Building the Background for a Player Persona

Part 1: Gather Some Information

As a game designer, I take significant interest in the craft of game development. Even when playing for leisure, I continually note what works, what needs work, and why. When I encounter a significant challenge, I analyze and pick it apart to understand it. This could easily detract from the entertainment aspect, but I find it enhanced instead.

I am most interested in a few factors. First: does the game feel good to play? Are the controls responsive? Are the basic, repeated functions of the core loop clear and appropriately simple? Are those tasks fun? Second: does the game approach its structure, mechanics, or genre in an interesting, unusual, or noteworthy way? Third: does the setting—story, visuals, audio—appeal to me? These are listed in descending order of importance; I can look past graphics and tried-and-true mechanics if they feel good to engage with, while graphics alone are a hard sell without the first two.

My research focused on second-hand, scholarly writing. While most of my close friends play video games to some extent, none of them fall into the narrower demographic of prospective undergraduates. We don’t yet have a clear picture from our client of the target audience, so numeric data will support us in the early stages of knowing our audience. Survey results and statistics are thus my primary resources—one focused on demographic differences, one on students, and one specifically on personality and preferences regarding an educational game. I elected not to search for data relating to current geography major programs, as the objective of this game is to foster interest in students who are not already pursuing the subject.

Part 2: Analyze your Findings

Each of the surveys takes a different focus with a different population. Manero et al. (2017) surveyed a sample of students from age 11-16 based in Madrid to determine how age and gaming habits correlate with learning outcomes from an educational game; for the sake of brevity, this survey is heretofore referred to as the Manero survey. Rathakrishnan et al. (2023)—the Rathakrishnan survey—surveyed students over the age of 12 in Malaysia for correlations between personality archetypes and preferred game genres. Finally, González-González et al. (2022)—the González-González survey—used an online survey to assess preferences of platform and gameplay features against age and gender. This survey was distributed in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Catalan, though the data also include an “other”  language group—in any case, the González-González survey is not limited to any one locale.

The player persona template developed by Fernando Comet includes space for a name, picture, and quote alongside demographic information, taxonomical descriptions, and the player’s motivations, goals, and pain points (2018). Of these, the survey data can provide insight into demographics, motivations, technology, and some taxonomies—particularly those for personality. All three surveys include age, gender, and some measure of how frequently respondents play games. Though these measures are not uniform, they may be useful in identifying the Bartle or other player types at work.

By nature of the project—recruiting prospective students into geography programs—the age range filters out significant portions of the González-González and Rathakrishnan surveys. The former required a minimum age of 18 while the latter exclusively surveyed a range from 12 to 17 years old. In the Rathakrishnan survey, analysis found no substantial difference in gameplay frequency by age. The González-González survey found greater differences in frequency by age, where respondents between 20 and 30 years old accounted for a significant percentage of the days played. The slightly younger demographic is lower, but also only accounts for 18- or 19-year-old respondents.

The Manero survey includes two groups for frequent play, one of which plays a variety of game genres while the other heavily favors FPS and Sports games. Notably, the former group also highlights FPS games, but remains more open to other genres. This survey’s data on gameplay frequency groups include more instances than the total number of respondents, so I cannot use it to determine a combined percentage of frequent play. The other two surveys, however, attribute around half of the days played to the 18-30 age range (González-González, 2022) and note that around half of the student respondents played games every or almost every day (Rathakrishnan, 2023). In the latter survey, around 16% played games several times a year or less; we can reasonably create a persona with at least a basic familiarity with games.

Contrary to my initial expectation, only the Rathakrishnan survey produced statistics regarding player personality. Though the Manero survey’s groups also include game genre preferences, these are grouped with frequency of play, which complicates their broader application. The Rathakrishnan survey measures personality in terms of the Big Five traits: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness. Though the data do not include correlations between these traits—limiting their use for full personality profiles—we can construct archetypes from their frequency.

Part 3: Reflect on your Data Collection Process

Through this process, I determined that my specific taste in games does not match that of a primary school student. Video games are my primary source of entertainment—though I have unrelated hobbies and engagements as well, much of what I do is game-adjacent at minimum. I was surprised, however, that strategy games were among the predominant genres for the well-rounded group in the Manero study. The broader interest in the FPS and sports game genres matched my prior assumptions.

Data collection would have gone more smoothly had I started my search using the word “preferences” over the word “habits.” Turns out, searching for student video game habits returns articles focused on encouraging healthy habits in one’s children, not on their average playtime or interest in specific genres. There does not seem to be much scholarly research on students’ gameplay preferences; focusing on market research may have served me better. Currently, we lack information from the client which could help us create more focused personas. In the future—provided that the opportunity arises—I would speak to the client before anything more than cursory research.


Comet, F. (2018, February 20). The Player Persona Template. Medium.

González-González, C. S., Toledo-Delgado, P. A., Muñoz-Cruz, V., & Arnedo-Moreno, J. (2022). Gender and age differences in preferences on game elements and platforms. Sensors, 22(9), 3567.

Manero, B., Torrente, J., Fernandez-Vara, C., & Fernandez-Manjon, B. (2017). Investigating the impact of gaming habits, gender, and age on the effectiveness of an educational video game: An exploratory study. IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, 10(2), 236–246.

Rathakrishnan, B., Bikar Singh, S. S., & Yahaya, A. (2023). Gaming preferences and personality among school students. Children, 10(3), 428.

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