This is always an interesting topic for me. Most gamers are familiar with the Bartle Test, which fits you into 4 possible groupings for gamers. Another option is the Gamification mindset, with 7 possible criteria. People rarely fall into a single pocket though they usually tend to favor one over the others.
It’s been my experience that I share most of them fairly equally and depending on my mood, I can be into one pocket for a solid chunk of time. I certainly love the challenge of combat but the social aspect of MMOs is what drew me to the table in the first place. I do a few puzzles a day in multiple game fronts and have an appreciation for breaking the mold.
I’ve been an avid PvPer (Ultima Online), a min-maxer (every game), a money maker (UO made me over 2K cash, WoW has had me over 500K a few times), an explorer (I drew some of the original user guide maps for EQ and FF11), a socializer (I’ve been GM a few times, raid leader, started online romances), gone the achievement route (first kills, jumping cliffs for the points) and finally for the loots (such as pets and gear).
That being said, today when I start a game with levels, I play to get to the cap in fairly short order. That means play optimization with minimal downtime. If I can’t get a group going for dungeons/group content while leveling, I won’t stand around waiting. I was one of the first 50s in TOR for this reason, same in the original WoW. The downside is that I’m one of the few at the top and you’re waiting a while for others to catch up. After a while, I tend to just hunt achievements and collectibles – which is something Rift does incredibly well. I’m in WoW right now collecting pets and I’m short perhaps 15 or so that are actually obtainable without buying them with real cash.
Single player games are a bit different. Those ones are usually about the story and taking my time to plan routes. Recent Batman games are amazing for this exact reason. Playing Uncharted on harder difficulties is also a good one (though the djinns are a PITA). I don’t play to 100% but I do play until 90%. That last 10% is really for the grinders. I played Grimrock on the first run and that took me about a week and a half, having fun exploring the nooks, figuring out the puzzles. My second run through was done in 2 days since I knew where everything was and I could optimize. I still had fun in that second run, seeing if I could do better than my first.
I game for many reasons and for game developers, that’s a good thing. Nearly any game can keep my attention if it has multiple facets. I think the only type that doesn’t is shooters and that’s due to a significant lack of variety in gameplay (where the variety is in the players instead). Most other games I can have a run through with a smile on my face and I’m more than willing to shell out some dough for a good time.