Idle games: progress & dedication 

Idle games have emerged as a new and interesting genre of game, which focuses primarily on rewarding the player with the feeling or progress.

At first the player’s inputs are used to generate progress and once this mechanical system has been established, the player is given option to automate the progress generating input.


The opening sequence of Adventure Capitalist, tapping for progress.

My introduction to the genre came when I downloaded a game called Adventure Capitalist, I am always on the look out for games that simulate business management for my father and this seemed like a fun title.  The basis of the game is that you purchase a business, manage it yourself, hire a manager, and have it earn you money.  Simple enough, as you upgrade your business you may eventually earn enough money to open another business, as you do you continue to amass more wealth which you can invest into your companies to earn even more money.



The second stage consists of purchasing another company with the earnings from the first.

With goals as straightforward as that it may seem that the game could pretty much run its own systems, and it does, so then we shift our focus away from using mechanics and toward our decisions in and out of the game.  Since the game requires time to complete tasks but is always producing work in the background, we can put it away and return later to reap the rewards of our choices.



Returning to the game after being away provides the player with a notification of how much they earned while offline.

These games however, are more about the feeling of persistent progress and making decisions that alter the direction of our growth, than their invest express cousins such as FarmVille, which also presents the player with a persistent world in which their work grows over time.  The key difference is the removal of a timer for progress, in Adventure Capitalist, the longer you stay away the more you accomplish without limits.


The idle part of idle games truly means that while you aren’t playing you’re accomplishing the most, this is counterintuitive, but teaches us that dedication and patience with goals that require time to progress can bear fruit as rich as work with more direct results.  I liken playing idle games to taking care of a plant that requires little more than a weekly watering to maintain, the progress can be enjoyed, and we can help our work along here and there, but it is our dedication that delivers success not our mechanical force or constant attention.

Have you ever played an idle game, if so what was your experience? Do you see idle games as a genre unto themselves or more as mini-games? I welcome discussion on this topic and if you have experiences of your own you wish to share please do so in the comments below, or write in to

Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor.  You can check out more of his content on FacebookTwitterInstagramand Youtube.

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