Editorial

Why do people play Idle Games

We may some misconceptions about the Idle game genre

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Since the rise of Cookie Clicker almost a decade ago, Idle Games have been gaining popularity in the gaming industry. Now there are fully paid Idle Games and even Competitive ones. Idle Games thrive from not being played, which seems counter-intuitive as most games strive to include as much content as possible. So, what is the draw to playing these games? And why do so many people play Idle Games? We’ll try to find out in this article!

Reasons why people play Idle Games

1. Idle Games are easy & simple to play

Playing Idle Games is almost as easy as not playing them. Many will generate resources even when you’re not playing them. This makes it very easy to hop on the game for a short amount of time, spend said resources, and ignore it for a while again. Some Idle Games do benefit from more consistent attention, but many will effectively play themselves. By not needing constant attention, you don’t need skill to play them. There are usually options to choose and decisions to make, but these never require quick reactions or complicated analysis.

This accessibility is a major draw for Idle Games, and particularly appeals to people looking for a less competitive experience.

Cookie Clicker, one of the first viral Idle Games.
Cookie Clicker, one of the most popular Idle Games of its time.

2. Idle Games aren’t completely inactive

There is a certain balance to popular idle games. A game that doesn’t motivate the player or have a certain objective gets boring very quickly. There’s a middle ground between Idle games and grind-based games. They sound like total opposites but there’s a gray area where a lot of single-player based games are set.

Take Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle for instance. The game rewards you for logging in not only daily, but consecutively. It also has daily missions which you can complete in a matter of minutes.

Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle, an Idle Game
Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle

However, it’s not all waiting and tapping, because these types of games also have regular events, catering to players who are collection focussed rather than gameplay focussed. It also has special events – like anniversaries, or special days related to the anime – which amplifies both sides.

3. You are always making progress

You’re gaining resources constantly in most Idle Games, even when the game is closed. This means that even if you aren’t able to play for a day you haven’t missed out on anything. You can spend your resources whenever you have the time. The big boost of resources you receive when logging in lets you make several upgrades at once and feels more impactful than typical grinds. Some people argue Idle Games are grind dependent – designed to give you the rewards of grinding without the effort which comes with grinding in most games.

This appeals to the “reward centre” of our brains. Seeing these significant rewards without expending much effort is a significant endorphin boost, which makes you feel good.

4. Idle Games don’t take themselves too seriously

Ironically, the first idle game to go viral was made to criticise the well known Farmville –  made by Zynga. Farmville was one of the first games to be a true “idler”. The critic made fun of Farmville for their “freemium” practices – since at one point you’d either wait hours and hours on end or give in to the microtransactions.

Another project was Cow Clicker, a game about clicking the sprite of a cow every 6 hours. As you advanced in your clicking, so did the cows – with different costumes. The creator tried to be very on the nose with his social complaint about idle games.

the first truly Idle Game, Cow Clicker.
Cow Clicker in all its glory

The origin of the game’s name was what Ian Bogost (the creator of Cow Clicker) called Farmville in a conference; he said it “Might as well be called Cow Clicker since that’s the only thing you’ll be doing on it”.

However, to Bogost’s surprise, the game went viral, with thousands upon thousands of active players. It is regarded as the first purely idle game to be popular – and not shortly after, many other games came through. The well-known Cookie Clicker is just one example.

5. Idle Games are relaxing to play

The lack of skill and time pressures within Idle Games allows players to take them at their own pace. You can take them very seriously if you want to, but you can also have a cup of tea and read a book whilst still “playing”. Idle Games typically don’t require intense focus, you don’t have to make overly-complicated decisions, and don’t require much skill (as mentioned above). Combined this lets you choose how you want to play the game, on your schedule, and without any pressure.

Whilst this idea mainly appeals to more casual players, Idle Games are also great for veteran players who need a break from their usual competitive games.


Final thoughts

A popular saying in Idle Games is “numbers go up”, which is something we can all understand the joy behind. Whether it be your KDA increasing, +1 armour on your new equipment, or an extra 100 Gems to spend, almost every game uses a “numbers go up” mechanic somewhere. Idle Games have just taken the idea to its core, and there is definitely a beauty in that simplicity.

This article is co-authored by Eddie Vander and Facundo Giacomini


That’s all we got for today as we tried to find out reasons why people still play Idle Games. What is your opinion on this? Let us know in the comment section below.

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Eddie Vander

I've been writing as a hobby for years, but this is the first time I've tried to turn it into anything more than a hobby. So follow all the doodads, and if you like my stuff let me know!
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