A conversation about patience, puzzles and purpose with the creator of While Waiting


Aside from things like eating and breathing, waiting is a universal part of the human experience. It’s something we often don’t have time to think about, taking it for granted or sometimes wishing we didn’t have to wait. As someone with ADHD, I’m not the best at waiting, which is why this game caught my eye during the Day of the Devs Summer Game Fest 2024 showcase.

While Waiting is a quirky puzzle game coming to mobile devices in 2025 that explores the concept of waiting and its impact on our lives. It contains over 100 levels covering the entire life of the main character Adam, putting him in various scenarios filled with idleness, such as waiting for the bus to school, collecting luggage at the airport or standing in line for the elevator at work.

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Theoretically, you can “win” each level by doing nothing, but Optillusion’s developers encourage interaction with the environment to turn the wait “into an engaging and thoughtful experience.” Following the game’s debut at this year’s SGF, we had the opportunity to chat with Dong Zhou, founder of Optillusion and creator of While Waiting, to learn more about this intriguing mobile game concept.

As the level scenarios suggest, Zhou told us that While Waiting is heavily inspired by everyday life. He said: “When I’m waiting for something – maybe because I’m a game designer – I always try to find something to play. It could be a game in my head that keeps me busy, or it could just be daydreaming. Nowadays, when people are waiting, they just play with their phones because there is nothing to do. But is this even true? I believe everyone hates waiting, but that’s only because they’re not fun enough.”

In both cases he is absolutely right. In England, queuing has become both part of our culture and hate. When it comes to having “nothing to do,” older generations mocked Millennials and Gen Z for always being glued to their phones, but in 2024, you can almost guarantee that people of all ages will be pulling out their phones to scroll or play the game if given a chance between tasks.

He continued: “We want to create a game that takes into account every mundane moment to lend a hand players find their own ways to kill time. That’s where the inspiration to create the game comes from.” Yes, While Waiting is a game to kill time, but the scenarios reflect what happens in our everyday lives, so perhaps the levels will teach us how to wait in a more fun way.

Waiting’s art style is immediately very distinct, using a restricted color palette and cartoonish illustrations with minimal shading. The team was inspired by comics and cartoons such as Snoopy and Yes, But by Antоn Gudim, precisely because it can be completed without interacting with the level, instead watching the scene like a TV show. Zhou told us that the decision on the color palette was made through trial and error. “At first we tried to do it in black and white, but the art style ended up looking more earnest. However, we felt that this earnest art style would discourage many players.

Waiting Interview: Adam rides the baggage belt at the airport

“So we made the game look funnier and more colorful, but in this case the game looked more like a silly kid’s doodle game. The current art style is a mix of both.” Balancing a fun and whimsical tone with some of the more earnest story moments is a key part of the development team’s design philosophy, especially since While Waiting literally follows Adam from the cradle to the grave.

“It’s hard to find the balance between fun and serious because you still need something to have fun on every level, but you don’t want it to be too silly,” Zhou said. “So in later stages, we dilute the fun elements and make player interaction serve more of a narrative purpose.”

The main feature that caught my eye during the developers’ presentation on Waiting Day was the Fidget button built into the game. I operate fidget toys every day to lend a hand me concentrate on work or relieve anxiety – in fact, I’m using one as I write this interview. Interestingly, we learned from Zhou that this feature was actually created by accident. Initially, it was a hint mechanism for finding each level’s stickers, optional collectibles that can be found while traveling with Adam.

Interview while waiting: a quote from Dong Zhou and a photo of Adam in front of a mango background

He said: “But after the playtest, we felt that not everything was right. Everything in the game seemed to be designed for players to look for stickers. We wanted the stickers to be for informational purposes only and to help pass the time.” So, to prevent the game from turning into a fundraiser, the hint system was redesigned, but the Fidget button remained, simply as something to do to pass the time. I’m especially excited about the evolution of this feature, as Zhou told me that more fidget spinners and a sheet of bubble wrap are in the works.

Another aspect of my ADHD that influenced my thoughts on this game is my impulsive nature. I have caused myself financial problems in the past by spending too much money on microtransactions in mobile games. I get impatient or frustrated and need an immediate release of dopamine, and many games these days actively exploit people like me by making it simple and addictive to spend money on skips, extra lives, or loot boxes.

A mobile game specifically about learning to wait immediately reminded me of the current state of the industry, so I asked Zhou if he intended to criticize this model in “While Waiting” and what he thought about microtransactions. He told me, “It’s intelligent and definitely a good business model. Nowadays, games are becoming faster and faster, and people want instant feedback that prompts them to pay.

Waiting Interview: Adam waits for the elevator at work

“But I want players to have the patience to enjoy a slow game like While Waiting… we have a level that involves waiting for your AP to recover while playing on mobile.”

Following Adam throughout his life will definitely create an emotional connection between him and the player, which is something I often look for in games. My final question to Zhou was basic – will I cry while I wait?

“It might make you cry. At the very least, it will make you feel moved and reflect on the meaning of life. We put a lot of effort into the game’s narrative. I don’t want to spoil the fun, but I’m sure the ending will surprise you!”

Waiting will be available on Android, iOS and PC in 2025. You can visit Optillusion website to learn more about the game, as well as the studio’s previous mobile puzzle game, Moncageand add the game to your wishlist Couple to show your support.

For more amazing upcoming games, check out our Summer Game Fest 2024 recap or check out the June 2024 Nintendo Direct. Alternatively, save some money on gacha games by using our Genshin Impact and Honkai Star Rail codes.

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