Why do people like mobile idle games

Numbers get bigger What are incremental games and why are they fun?

Incremental games are fascinating and confusing. Characterized by minimal player referrals and periods of inactivity, they seem to defy conventional logic about good game design, but have nonetheless gained a substantial player base. Let's examine them in more detail and find out why that is.

What is an Incremental Game?

Clicking a button increases a number. Clicking it again will increment the number again. You keep clicking and at some point unlock something which will increase the number for you. Now the number keeps increasing even when you are not playing. Next, repeat this process, forever.

This is essentially the framework of an "incremental" game. Although they seem simple, even brutal, there is a depth of gameplay and surprising addictive feelings. They also appeal to a wide variety of play styles, and there have been successful commercial and occasional incremental games like Clicker heroes and AdVenture Capitalist, as well as more experimental or hardcore examples like Candy box, Cookie clicker and Sandcastle builder.

in theCookie clicker, from here it goes uphill.

What are the characteristics of an incremental game? Although the genre has considerable variation and experimentation, the basic aspects of design are as follows:

  1. the presence of at least one currency or number,
  2. which increases at a set rate with no or minimal effort,
  3. and which can be expended to increase the rate or rate at which it is increasing.

It is this loop of accumulation, reinvestment, and acceleration that defines the genre and sets it apart from games that simply have increasing scores. As an example in the influential Cookie clickerThe player wants to pile up "biscuits" which they first increase by clicking on a giant biscuit and then use them to purchase upgrades that produce more biscuits.

One of the distinctive features of these games is that the number can increase without the direct involvement or presence of the player. This has led to some incremental games being called "idle games" because they can be left running and then run back to them. While this is an important feature, I don't think it matters what sets these games apart or why players like them. The incessant growth of numbers is the most prominent feature, and so "Incremental Game" is a more useful title.

The psychology of growing numbers

What is it about these games that can inspire such a dedicated game? There are a number of reasons, including two important ways, that incremental games can harness unique facets of human psychology.

The first is a term that is often used in discussions of incremental games: the "Skinner Box". Named (to his chagrin) after the behaviorist B. F. Skinner, these were experimental chambers he built to study the behavioral conditioning of animal subjects. In the "operant conditioning chamber" there is usually an animal participant who could generate a reward (such as food) in response to performing an action (such as pushing a button). Once the reaction mechanism is learned, it has been observed that animals repeat the effects of food production, even if only after long intervals or even randomly it gives a reward.

Similarly, systems that regularly reward users or gamers for repetitive tasks are often referred to as skinner boxes, as the neurological feedback loop that they create can be incredibly addicting. This structure is quite obvious in incremental games: the player takes an action such as clicking or waiting and is rewarded for his efforts at regular intervals by an increasing number. This isn't necessarily bad in and of itself and is actually a pretty common mechanic. Many games have to train their players to perform certain actions in the game system and to use positive rewards (points, experience) and negative outcomes (death) to show the player the right way. With incremental games, the usage is just more obvious.

The second psychological foundation of incremental games is ours Accumulation desire and Loss aversion. Our brains are wired in such a way that we don't like to lose things we have and, conversely, to give us a strong desire to accumulate things.

Incremental games work with both sides of it. Since the major currency always rises even when you are not playing, it reduces the fear of loss aversion: you can safely do something else without the currency's stress easing off. Coupled with the poor math skills of our brains, we can also enjoy numbers that are increasing, even if those numbers have no external meaning. While it may seem ridiculous, a number that just goes up can make us feel really good.

Again, this is exposed in an incremental game, but most games take advantage of this to some extent: this is why a "score" is such a common mechanism for rewarding players.

The storage cap in clash of clansuses loss aversion: you "lose" potential profits if you don't check-in frequently.

Origins of the genre

Some of the first uses of the incremental mechanic were in the first generation MMOs in the late 1990s. Because MMOs used a subscription model, they needed to encourage players to play for as long as possible. Part of how they did this was with huge, persistent worlds and complex social systems, but another technique was to put players on a kind of "treadmill" of power: you kill a few rats, you win one Level! You kill more rats and gain another. Now rats don't give enough experience anymore, so you kill mucous membranes and so on. The player always runs for the next goal, but he never really gets through.

There is a strong work / reward loop in this mechanism, and what is critical is that the time it takes to reach each additional reward is becoming longer and longer. EverQuest was particularly famous for its level grinding, the level curve of which was so steep that players actually became relative Fewer more powerful the more they played. Even so, the reward loop could add to the game extremely seductive, and it was one of the first games to introduce gambling addiction into popular discussion.

This endless grumble was the year 2002 Progress quest by Eric Fredricksen, which is perhaps the first example of a true incremental game (as opposed to using the incremental mechanic as a hook EverQuest does). It's also one of the most minimalist as it eliminates any player interaction. It's a 0 player game: once you've rolled your character, you'll kill the game, complete mobs, complete quests, and level up without any further input. Although it is almost literal reductio ad absurdum, Critics noted that it was "something far more frightening: it was fun".

Some of the increasing progress bars in ProgressQuest.

A few years later, social games would be the incremental mechanic's next heir. Mostly played on Facebook, social games needed players to play as long as possible (although they didn't use subscriptions, but the emerging pricing tools of "free" -to-play). In addition to becoming the reward system of these games, the incremental mechanic often became the game as a whole. One of the most successful was in 2009 Farmville. It was supposedly a farming simulator, but it contained very little resource management or strategic decisions. Instead, the player buys plots of land on which crops (and later livestock) can be planted, which can later be harvested and sold. The proceeds can then be used to purchase additional space and so on. At his height was played by an astonishing 80 million people.

Likes the apparent simplicity of games Farmville The games critic and professor Ian Bogost led to a satirical deconstruction of the concept Cow clicker In 2010, Bogost was designed to showcase the strength of the underlying game mechanism (clicking a cow and moving up a number). Instead, Bogost was surprised and horrified that people were actually playing his game without irony. Although it was an attempt to show how empty and meaningless these games actually are, cow Clicker accidentally showed the opposite.

Incremental games today

Many of today's most popular mobile games (the modern successors to social games) use incremental mechanics. Immensely successful clash of clans (2013) is called a strategy game, but the fighting mechanism is quite simplified and forms only a small part of the experience. The main aspect of the game is upgrading the village base by spending gold and elixir, which both accumulate on their own and can be topped up more quickly through incremental upgrades.

Hay Day, made by the same company, is even clearer to use. The core loop of the game is entirely incremental growth and reinvestment:

Hay Day's game loop. Based on a chart from Game Monetization Game: Analysis by Hay Day by Pete Koistila.

Among the most successful modern incremental games are the 2013 games Cookie clicker, This has drawn more mainstream attention to games that focus solely on incremental mechanisms. Cookie clicker uses a single currency (cookies), which the player can slowly accumulate by clicking on a large cookie and then spend on upgrades that generate cookies themselves. The simple premise, charming art style, and gradual descent into absurdity of its "conspiracy" helped make the game and its genre popular. It inspired a wave of similar games. The concept is still published today.

Are those games too?

Because of the simplicity of their core mechanics and the limited interaction with the system, incremental games can weigh on our definition of what a "game" is. Many reviewers and commentators have labeled these games mindless, stupid, and pointless while at the same time admitting that they can be addicting or hypnotic. Cow clicker Creator Ian Bogost spoke of Cookie Clicker's monotony and repeatability, and went so far as to call it one of the first games for computers, not people. However, that seems to be at odds with the large number of people who play it.

number by Tyler Glaiel, a particularly strong example.

They may appear, however, incremental games are actually games. We can disregard their immense addictive value for a moment because while it suggests why we find them compelling on some level, analyzing them as games is not the same. Most genre games appeal to a certain visceral or unconscious area of ‚Äč‚Äčtheir players, but that is secondary to what makes a game a game.

First, incremental games have some non-obvious unboxing mechanisms, most notably that of discovery. With most incremental games, the player doesn't know how much to buy upgrades, and doesn't know the upper limit of the main number of the game or the speed at which they can increase. Exploring the limits of an interactive system is one of the great qualities of how gamers experience a game, and incremental games are no exception. Even if they do appear To be simple, they often allow extensive exploration. Candy box In particular, it is likely more about exploration and discovery than incremental growth, although that is the most obvious feature.

Second, while incremental games reveal the vapidity of their premise ("raise a number a lot"), it is means to that end, this can actually be addicting. Cookie clickerFor example, allows a strategy to be used as the player can increase the cookies per second metric in several ways. So the "game" is about optimizing the system to achieve this goal. Most games actually have meaningless goals ("increase that score"), but it is the pursuit of them that makes the fun. Incremental games are surprising at this convention.

In his groundbreaking work from 1937 Homo Ludens"The anthropologist Johan Huizinga noted of the game that" it was not serious, but at the same time it absorbed the player intensely and completely. It is an activity of no material interest and no profit can be made from it. " These are properties that we can easily observe in incremental games.

Beauty in simplicity

Incremental games have generated a lot of interest over the past few years and we will no doubt continue to see new examples, further mechanics exploration, and on-site innovations. It would be a mistake to declare these games inexplicably addicting.

I hope that through critical examination and a look at its history, we will appreciate its minimalist beauty and elegant finish. So be open-minded and do a bit of exploring the shape, and don't be surprised if you lose a few hours in the process.