“It started as a joke”: On the design of idle games

Katta Spiel, Sultan A. Alharthi, Andrew Jian Lan Cen, Jessica Hammer, Lennart E. Nacke, Phoebe O. Toups Dugas, Tess Tanenbaum

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


With idle games, active withdrawal from the game comprises an essential part of gameplay as players wait for the game state to change over time. This mode of interaction is paradigmatic for the change of roles technologies have in our lives. However, the design elements of idle games are less well understood, particularly from the perspectives of developers. We interviewed six designers of six different popular idle games and inquired into their individual approaches. Via thematic analysis, we refine and expand on existing definitions of idle games as a genre, shed light on ethically charged practices of care in their design, and identify shared core characteristics between the games and processes. We then generate intermediate-level knowledge on the design of idle games. Our work contributes designers’ perspectives on idle games and their design to a growing body of literature on the genre.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play
EditorsPhoebe O. Toups Dugas, Vero Vanden Abeele
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781450366885
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes
EventACM SIGCHI Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play 2019 - Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 22 Oct 201925 Oct 2019
Conference number: 6th


ConferenceACM SIGCHI Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play 2019
Abbreviated titleCHI PLAY 2019
Internet address


  • Ambient interaction
  • Design
  • Idle games
  • Thematic analysis

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