Games are a fundamental part of the human experience, played in some form by cultures around the world and throughout history. Archaeologists have unearthed board games (similar to chess) that date back to ancient Mesopotamia, and over four thousand years later, we have not lost our taste for diversion.
Indeed, it seems that every new technological advance brings with it some new way to play: the coin-operated pinball machines that first achieved widespread popularity in the U.S. during the Great Depression can be traced back to a French variation on billiards, bagatelle, which was played at the turn of the eighteenth century during the reign of Louis XIV. Naturally, when people first began to explore the possibilities of computers, programmers were quick to realize their gaming potential, both in reproducing analog games in a digital space (a computer version of tic-tac-toe was created in 1952, long before Atari brought Pong into arcades and homes), and in creating games that could heretofore only have existed in the imagination, such as Spacewar!, a starship shooter that would eventually spawn its own subgenre (Asteroids, Galaga, Geometry Wars).
Half a century after Spacewar!, video games have gone from niche hobby to global phenomenon, a major new source of entertainment and artistic endeavor. Of course, much as was once the case with media innovations such as radio or television – even the novel – popular culture has had difficulty assimilating the idea that games are not just for “gamers” anymore, but rather, we are all “gamers” now. Whether we take part in this pastime leaning intently inches away from a desktop screen, lounging comfortably in front of the television, or peeking absent-mindedly at a smartphone, we are unified by our desire for distraction, for challenge, or for reasons that we may have more trouble identifying, yet which please us nonetheless.
However, as the audience for video games has expanded, it has also fragmented, the proliferation of games having given us a means of curating our own personal playing experiences as fully as we have long been accustomed to doing so with other media. Just as filmgoers can seek out only blockbuster action hits, or light romantic comedies, or arthouse favorites, gamers can choose to play only console shooters, or massively multiplayer online role-playing games, or “match 3” cell phone apps.
Whether we choose to play games, then, is no longer the question, but rather, why do we choose to play them? What particular constellation of factors makes a particular genre – or even a particular game – more appealing to us than another?
The answer may lie, in part at least, in individual personality differences, the core traits that we all possess. In our study of personality types and their gaming preferences, we asked 2500 people to share their views, and we will now review them in this article. We will explore the ways in which our choice of video games – and in play styles – is an extension of who we are. And as always, we invite discussion in the comments section – do you have any insights regarding games fitting your personality type, were you surprised by some statistics, or did any of our recommendations seem askew? Let us know!