Having an empirical framework of what motivates people to play MMORPGs provides the foundation to differentiate players from one another, as well as to explore how these differences shape in-game behaviors, how these groups of players interact with each other, and how the design of an environment impacts its appeal to different players.
Richard Bartle postulated a framework of 4 types, and I’ve tested the model empirically by running a factor analysis on a battery of “motivation items”, but I’ve never been happy with those results. I reanalyzed the data recently after understanding factor analysis techniques more, and realized I should have been using oblique rotations instead of orthogonal rotations. But then I also fiddled with using a principal components analysis versus a factor analysis (MLA).
The PCA/oblique analysis revealed 6 elegant components that were very interpretable:
1) Relationship: Make Friends / Offer and Give Support
2) Grief: Scam / Taunt / Annoy / Dominate
3) Immersion: Story-Telling / Role-Play
4) Escapism: Escape / Vent / Forget RL Problems
5) Achievement: Achieve / Accumulate Power
6) Analyze: Rules / Mechanics / Mapping
The problem is that the “Analyze” component doesn’t show up in the EFA/oblique (the other 5 do + a Leadership factor) suggesting that the “Analyze” component is explained by the remaining 5 factors, and doesn’t contribute to explaining the correlations between the “motivation items” even though one could create an “Analyze” component and measure it reliably. So there is and isn't an "Explorer" type depending on how you want to look at it.
One interesting finding was that the “Relationship” component explains a difference of 10 hours (bottom of page) between players who scored in the top versus the bottom quintile of the component. The “Escapism” factor came next, explaining 7 hours. So, the “drive to achieve” doesn’t appear to be a primary differentiator between low and heavy use players. Now, they may be hanging around but they’re not the “power” gamers, just that they spend a lot of time in the world. The other elegant thing about this framework is that it applies well even to more social MMO environments like There.com.
Thoughts? Comments? Other potential motivators to test?