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Player Psychographics, Part 1: What is a Psychographic?

In order to understand how to design games that your players will enjoy, you have to understand what your players are looking for in a  game.  To do this, you will need some kind of understanding of player psychographics.

You’ve probably heard the term “demographic.”  A demographic is a characteristic of the population based on an external, often  quantitative value.  Common demographics include sex, race, age, income, education, and so on.  When we talk about  player psychographics, we are talking about those things that are going on inside the players’ minds.  Psychographic variables, on the other hand, are any attributes relating to personality, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyles.

Recall that games should give a player a continuous sense of frustration, followed by some kind of reward for overcoming the  frustration.  By defining player psychographics, you are categorizing players based on the type of frustration and rewards that they  enjoy.  Here are some examples.

  • In a first person shooter, some players may want a more erratic experience that keeps them on the edge of their seats, while others  prefer games that require precise timing and calm response to erratic conditions.
  • In a real time strategy, some players like to stress test their ability to manage multiple pieces of information at the same time;  some prefer a game that caters to a blitz strategy, while a third group might prefer a game that tests their ability to defend a  stable position and win by attrition.
  • In role playing games, some players may prefer a strong story driven experience, while others only seek to min-max their stats to get  desireable dice roles.  Some prefer a deep storyline and an impressive ending, while others are satisfied by a simple victory  animation.

As you think about the games that you play, consider how you would describe your wants and needs in a game.  What psychographics are you a part of?  More important, as a designer, which psychographics will you design for?

In an article called “Timmy, Johnny, and Spike,” Magic lead designer Mark Rosewater gives a brilliant explanation of the player  psychographics of Magic players.  By understanding the motivations of the players, the Magic design team is able tweak their designs  to meet those needs.

If you want to be a game designer, or ANY product designer for that matter, take the time to learn about your customer psychographics.   Meet their needs by understanding what products they will enjoy, and they will meet your needs with their money.

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