Cookie Clicker

Have you ever wanted to play a game that plays itself? One where your physical and mental investment is almost nonexistent, but you somehow still receive the rush of endorphins, the feelings of satisfaction? Most people would probably think a game that plays itself isn’t a game at all, much less something that could be fun. Yet the world of clicker and idle games is here to prove those people wrong.

From Universal Paperclips and Cookie Clicker to Zen Shards and ALTER EGO, clicker and idle games are abundant in every possible theme you could imagine. But what about them is so appealing? Why do I have such a desire to wait and watch the little sparks dance on the screen by themselves and the numbers rack up, while doing absolutely nothing myself?

Looking into how these games hook you, it seems they break down to the basic pattern of:

  • Do small amount of work.
  • Get rewarded.
  • Repeat with bigger numbers.

And that’s it. Humans love to see large numbers — even the fake feeling that something you’re doing is successful is enough to please your Jell-O ball.

Zen Shards

The games start you off slow and gentle, easing your way into small purchases with numbers you can understand for upgrades and bigger numbers. Exponentially increasing, larger and larger the numbers grow until they become more than you could even possibly imagine.

Then comes the plateau. The game slows down until you feel you are making no progress. The numbers stop, the upgrades cease to be affordable. But what is this, an option to reset? And you get some sort of permanent percentage bonus to your income in this new game+ mode? Perfect, start it anew and watch the number grow even more.

Clicker and idle games are parasites, leeching your attention bit by bit, selling your time for ad revenue, while injecting you with small amounts of endorphins — enough to keep you in the loop of “just one more” for hours and hours. I’ve spent probably thousands of hours with my devices open playing these almost non-games, and looking back at that gives me a feeling of self disappointment.

But then again, these games are fantastic at what they do, and I still love them. Maybe a bit more than I should.

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