Infinite Treadmill

Impossible to win or complete the game.

Many great games can be completed. You beat the final boss, the game is over and you get a feeling of satisfaction. A game with an Infinite Treadmill cannot be completed and never gives you that sense of satisfaction. You can play forever, constantly leveling up and improving, but never reaching the end. This is a very common pattern seen in multiplayer online games, and many people enjoy these types of games. However, for some people this can be a dark pattern, especially when combined with Recurring Fees or other types of In-App Purchases.

People have a psychological need to complete something that they have started. This is called Endowed Progress or the "Zeigarnik effect". The urge to complete something that can't be completed causes some people to play the game forever, even after they have become bored with the game.

Sometimes games are designed such that there is no way to complete them. You may beat an individual level, but you can play an infinite number of levels and keep earning benefits forever. For a game to fall into this category there must be some overarching progression that extends beyond individual levels. For example, a simple game of chess against the computer would not count as an Infinite Treadmill unless winning or losing an individual match had some reward or repercussion that carried over into the future matches. Many multiplayer combat games are designed like this. You can always start a new battle, and your success allows you to improve your character in future battles.

Another way that developers implement an Infinite Treadmill is by continually expanding the game and adding new content. It might be possible to complete everything in the game right now, but soon the developers will release new levels and extend the game. As long as the developers are still working on the game, new content will continually be added and the players will need to keep playing the game if they want to complete it. Nobody is saying that you have to complete it, but the Fear of Missing Out is a strong motivation to keep playing to see what happens.

Additionally, if someone is already bored with a game and a new event is announced, the player may stick around to see if the new event rekindles their enjoyment in the game in which they have already invested significant time and money.


Examples

Shell Shockers Shell Shockers
"it is never ending."

Magic: The Gathering - PQ Magic: The Gathering - PQ
"They are always adding new sets"

Zombie Tsunami Zombie Tsunami
"It's based on High scores, so it never ends"

Bloons Pop! Bloons Pop!
"There are infinite levels"

Overmortal-Idle RPG Overmortal-Idle RPG
"There are numerous stages that slowly get harder and harder to progress through"

Squad Busters Squad Busters
"Never ending game."

Plants vs. Zombies™ 2 Plants vs. Zombies™ 2
"Keeps getting updated"

Covet Fashion Covet Fashion
"There are always new challenges, clothes, and premium props. It is impossible or nearly impossible to collect everything, at least without spending money."

Idle Angels Idle Angels
"The progression is not something that could be kept up with, even if you spent hundreds every month."

Super Snail Super Snail
"There is never any end in sight as its a Club based game and the power is forever scaling, part of the reason is actually because there are CONSTANT updates which help keep the game gaining new content which the player base loves, some of these updates either add content or even do QOL which can even decrease certain other dark patterns such as a button that once you set a preset to, will complete majority of your daily tasks in just 1 click."