Attract mode, also known as display mode or show mode, is a pre-recorded demonstration of a video game that is displayed when the game is not being played. Originally built into arcade games, the main purpose of the attract mode is to entice passers-by to play the game.
Attract mode usually displays the game's title screen, the game's story (if it has one), its high score list, sweepstakes (on some games) and the message "Game Over" or "Insert Coin" over or in addition to a computer-controlled demonstration of gameplay. In Atari home video games of the 1970s and 1980s, the term attract mode was sometimes used to denote a simple screensaver that slowly cycled the display colors to prevent phosphor burn-in while the game was not being played. Attract modes demonstrating gameplay are common in current home video games. In some games, such as Tomb Raider: Legend or Super Metroid, the demonstration may include the solution to an in-game puzzle.
Attract mode is not only found in arcade games, but in most coin-operated games like pinball machines, stacker machines and lots of other games. Cocktail arcade machines on which the screen flips its orientation for each player's turn in two-player games traditionally have the screen's orientation in player 1's favour for the attract mode.
Sometimes the automated gameplay shown in the attract mode depicts events that would not occur during actual gameplay. For instance, in the attract mode of P.O.W.: Prisoners of War, the character is able to grab a machine gun very early in the game, whereas he would have had to wait a while longer before that opportunity arose in the real game. Another example of this is evident in the arcade game Ghosts 'n Goblins, where the player is shown at a point in the second part of the first level in a forest fighting enemies (zombies) that during actual gameplay are not present in that part of the game. Some more radical alterations are such as shown in Assassin's Creed, where the character is shown with a crossbow, which had been substituted for throwing knives in the playable game. The PC version of the original Prince of Persia has a hard-coded level list with a level that can only be seen during the attract mode; that level is impossible to be played even with gaming cheats. Such alterations may be designed to increase the perceived excitement of the game and demonstrate certain features.
- Ruggill, Judd Ethan; McAllister, Ken S. (May 11, 2011). Gaming Matters: Art, Science, Magic, and the Computer Game Medium. University of Alabama Press. pp. 70–71. ISBN 0817317376. Retrieved Nov. 29, 2012.