Gaming Motivation: How to Understand Your Play Style

Daniel A. Kaufmann, Ph.D
Dr. Gameology on Twitch & The Gaming Persona Podcast
Owner of Area of Effect Counseling

Gaming Motivation: How to Understand Your Play Style

Let’s explore the basics of gaming motivation using the Motivation for Playing Online Games Questionnaire (MPOGQ) as our starting point!

Do you ever wonder why you play the games that you do? What are your main paths to Gaming Motivation? What motivates you to spend hours upon hours raiding dungeons, or chasing down that one last piece of loot? Videogames are a unique form of entertainment because they allow players to inhabit other worlds and experience different lives. But what drives us to keep playing? Gaming is one of the most popular pastimes in the world, with millions of players logging on every day to enjoy everything from first-person shooters to simple word games. But what motivates us to play these games? And how does our individual play style shape the way we interact with different types of games?

In order to gain a better understanding of gaming motivations, many researchers have turned to the Motivation for Playing Online Games Questionnaire (MPOGQ), a tool developed by psychologist Nick Yee. This questionnaire is designed to help players identify their own gaming preferences and understand how they relate to different types of games. Using the MPOGQ, you can determine which factors motivate you most strongly when you’re playing online – are you motivated by competition or socialization, or perhaps exploration and achievement? Taking this into account can help you select new games that perfectly match your play style, helping you get even more enjoyment out of your favorite hobby. This post can help you understand yourself better as a videogame player.  By understanding more clearly what motivates us inside of video games, we can more easily take our gaming experience to the next level. As a bonus, this also can help us find the perfect situations to apply ourselves in every area of our life. Games are a metaphor, so let’s learn how to interpret it using our player motivations!

What are the different types of online gamers and what motivates them to play?

The MPOGQ divides player motivations into three main categories:

Achievement, Social, and Immersion.

Advancement for video game players is a motivation that involves unlocking new content, progressing to new levels, and acquiring new items. This player wants to see the game world open up before them and revel in their own sense of accomplishment as they explore everything the game has to offer.

Mechanics are the inner workings of the game itself. Players who are motivated by mechanics enjoy figuring out how the game works and exploiting any loopholes they can find. These players often spend a lot of time theory-crafting and min-maxing their characters to create the perfect build.

Competition is another key factor for achievement-oriented players. They enjoy testing their skills against other players and strive to come out on top. For these gamers, winning is everything.

Now that we have completed the first category of gaming motivation,

let’s move on to the social category!

Social gamers are more focused on the people they’re playing with. They enjoy working together to achieve goals and form strong bonds with other players. For social gamers, gaming is a way to connect with friends and meet new people. This category also holds three sub-categories inside of it to make the social activity stand out for this style of player motivation. These categories are socialization, teamwork, and relationship-building.

Socialization is the act of talking and interacting with other people. Social gamers enjoy meeting new people and catching up with old friends while they’re playing. They often use gaming as a way to stay in touch with people who live far away.

Teamwork is all about working together to achieve a common goal. Social gamers enjoy team-based gameplay because it allows them to cooperate with others and feel like they’re part of something larger. These players often take on leadership roles in order to help their team succeed.

Relationship-building is all about forming strong bonds with other players. Social gamers want to create lasting friendships with the people they meet online. For these players, gaming is a way to connect with others on a deeper level. It doesn’t just matter that this player can enjoy the game content, but they also want to enjoy the challenges specifically with their group of people to enhance their gaming bond.

Let’s move on to the final category: Immersion!

Immersion-oriented players are motivated by factors such as escapism, fantasy, and story. They enjoy losing themselves in another world and becoming a part of the game’s lore. These players often become attached to the characters they play and care deeply about the game’s plot. This category holds four gaming motivations; discovery, role-playing, customization, and escape.

Image Credit: Nintendo - Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988)

Discovery is all about exploring the game world and learning new things. Immersion-oriented players want to see everything the game has to offer and uncover its secrets. They’re often drawn to games with large, open worlds that they can get lost in.

Role-playing is another key factor for these players. They enjoy taking on the role of another character and acting out their story. For immersion-oriented gamers, it’s all about becoming someone else and living in a different world.

Image Credit: Square Enix - Final Fantasy XIV Online (2010)

Customization is another way for these players to escape into their game. They enjoy creating characters that are a reflection of themselves or who they want to be. These players often spend a lot of time perfecting their characters before they even start playing.
Escape is the final gaming motivation in this category. These players use games as a way to forget about their real-world problems. They want to lose themselves in another world and escape from their everyday lives.

And that’s it! Those are the basics of online gaming motivations. Now that you understand the different types of players, you can start to figure out your own play style. Do you enjoy working with others to achieve goals? Or do you prefer to explore the game world on your own? Use this information to help you understand your own gaming motivations and find games that suit your play style.

So, which type of player are you? Let us know on social media so we can build an epic conversation! And be sure to check out our other posts on game psychology to learn more about how games affect our mind and behavior.

Thank you for leveling up your mental health here at Dr. Gameology, and as always

Continue the Journey!

Important Links


Kaufmann, D. (2021). Personality type and motivation to play MMO games. Journal of Scholarly Engagement, 4(1), 96-118.

Yee, N., Ducheneaut, N., & Nelson, L. (2012, May 5-10, 2012). Online gaming motivations scale: Development and validation CHI’12, Austin, TX.

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