Idle Cursor

Zyngor | Saturday, August 16, 2014
While catching up on a couple of podcasts last night, I listened to the great conversation that Braxwolf led on Beyond Bossfights on gamers and health. One such topic that was brought up was video game addiction, and the effects of an unhealthy addiction. The physical consequences are well-documented (skeletal issues, irregular sleeping & eating, etc), and the social/mental consequences are known but can be a bit harder to pinpoint. All in all, incessant traditional gaming can trigger a pretty sedentary lifestyle, and cause havoc on our health.

South Park's "Make Love, Not Warcraft" episode provides humorous commentary on the stereotypical gamer
So what about games that are designed to be sedentary in nature? Idle gaming is a fairly new genre, which include mostly browser-based titles. These games are almost overly simplistic - you start off by clicking an on-screen object or button. This is followed by more clicking, afterwards which you...yup. Click even more. Soon enough you are usually able to start purchasing upgrades, and this is where the idle factor starts to kick in. These purchases will supplement your mouse clicks (boosting your clicks per second, or CPS), and as you buy more upgrades, will start to replace the need for you to make physical clicks. Eventually, the need for clicks often become obsolete, and the upgrades will provide you with all the in-game profit needed.

One of the most popular examples of an idle game (sometimes known as idle clicking games) is Cookie Clicker, released in summer 2013 by French programmer Orteil. It has since received millions of visitors, with thousands of visiting on a daily basis. As the game suggests, the process of baking an endless number of cookies rests upon the activation of a giant cookie. Just like most idle games, there is no finish line - this however does not mean they do their best to dangle a shiny gold trophy in front of you.

Idle games reply on positive reinforcement to keep people playing. They will offer a slew of available upgrades your way, and offer achievements for completing certain tasks (which will occasionally increase your CPS). In order to keep things fresh, some idle games even offer an incentive to reset your game, starting back at zero with an added percentage bonus to your CPS (based on your progress in the previous generation). In an IGN article on the idle game movement, Justin puts it well  by saying that "the games are tuned to make you feel both powerful and weak, all at once. They thrive on an addictive feeling of exponential progress."

Even with their addictive nature, I find idle games much easier to keep open in another tab while I'm doing something else on the web, or even away from my computer. As such, I feel that idle games offer some the same basic needs for gamers (an objective, rewards, sense of accomplishment when you can finally afford that top-of-the-line upgrade) without the incessant need to stay glued to your chair. Assuming your Internet can allow as such, you could open up Cookie Clicker in the morning, spend five minutes getting any upgrades, and leave the house while the automated processes in game build up your cookie empire.

As long as creating virtual cookies don't make you hungry for physical cookies, and your jaunts while sitting to get your upgrades in order were fairly short, I see idle games as a potential fulfilling form of gaming entertainment to spend a couple minutes at a time between experiencing the marathon that is real life.

Here is a subreddit which includes links to several idle games. A throwaway mouse might be a good investment if you become addicted.

Are you a fan of idle games? If so, which one(s) do you enjoy, and what's the furthest you've progressed? Share in the comments below!

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