Which Type of Show Are You Most Likely to Binge Watch?

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of “binge watching” for years now. I think it started becoming a thing when entire seasons (and series) of shows became available on DVD, and Netflix has taken it up a notch by releasing entire seasons of new shows all at once.

I don’t think I’ve ever technically binge-watched a show. That is, I haven’t spent most of a day watching back-to-back episodes of anything. Probably the closest I came was the latest season of Kimmy Schmidt, when I watched two episodes per meal while eating for a 4-day period.

Part of my fascination stems from the desire to create content that hooks people into desperately wanting to know what happens next. This has been on my radar as a writer for years. What makes a page-turner? Why do we stay up to the wee hours reading some books and not others?

Lately, of course, this fascination is tied to board games, particularly narrative board games where the story continues from game to game. Star Wars Imperial Assault, Pandemic Legacy, and T.I.M.E. Stories all have that “let’s play one more game” aspect to them.

So when Netflix recently revealed their “binge scale,” I considered it from a few different perspectives. Take a look:


The first layer of this scale is to consider it at face value. Most of these shows are hour-long shows, putting them on equal footing. What is it about thrillers that makes us want more? House of Cards is probably the most critically acclaimed of all of these shows, yet it’s near the bottom of the scale. Is it that thrillers and horror shows invoke emotional reactions from viewers? Do your binge tastes correlate with this scale?

The second layer is to see if this scale aligns with books. What type of book makes you want to keep reading the most? For me, I think it’s some combination of mystery and character-driven suspense. No matter the genre, if I care about the characters, I really want to know what happens to them next.

The third and final level is to look at this scale as it relates to narrative board games. I think a big part of it is the mystery–I always wanted to see what we were going to unlock or reveal the next time we played Pandemic Legacy or T.I.M.E. Stories. Also, we always wanted to do better next time. In fact, the times where we were satisfied and didn’t feel the immediate need to play again were those when we won handily. So perhaps narrow defeat is more binge-inducing than victory.

Also, with Imperial Assault and Pandemic Legacy, part of the appeal is that you get to carry new items, skills, and abilities into the next game. I’ve heard the same about the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. You get new stuff, and you’re eager to use that stuff.

What do you think? What types of shows, books, and games do you want to keep consuming? What is it about them that makes them binge-worthy?

6 thoughts on “Which Type of Show Are You Most Likely to Binge Watch?”

  1. It’s interesting that Netflix doesn’t have the DIY/HGTV shows where people are buying, selling, remodeling houses on here as a binge worthy genre of show… unless I’m just the only person out there who has accidentally watched several episodes of these types of shows in one sitting (possibly multiple times this has happened).

    • Interesting. What is it about those shows that makes you want to watch more than one in a row? Each episode is completely independent of the next, right?

  2. Hmm, binge watching has basically become a hobby of mine. When I am working on my games’ art or drafting up card or ability concepts, I will often times load up a new show on Netflix or Hulu and just let it keep going.

    In these scenarios, I often times turn to shows that are actually the opposite of a lot of what you describe above. I like to put on longer series of shows that either have little “plot” content or where the episodes are more segregated from each other, but share a common theme over the course of a series.

    Examples of some of my binge watched shows include Naked and Afraid, How It’s Made, Naruto, X-Files, Survivor Man, and Ancient Aliens.

    When binge watching for actual watching (or because both me and my wife are playing F2P games on phones) we will often throw on more plot heavy series. This is how we first watched House of Cards and other shows like Between, 11.22.63, The Path, Orange is the New Black, MasterChef, and many more.

    From a gaming perspective, I definitely do see potential for games to leverage this concept, but it is quite difficult. Whereas with a normal board game, you are asking people to invest 1 to 4 hours usually into a session with no longer term commitment. With games like Pandemic Legacy, Mice & Mystics, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, and similar games; the expectations raise dramatically. These expectations can also have some unexpected negative consequences for many game groups as well.

    As a brief example, my game group has been playing Pandemic Legacy for about 8 sessions now. We only are able to get together to game once every 2 weeks for about 4 to 6 hours. As a result, one of our normal gamers has not really been able to participate for a while as the game only supports 4 players.

    Also, Legacy games specifically come with an extra complication. If one team member departs, the entire game is often toast with no really feasible way to reset it. From a designer perspective, this aspect alone basically limits the creation of legacy games to only proven developers as those without a proven history are significantly less likely to have potential consumers take a risk with their money on a legacy game from an un-proven developer as opposed to a game that requires less commitment.

    • Anthony: Those are some interesting thoughts about legacy games. In my group, we played Pandemic Legacy with 5 people. We only used 4 characters, but we would team up to create 1 pair each game.

      That’s a valid concern with some legacy games (about people leaving during the campaign), though I think it’s a solvable problem, and it doesn’t necessarily require resetting anything. For example, in Charterstone, buildings for each inactive player are automatically built each game, so even if a player drops out or can’t make it one week, their charter continues to grow.

      • I will have to check out Charterstone (always looking for games that solve problems in interesting ways).

        In our next game, we are trying to solve this problem as well. We are doing a deck builder a bit in the vein of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, but are trying to make it work really well for drop in and drop out of players. We currently scale to 4 players (might go up to 6 at release), but we have a slightly unique system for leveling up and gameplay that we hope will enable players to enjoy the game and just pick up and play a session as they desire without worrying about if everyone showed up to every game session or if someone shows up late and misses a round.

        Its a complex issue to solve, and I sometimes wonder if we are putting to much work into the feature, but we at least feel it is important.

        If you have any other games you would recommend that approach this or other gameplay problems in unique ways, please let me know (even if the games themselves are bad).

        • Anthony: Yeah, that’s an interesting design challenge, and it’s neat to hear you’re addressing it. I’m focusing most of my design time to make sure that Charterstone works for the core audience: People who will share a copy of the game and play it with the same group. I consider the drop-in/out mechanism to be a bonus. Have you looked at Shadowrun Crossfire? I’ve heard its level-up legacy system is way too slow, but it’s a legacy deckbuilder, so you might get some ideas from it.


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