It’s been three weeks since I started playing. When I’m not playing, I have it idling in the background. I can’t remember the last time I was this obsessed with a game. I’m talking, of course, about Cookie Clicker.
Gaze upon the face of madness and despair! There’s an SMBC video from a few years ago, MMO. The characters get obsessed with the latest MMO, where you click a button and numbers go up. It’s an MMO “stripped of all the bells and whistles.” It's the most addictive game ever made; once you start playing it, it's impossible to stop, and you play until you die of exhaustion at your computer. It’s a funny video; we all watch it and know that will never happen. However, this is the most accurate summary of Cookie Clicker I’ve ever seen.
“But what is Cookie Clicker?” you may be asking. Cookie Clicker is a game where you watch numbers go up. You start off with zero cookies. Manually clicking gets you some cookies; then you can use those cookies you got to buy upgrades which generate cookies automatically. With those cookies, you can buy more upgrades (and more powerful upgrades), and you will eventually unlock achievements. If you don’t play Cookie Clicker, you may be wondering what the fuss is about. That hardly sounds addicting at all; in fact, it sounds really boring and easy to leave. The appeal is kind of hard to explain.
Logically, I know Cookie Clicker is boring. I don’t even like playing it. However, it’s insanely addictive. I keep checking back on it to see if I have enough cookies for the next upgrade. “Just one… more… turn…” is how people describe Civilization; “just one… more… upgrade…” is an accurate summary of Cookie Clicker.
Cookie Clicker also has a lot in common with RPGs (specifically JRPGs).
I know, it doesn’t look like one at all, but hear me out. In most RPGs, your character starts off dealing low amounts of damage against rats. You start leveling up, and eventually you deal high amounts of damage against dragons. This gives the player a false sense of accomplishment; your character used to have a lot of low numbers for health, attack, defense, etc. Now you have high numbers; those are much more impressive. Despite the fact that their accomplishments take no skill, and only give the appearance of accomplishments, the player feels rewarded. In Cookie Clicker, you start off with low numbers, then eventually get high numbers. The player feels rewarded, even though the high numbers really don’t mean anything.
Look how impressive these numbers are! They really don’t mean anything, either. This is another point where Cookie Clicker is similar to RPGs. In Generic RPG, you start off dealing 10 damage per hit to enemies with 100 hit points. You move on to dealing 100 damage per hit to enemies with 1,000 hit points, then at endgame you’re dealing 1,000 damage per hit to enemies with 10,000 hit points. The larger numbers really don’t mean anything; the game mechanics are slightly more complicated than my simplistic explanation, but that’s essentially how they work on a base level. High numbers at the end are pretty much the same as low numbers at the beginning; however, the higher numbers make the players feel like they have accomplished something. The high numbers in Cookie Clicker’s late game are the same as the low numbers in Cookie Clicker’s early game. Right now I’m saving up for my 74[sup]th[/sup] Antimatter Condenser, which costs roughly 1 trillion cookies. A little while ago, I was saving up for a Time Machine which cost roughly 1 billion cookies. The cost is different, but the amount of time waited was pretty much the same.
Why, then, do I keep playing? Why do I keep playing Cookie Clicker when I know how simplistic the design is? Just because I recognize the hooks doesn’t mean I’m not affected by them. I hate Cookie Clicker, and I need to beat it, because otherwise that meansCookie Clicker won! It’s also theoretically low maintenance; you can have it running in another tab and just go about your merry way. Of course, I (and most everyone else who plays) checks back on it every thirty seconds or so, but that’s our fault; the game doesn’t punish you for idling. It just rewards you much more for interaction.
That's another thing Cookie Clicker does well; it rewards you for interaction. Gold cookies will come up on your screen periodically. Clicking these gets you a bonus of either a lot of cookies, a temporary production multiplier, or a more drastic click multiplier (where you get many more cookies for clicking). These are the most effective ways to get cookies, and one of the more devious aspects of Cookie Clicker. Sure, you can leave it running in the background, but then you won't get any golden cookies. Cookie Clicker is far too benign to punish you for looking away; however, the incentives for keeping it open are far too great to ignore. I have two monitors, which is useful for Cookie Clicker, since it means I can have the game open at all times.
I honestly think Cookie Clicker is a work of art. If games are art (haha it's that discussion again), Cookie Clicker is my nomination for masterpiece. No other game is this pointless, this obviously pointless, and this addicting. There are many addicting pointless games, yes, but Cookie Clicker is so obviously pointless and you don't even care. So go on. Try it. Maybe just a few clicks. You won't get addicted... right?
Just a few clicks...
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About Lazerpigone of us since 5:53 PM on 01.31.2010
I'm Lazerpig. One of my first video game memories was playing Super Mario Brothers on an NES at the house of some other kids who had the same babysitter as me. I remember being pretty good, although I'm not sure if I actually was; I also remember thinking I was the red ghost in Pac-Man around the same age. I think I was around 3. Anyway, I got my first video game system, a Game Boy Color, when I was 10 (I'm 27 now) and I have a lot of great memories. Super Mario Brothers Deluxe broke it. The A and -> buttons are heavily worn down, and they barely register anymore; I consider this a badge of honor.
Games I love:
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Zack and Wiki and the search for Barbaros' Treasure
Super Mario Galaxy
Both Golden Suns
Final Fantasy VI, Woolsey edition
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (and Seasons, but Ages was better)
Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness
Fire Emblem 7
Crash Team Racing. The first one. Best kart racer ever.