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Jim Lambert
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Idle Game Reviews: Find Out Which Ones Are Worth Your Time

What are idle games and why are they so popular?

If you are looking for a relaxing and satisfying way to pass the time, you might want to try out idle games. Idle games are a type of game that progresses on its own, with minimal to no interaction from the players. The player usually performs a simple action, such as clicking, to start the game, and then the game continues to run by itself. The player can focus on strategizing or achieving some goal within the game, rather than on physical gameplay.

Idle games have been stirring up the gaming community recently, with their easy gameplay and high retention rates. But how did this genre start? What makes them so appealing? And what are some of the best examples of idle games? In this article, we will answer these questions and more.

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The history of idle games

The first idle game: Progress Quest

The first idle game was attributed to Progress Quest (2002) by Eric Fredriksen, which is a parody of MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games). In Progress Quest, the player creates a character and then watches as the game plays itself, generating random quests, battles, loot, and stats. The player has no control over the game, except for choosing when to start a new chapter or switch to a different character. The game was intended as a joke, but it also sparked the interest of many players who enjoyed watching their characters grow without any effort.

The rise of idle games: Cookie Clicker and beyond

The genre of idle games became more popular in 2013, when Cookie Clicker by Julien Thiennot (also known as Orteil) was released. Cookie Clicker is a game where the player clicks on a cookie to produce more cookies, which can then be used to buy upgrades that increase the cookie production rate. The game also features achievements, upgrades that unlock new features, and a grandmapocalypse that unleashes wrathful grandmas on the world. Cookie Clicker was an instant hit, attracting millions of players and inspiring many other developers to create their own versions of idle games.

Since then, the genre of idle games has expanded and diversified, with many variations and subgenres. Some of the most popular idle games include Adventure Capitalist, Clicker Heroes, Realm Grinder, and Idle Miner Tycoon. Idle games can also be found on various platforms, such as web browsers, mobile devices, and consoles. Some idle games even incorporate elements from other genres, such as RPGs, simulations, puzzles, and strategy.

The psychology of idle games

The Skinner Box effect

One of the reasons why idle games are so addictive is because they use a psychological principle known as the Skinner Box effect. The Skinner Box is an experiment by B.F. Skinner, a behaviorist psychologist, who studied how animals respond to rewards and punishments. He found that animals tend to repeat behaviors that are rewarded, and avoid behaviors that are punished. He also found that the most effective way to reinforce a behavior is to use a variable ratio schedule, which means that the reward is given randomly and unpredictably.

Idle games use the Skinner Box effect to motivate players by giving them rewards and feedback for their actions. For example, when the player clicks on a cookie in Cookie Clicker, they see the number of cookies increase, hear a sound effect, and unlock new upgrades. These rewards are satisfying and encourage the player to keep clicking. However, the rewards are also variable and unpredictable, as some upgrades are more powerful or rare than others. This creates a sense of curiosity and anticipation, as the player never knows what they will get next.

The accumulation desire vs. loss aversion

Another psychological factor that makes idle games appealing is the accumulation desire vs. loss aversion. The accumulation desire is the human tendency to want more of something, especially when it is scarce or valuable. The loss aversion is the human tendency to avoid losing something, especially when it is already owned or expected. These two tendencies create a powerful drive for players to keep playing idle games.

Idle games tap into the accumulation desire by creating an illusory need for the player to collect more resources, such as cookies, money, or gems. The player feels a sense of satisfaction and achievement when they see their numbers grow exponentially. Idle games also tap into the loss aversion by creating a fear of missing out on potential rewards or progress. The player feels anxious and compelled to check on their game regularly, even when they are not actively playing. Idle games also use prestige or reset mechanics, which allow the player to start over with some bonus or advantage, but at the cost of losing their current progress. This creates a dilemma for the player, who has to weigh the benefits and risks of resetting.

The mechanics of idle games

The progression system

The core mechanic of idle games is the progression system, which is how the game measures and rewards the player's growth. The progression system usually consists of three elements: currency, upgrades, and prestige.

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Idle game prestige and rebirth

Currency is the main resource that the player earns and spends in the game. Currency can be anything that fits the theme of the game, such as cookies, gold, or souls. Currency is usually earned by performing a simple action (such as clicking) or by passive income (such as buildings or units). Currency can also be earned by completing quests or achievements.

Upgrades are the items or features that the player can buy with currency to increase their production rate or unlock new abilities. Upgrades can be anything that fits the theme of the game, such as grandmas, heroes, or spells. Upgrades usually have a cost that increases exponentially with each purchase.

Prestige is the option that allows the player to reset their progress and start over with some bonus or advantage. Prestige can be anything that fits the theme of the game, such as angels, souls, or bloodlines. Prestige usually requires reaching a certain threshold of currency or achievements.

The exponential growth and diminishing returns

The progression system of idle games is based on two mathematical concepts: exponential growth and diminishing returns. Exponential growth is when something increases by a constant percentage over time (such as 10% per second). Diminishing returns is when something decreases in value or effectiveness as more of it is used (such as 10% less per purchase). These two concepts create a balance between the cost, power, and rewards of the game.

Exponential growth is what makes idle games exciting and addictive, as the player sees their numbers increase rapidly and exponentially. For example, in Cookie Clicker, the player can go from producing a few cookies per second to producing trillions of cookies per second in a matter of hours. Exponential growth also creates a sense of anticipation and curiosity, as the player wonders what will happen next or how far they can go.

Diminishing returns is what makes idle games challenging and strategic, as the player has to make decisions and trade-offs. For example, in Cookie Clicker, the player has to decide whether to buy more of a cheaper upgrade or save up for a more expensive upgrade, as each upgrade becomes less effective with each purchase. Diminishing returns also creates a sense of frustration and boredom, as the player reaches a point where their progress slows down or stalls.

The goals and achievements

The progression system of idle games is also complemented by the goals and achievements, which are the milestones and rewards that the player can aim for and obtain in the game. Goals and achievements can be anything that fits the theme of the game, such as baking a certain number of cookies, reaching a certain level, or unlocking a certain feature.

Goals and achievements are what make idle games meaningful and satisfying, as they provide direction and feedback for the player. For example, in Cookie Clicker, the player can see their progress towards various goals on the stats page, such as how many cookies they have baked in total, how many upgrades they have bought, or how many achievements they have earned. Goals and achievements also create moments of joy and surprise, as the player discovers new things or accomplishes something difficult.

The benefits of idle games

They are relaxing and stress-free

One of the be


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