Monday, May 4, 2020

Do You Even Game, Bro?

I was really trying hard not to get drawn into the latest round of blog posts about Quantic Foundry's Gamer Motivation Profile. After all, we've been here before, many times.

Everyone is doing it, though, (Jeromai has links) and as we all know, if one of us jumps off a bridge, we all have to, so this morning I found myself once again clicking on choices to help build a database for Nick Yee.

Nick and I go back a long way. I think I was still on my first or second round of EverQuest when I happened on a survey he was doing about relationships among MMORPG players, probably as part of his Daedalus Project. Because Mrs Bhagpuss and I both played EQ I thought I'd do my civic duty and fill out the form.

As I recall, he was gathering the data for some aspect of his academic career as well as out of a personal interest in the genre. He got his PhD but that in itself eventually led to the project going on indefinite hiatus: "Getting my PhD also meant being more disciplined about what I say and put out, and this had the effect over the years of putting more and more time into each issue of the Daedalus Project. As a personal project, the time it takes to run Daedalus began slowly to directly compete with time I could spend writing an academic paper among other things."

One of those "other things" turned out to be Quantic Foundry, which he co-founded with Nicolas Ducheneaut, another academic with an interest in massively multiple online gaming. I did the Gamer Motivation Survey back when it was first offered and I've done it several times since then, as and when it rears its head in the blogging community.

I thought I was done with it. It never really tells me anything I don't know. The questions are very generic and the result always seems to be a predictable synthesis of the input. But, y'know, everyone else is doing it...

So I ran through the survey this morning. It takes, as promised, less than five minutes. A lot less.

The very first question raised some issues. 

How recent is "recent"? I hesitated before filling this in, thinking I haven't really played that many games released "in the past few years". In the end I decided to go for what I'm playing the most at the moment.

Apparently 2004 and 2012 count as "recent". The database recognizes and accepts both Guild Wars 2 and EverQuest II but although the much better-known and newer Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp comes up, it's "not in our catalog yet" and I have to click to add it.

Am I seriously supposed to believe I'm the first person who's taken the survey who mentioned AC:PC? Shouldn't I get some kind of server first for that?

Moving on to the main event, I whipped through the survey in a matter of seconds. I tried to be completely honest and answer as I felt, not how I thought I should feel. The result was that for the majority of questions my answer was either "Not At All" or "Slightly".

There were a smattering of "Somewhats" and two "Verys". The terminology varies slightly from section to section but you are always ranking your responses from one to five in ascending order of engagement. I never responded "Extremely" to anything.

The resulting pictograph for "Primary Motivations" makes it look as though I don't play video games at all. Paeroka, under a title similar to the one at the top of this post, wondered at that with her results. Mine are even more extreme.

My "Secondary Motivations" look a little more engaged but still well down in the "meh" zone.

The rubric, however, tells a very different story: "Calm, Spontaneous, Relaxed, Independent, Grounded, and Practical". Other than the misplaced comma after "Grounded" I wouldn't challenge any of that. It seems to be a pretty accurate reflection of my current state of mind where gaming is concerned.

But it does seem paradoxical, doesn't it? That such very low engagement with almost every aspect of the hobby should come with such a positive description? I'd have said it suggested an almost complete disinterest in the entire concept of gaming rather than a laid-back, zen-like cool. I'll take it, of course I will, but it does remind me of the kind of fortune teller who only tells you the kind of fortune you want to hear.

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail on the results, which are picked over at some length by the QF website, save to say that having read the detail I find much of the interpretation unconvincing or just plain wrong.

To give one example, I scored incredibly lowly on "Action", which is defined thus: "Gamers with high Action scores are aggressive and like to jump in the fray and be surrounded by dramatic visuals and effects. Gamers with low Action scores prefer slower-paced games with calmer settings."

Um, no. That's just nonsense. I love to play aggressively. I like to play AE classes that hurl themselves into the middle of armies of mobs or players and unleash fiery death all around them. I turn all my visual effects up to maximum in every game, even to the detriment of gameplay, so I can have the feeling of falling through the roof into an exploding firework warehouse. In PvP I chase other players to try and kill them even when it's one hundred per cent certain I am going to be killed myself for doing it.

 So how could I possibly get such a low score for Action? Because the question I was asked was this:

"Constant action and excitement". Who wants that? It would be unbearable! It's like asking "Would you like to live on a diet of nothing but donuts forever?" and then interpreting a flat "No, I bloody would not!" as meaning "Well, you obviously don't like donuts then, do you?".

Most of the questions are like that. I was a little snippy with UltrViolet for deconstructing the semantics of the survey but I hadn't taken it for a couple of years and I forgot how sledgehammer unsubtle it can be. Compared with, for example, the recent pop culture personality profile test I took, the QF one seems positively primitive.

Unsurprisingly, given the level of detail in the survey, the games it goes on to suggest I might like to play are comically unsuited to my tastes and interests. Despite having quoted two MMORPGs and a quasi-MMO as the games I'm currently playing, almost nothing like that comes up in the list of things I could buy from Amazon (that being the only place you can buy games according to QF. I expect there's a good reason for that...).

Seeing Portal take three places in the top ten suggestions made me laugh. When Zubon wrote about Portal at Kill Ten Rats, just reading about it made me so cross I told him he should stop wasting our time banging on about it, which is why he banned me from commenting on his posts. If I made a list of the top ten games I would rather give up gaming altogether than play, Portal would place high.

Anyway, I'm not going to pick at the results any further. Suffice to say I find them both unconvincing and unhelpful, even if the banner headline ""Calm, Spontaneous, Relaxed, Independent, Grounded, and Practical" is very flattering.

No doubt we'll all be back here in a couple more years, doing this all over again. After all, we're most of us not going anywhere and neither, it seems, is Nick Yee.

Can't wait.


  1. "I Suppose that if Johnny Finnegan Jumped Off the Empire State Building, You Would Have to Jump Off the Empire State Building?"
    --George Carlin

    That's my first thought after I saw your post. (I have the album that he said that, Occupation Foole, on LP. I played that album recently, and some of George's stuff hasn't aged all that well the past 40+ years.)

    1. I only barely know George Carlin as a name from the past. I have this vague idea he was a counter-culture comedian but he could equally have been part of the establishment. I'm going to have to go watch him on YouTube now.

  2. I think you have to go play Portal now. The survey has deemed it and you cannot argue with science! (If nothing else, it is a somewhat charming 3 hour puzzle game that I enjoyed a lot more than I thought I would.)

    I am going to have to go back and take this quiz again. I was going to pass on this because I have two past posts about it, but I bet if I take it again right now, I will get answers that differ from the past two times because people tend to approach these questions as they feel at that moment, giving greater weight to some recent event over longer term trends and because people also tend to answer as they would prefer to imagine themselves as opposed to how they really are. I know I do the latter, and I have said many times I my blog that my actions are truth while my thoughts are usually a mix of opinions and wishful thinking.

    1. I think the main reason I got such a different result was because I really did answer objectively for once and the objective answer to most of the questions was "I don't care". Since the questions tend to follow a format that asks "Is this important to you?" I had to say "Well, now that you ask, no, I guess it isn't".

      It suggests indifference but really it means I don't take gaming seriously. I don't take much seriously, though, and the older I get the truer that is. I was impressed by the way that outcome was summarized, though. The conclusion does capture how I feel pretty accurately even if the individual data points suggest a different story.

      As for Portal, I ought to play it if only to work out why it always sets my teeth on edge. I bet, like you, I'd end up enjoying it.

    2. I got recommended Portal (and Portal 2!) as well. I suspect it's one of those things where a "universally acclaimed" game will basically get recommended to everyone, regardless of their profile. I've seen e.g. movie recommendation sites that pan out that way, no matter what you like, they're going to recommend The Usual Suspects. :-)

  3. The one thing I think is important is emphasize is that low scores does not equal "bad." It's simply the other end of a scale. It's how strongly you're motivated by X existing in your games. I'm super low on community, for example, I can play a game perfectly happily without people. On the other hand, someone more strongly motivated by community is going to start complaining about 'ghost towns' if things are too quiet in a game.

    So yea, if you're not motivated by something existing in a game, like say stories or achievements, that you can get by perfectly well without them... that sounds pretty much about right. As you say, it's pretty much telling you what you already know.

    And yes, you should play Portal. If you've jumped off a bridge once, you may as well do it again.

    1. Although low scores don't mean "bad", if you end up with mostly low scores it does make you wonder. I'd love to do similar tests on music, novels, movies, to see if I end up as apparently unengaged with those. These are all things I've spent the very great majority of my life on and yet I suspect that I'd still be answering "not important" to a lot of the questions.

      I'm also wondering what I would have answered ten, twenty, thirty, forty years ago. I am pretty sure my twentysomething self wouldn't have come out as "Calm, Spontaneous, Relaxed, Independent, Grounded, and Practical". Shame I don't have my results from even a few years back, as you did. I have this one, though, so at least I can compare next time we go round.

    2. Naithin linked this set of slides over in my blog comments, so I thought I’d help to pass the parcel as well:

      It’s a lot clearer on what scoring on the other end of the scale (lower percentages) means.

  4. Charlotte Bronte uses the serial comma. Good enough for me.

    1. That "misplaced" comma is called the Oxford comma, and Sir Philip Pullman apparently felt so strongly that it should be there that he called for a boycott of the Brexit 50p because there wasn't one on it. So you're on the wrong side of the grammar wars from Sir Philip Pullman. Mind you, I'm in your camp on this :)

    2. Nineeteenth century lierature, so much to answer for, to misquote Morrissey. As for Philip pullman (I hadn't noticed he'd been knighted), I read the first two volumes of His Dark Materials when they were first published and absolutely loved them. I was eagerly anticipating the final instalment when I was unlucky enough to catch an interview with the author on the radio. He was so unnuterably smug, patronizing and headmasterish that I instantly lost all interest in anything he might ever write (or say). I've never read the last book or anything else he's done or paid the slightest heed to him since.

      As Wikipedia points out, the Oxford or serial comma is close to mandatory in American English but optional in British English. Since I generally cleave towards American usage despite being English myself, I guess I should use it. I make my judgments on aesthetic and practical grounds, though, when it comes to punctuation. Read the sentence aloud and listen to the musicality and also consider the sense. If the sense is plain, always go with the more musical version.

    3. Agreed on the musicality.

      *See also Findus Frozen Peas. xD


  5. I did this last year, as part of Blaugust I think, so had intended to skip it this time around... But the pull of ever increasing numbers is almost certainly leading toward me being a (late) joiner despite the recency of the last go round. ;)

    Interesting take on the results too though -- I think the main thought that occurred to me throughout was one of scale, in particular around the Action callout you made.

    Within the context of an MMO, you might be all about the action, but across the broader spectrum of games, I don't imagine you to be going all guns blazing in a Battle Royale or fraggin' noobs in COD.

    The second was what Jeromai called out, that low scores don't indicate a lack of interest in gaming as a whole, just an extreme predilection for the other end of the scale from the label (relative to rest of respondents).

    I don't mean to say that it isn't a badly designed survey with poor accuracy (particular when you start getting to the outliers from 'average') though. That might still very well be the case. ;)

    1. I would think Nick Yee knows what he's doing with the survey, given how long he's been doing this. I'm just not sure what he's doing is what we think he's doing.

      You can take the survey as often as you like. It doesn't lock you out by IP address from repeating it as many such online tests do. If I wanted to I could presumably spend all day entering as many varieties of answer as I wanted, which would be interesting. I wonder if it's even possible to get a negative-sounding text summary?

      Life is literally too short for that, although if someone else wants to do it I'd be very happy to read their summary.


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