Cookie Clicker's game interface
|Release||10 August 2013|
Cookie Clicker is a 2013 incremental game created by French programmer Julien "Orteil" Thiennot. The user initially clicks on a big cookie on the screen, earning one cookie per click. They can then spend cookies on buildings, which will automatically produce cookies. Upgrades can improve the efficiency of clicks and buildings, and other mechanics lead to many other ways in which the user can earn cookies. Though the game has no ending, it has hundreds of achievements, and users may aim to reach milestone numbers of cookies.
The game is one of the first and most important in the genre of incremental games and has a dedicated fanbase. Though the first version was coded in one night, Cookie Clicker is regularly updated. It has been widely described as addictive, and it has been noted that the game almost does not require a human to play it. It has themes of apocalypse and its gameplay can be linked to ideas about capitalism.
At first, the player clicks on the large cookie on the far left side of the screen to earn one cookie per click. With these cookies, the player can purchase "buildings", such as cursors, grandmas, and farms, that automatically make cookies. Upgrades can be purchased to increase the cookies gathered from buildings or clicks. Golden cookies, smaller cookies that appear and fade away over several seconds, appear periodically and grant bonus cookies or increase the rate of production for a short time.
After earning a certain amount of cookies, the player can restart the game to earn heavenly chips and prestige, which will add a permanent boost to the rate of cookie production in future playthroughs. Other mechanics such as prestige upgrades (unlocked with heavenly chips), "wrinklers", the Cookie Dragon and minigames can also be used to boost cookie production or generate more cookies in other ways (such as when the game is closed). Achievements can be earned by completing various tasks, such as producing certain numbers of total cookies or owning a particular number of a building. Additionally, seasonal events occur along with their respective holiday. With the seasonal events come more upgrades and cookies to unlock.
The game features geometric growth – the player begins baking handfuls of cookies, but can quickly reach billions of cookies, and eventually attain duodecillions of cookies or beyond. The game has no ending.
Julien "Orteil" Thiennot created Cookie Clicker in August 2013. Written in a single evening, the game was posted in a link on 4chan, and garnered 50,000 players within hours. A month after the game's initial release, it had over 200,000 players per day. Orteil later wrote that traffic had peaked at 1.5 million hits in one day during August 2013, and as of January 2014 Cookie Clicker was still getting a steady 225,000 hits per day. The game has had continual updates since its release, including the "legacy" update in February 2016 and the "spiritual" update in July 2017.
Cookie Clicker is similar to Cow Clicker, a previously existing idle game created by Ian Bogost. Bogost has called Cookie Clicker "the logical conclusion of Cow Clicker". Orteil later released other idle games such as: Idle Game Maker, a tool allowing customized idle games to be made without coding knowledge; AdventureQuest Dragons, a mobile game created with Artix Entertainment; and Legacy.
Impact on idle gaming
In an IGN article, Cookie Clicker is credited as one of the few games to have played a major role in the establishment of the genre of idle gaming (also called incremental gaming). An article in The Kernel describes it as "probably the best-known" game in the genre.
In an issue of Digital Culture & Society, Paolo Ruffino notes that the game is "supposed to be a parody of Farmville" (a popular game which Ruffino says could be played easily with an algorithm, as the optimal action is always obvious), but that it is "equally addictive". Thus, the game "explores the absence of human agency". Ian Bogost, creator of Cow Clicker, similarly notes that "Cookie Clicker isn't a game for a human, but one for a computer to play while a human watches (or doesn't)." Cookie Clicker has been said by reviewers to be addictive, and its fanbase have been described as "obsessive" and "almost cultish". Kiberd notes that fans of the game have pointed out that their playing the game is bad for the environment (due to the computers being left on around the clock) and caused reduced efficiency at work.
However, due to their mockingly simple mechanics, idle games are also considered by many of being relatively simple or, as stated in an IGN article, "super dumb". Games such as Cookie Clicker have used this blend of simplicity and complexity to create a new genre that some may not even consider as actual games. Orteil himself described his works as "non-games".
The game has dark humour in the names and descriptions of some of its upgrades, achievements or mechanics, and generally has themes of dystopia, cosmic horror, and apocalypse. Examples including an achievement titled "Global Warming" (upon owning 100 factories), a news ticker tape reading "New cookie-based religion sweeps the nation." and the "Grandmapocalypse", in which "the screen turns molten red and the central cookie is attacked by phallic 'wrinklers'", and the world at large is implied to have been taken over by a hive mind of mutated grandmothers.
In The Kernel, Kiberd opines that the game is "a parable about how capitalism will destroy itself". Kiberd suggests that Cookie Clicker is "saddling [the concept of fun] with ideas about success, achievement, and productivity", and "uses its own form as a critique of the larger structures of expectation and reward".
Justin Davis of IGN describes Cookie Clicker as the "greatest Idle Game" and says it "probably achieves the best balance of power yet [...] so that every step of the way you feel like you're flying, generating cookies so much faster than you were before. But you still can't wait until that next major milestone is finally within reach". Boing Boing reviewed Cookie Clicker as a "highly-addictive browser game". Polygon has described the game as "intriguing", and its fan base as "obsessive". Destructoid emphasizes that it is "centered around the pursuit and accumulation of vast wealth", providing players with "the illusion of progress, without any substantial advancement actually being made."
- Kiberd, Roisin (January 2016). "Cookie Clicker, the Internet's most pointlessly addictive game, is also its most subversive". The Kernel. The Daily Dot. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
- Davis, Justin (10 October 2013). "Inside Cookie Clicker and the Idle Game Move". IGN. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
- Bogost, Ian (2016). Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games. Hachette. ISBN 9780465096503.
- "Orteil". Orteil. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
- Thiennot, Julien. "Cookie Clicker > Info". Dashnet. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
- "Idle Game Maker Documentation". Orteil.dashnet.org. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
- Ruffino, Paolo (2016). "Games to Live With". Digital Culture & Society. 2 (1/2016): 156. ISBN 9783839432105. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
- Crecente, Brian (30 September 2013). "The cult of the cookie clicker: When is a game not a game?". Polygon. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
- Boing, Boing (2 December 2013). "Distract yourself with free browser games". Boing Boing. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
- Makedonski, Brett (25 September 2013). "Cookie Clicker gets inside your psychological kitchen". Destructoid. Retrieved 29 September 2013.