How The Perception of the Typical Gamer Compares to Reality

A study based on Quantic Foundry’s research.

When you think of the hardcore gamer, what comes to mind? Maybe you’ll think of a competitive gamer, who spend hours playing League of Legends and occasionally getting upset about that player in the mid lane. You might think they are super knowledgeable, knowing about every major release in the last twenty years. You might even think they’re the people that spend more time yelling at other people on the internet to ‘git gud’ instead of actually playing video games. According to information released this month by gaming market research company Quantic Foundry, these stereotypes offer a small kernel of the truth, but in reality the profile of a gamer is more complicated than that. Additionally, these definitions change by gender.

Quantic Foundry uses the Gamer Motivation Profile in order to gather information on gamers and their personal preferences. It’s a voluntary survey that takes less than ten minutes to fill out, and the company has gotten data on over 350k people. Due to their data collection method, this does skew the results in a few ways. For one, Quantic’s information on January 2018 shows that only about 18.5% of gamers are female, as opposed to approximately 45% in the ESA’s 2018 report. Since it’s a voluntary survey that not every gamer is going to know about, as opposed to the ESA’s using marketing company Ipsos to gather the data, the Gamer Motivation Profile will naturally skew to those that would both know of the survey’s existence and would take the time to learn about their gamer motivations. On the flip side, though, Quantic Foundry’s research goes deeper than the ESA’s, with more data on gamer habits, and what they consider ‘hardcore’ or ‘casual’.

Therefore, with Quantic Foundry’s new results, released on August 1st, we can step away from the more basic data points when it comes to gaming households (gender, platforms played, etc) and dig deeper. Who considers themselves a ‘hardcore’ gamer? What do they value most in the games they play? This new batch of data offers some enlightening information on what many gamers consider important in video games, and it’s fascinating to see how our perception of a hardcore gamer may vary greatly from reality.

Quantic Foundry uses the above descriptions for what is a casual, mid-core, and hardcore gamer. The company does state that these are not end-all, be-all definitions, but without some defining factor, it’d be difficult to obtain accurate data. By these definitions, most gamers considered themselves as mid-core gamers, at 68%. 10% of gamers that took the survey considered themselves casual, and 21% are hardcore.

Given the definitions, this split isn’t all that surprising. Not many people are going to own what they consider ‘high-end equipment’, and competitive play can depend on the type of games people are playing. In terms of casual gamers, it would make sense that the percentage is low–after all, gamers that don’t play games often for whatever reason are not going to be all that interested in making a Gamer Motivation Profile.

From here, Quantic Foundry breaks down what gamers find most important in their video games into twelve motivations. With six major sections, this helps break general, broad aspects of gaming into more tangible terms, which is necessary for gathering data.

The general breakdown of a hardcore gamer’s main motivations may not be all that surprising:

For gamers that mainly play competitively, the biggest motivation being ‘competition’ is a no-brainer. Second highest is ‘challenge’, which is always a big factor in competitive multiplayer games. It’s difficult to create a compelling competitive title without a skill factor, and games that push gamers to the next level are going to appeal to the hardcore group more than anyone.

What may be surprising is how much hardcore gamers care about the ‘community’ motivation. Hardcore gamers are rightfully seen as competitive, but that also lends to the imagination more negative traits–being intense, anti-social individuals that spent every possible waking moment gaming. However, community is a big part of games that appeal to the hardcore market. You need to look no further than your local fighting game tournaments and meetups to see the how much hardcore gamers put stock in community. Even the largest FGC event of the year puts a big emphasis on an all-inclusive community.

The motivations a general hardcore gamer aren’t particularly surprising, but what really makes the data interesting is when the hardcore motivations are broken down by gender. Looking at the hardcore male motivations, it mainly matches up with the general hardcore motivations. With male gamers being the majority of users that took Quantic Foundry’s survey, it would make sense that the majority follows the average.

When looking at the female hardcore motivations, however, we see a very different picture. The motivations are pretty evenly spread out, with an emphasis on ‘design’ and a bit of an aversion to ‘destruction’. Quantic Foundry’s comment on these findings sum it up well:

“So for men, playing a game seriously means being able to beat other players at it. For women, playing a game seriously is more likely to mean having completed and done everything there is to do in a game, and to leave traces of your personal flair in the game while doing it. For Hardcore female gamers, playing a game seriously is more akin to patiently creating and curating a work of art.”

When a woman considers herself a hardcore gamer, she considers herself a bit more well-rounded. She enjoys multiple aspects of the games she plays, as opposed to the more competitive side of gaming. She can enjoy and play Overwatch competitively, but she probably also cares about lore and backstory of her favorite characters. She may also gravitate to single-player games more than her male counterparts (despite the ‘hardcore’ definition) as these titles are more likely going to provide unique and engaging stories, and worlds to explore.

Of course, this is pretty much at odds with both the ‘average’ hardcore gamer and the stereotypical perception of one. The female hardcore gamer wants to play games, beat them, and enjoy them for what they are. This doesn’t really align with the typical idea of someone playing Fortnite twelve hours a day, essentially spending all of their free time on a couple competitive games that they’ll master.

There’s one genre of game that is all about exploring and enjoying everything the game has to offer, while offering a huge community and even some competitive aspects–MMOs. This correlation doesn’t escape Quantic Foundry either, as they cite a 2009 survey of EverQuest 2 players stating that female players tend to be more loyal gamers. They would play for more hours on average, but were less likely to fit into the typical ‘hardcore’ gaming lens.

It’s a very interesting disconnect between perception and reality, and that even some aspects of the male hardcore motivations differ from what’s considered the norm. Even just looking at this small section of gamers, it’s clear that players are more complex than the stereotypes, and keeping these complexities in mind will be important for industry’s future.

By Elizabeth Henges

I'm actually an accountant, but I like being a multifaceted nerd. I enjoy writing about nearly anything, but I'm partial to video games, cats, and trying to find neat little doodads.

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