxiety. Our data confirmed that more emotional people preferred party, word, lifestyle, kids, idle, and arcade games. Greater emotional stability is associated with liking RPGs, shooting, and action games.
The connection between video game preferences and personality traits offers a fascinating insight into the reasons why people are drawn to different gaming experiences. As our understanding of these associations continues to grow, game developers and researchers can use this knowledge to design more engaging and personalized gaming experiences tailored to individual players' personalities. In the meantime, understanding your own personality traits may help you discover new games that you might enjoy.
George Kachergis is a Senior Research Scientist at Skillprint.