Cookie Clicker's game interface
|Release date(s)||10 August 2013|
In 2010, game designer Ian Bogost created a social network game on Facebook that utilized the worst mechanics of social games and raised them to the level of absurdity. Named Cow Clicker, the game's objective was simple; every six hours the player would click on the cow in order to receive a point. The game was made as an attempt to refute accusations that an earlier Facebook social game called FarmVille lacked the mechanics and complexity needed to be considered an actual game. Despite being created as a parody, Cow Clicker quickly became popular.
In August 2013, Julien "Orteil" Thiennot created a different game called Cookie Clicker. Featuring similar mechanics and objectives as Cow Clicker, it also included new gameplay features. The game was first posted on 4chan's /v/ board on August 8, 2013  and later spread through social media sites. By 18 August 2013, Orteil had announced that his game had been receiving an average of 200,000 players per day.
This genre involves games that orient the player with a trivial task, such as clicking a cookie; and as the game progresses, the player is gradually rewarded certain upgrades for completing said task. In all, these games require very little involvement from the player, and in most cases they play themselves; hence the use of the word "idle". This process of rewarding a simple action, or positive reinforcement, is what causes idle games to be commonly known as “super addictive”. The design is such that, with each reward, the player feels a sense of pride as if they have accomplished something important, thus creating the urge to continue to play.
However, due to their mockingly simple mechanics, idle games are also considered by many of being relatively simple or, as stated in the 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". However, even though idle games, or "non-games", do not contain many aspects typically associated with games, they have still had a prolific presence on the Internet. In early 2014, Orteil released an early version of Idle Game Maker, a tool allowing customized idle games to be made without coding knowledge.
In late 2014, Orteil collaborated with Artix Entertainment to release an idle game for mobile devices called AdventureQuest Dragons.
Boing Boing reviewed Cookie Clicker as a "highly-addictive browser game". Polygon has described the game as "intriguing", and its fan base as "obsessive". About.com states that it is ultimately a "Skinner box". 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."
- Crecente, Brian (September 30, 2013). "The cult of the cookie clicker: When is a game not a game?". Polygon. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
- Makedonski, Brett (25 September 2013). "Cookie Clicker gets inside your psychological kitchen". Destructoid. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
- Schultz, Warren. "Milk and Cookies: Cow Clicker and Cookie Clicker". Retrieved 2 April 2014.
- Thiennot, Julien (8 August 2013). "hello yes I just made the best vidya ever". 4chan (archived by archive.moe). Retrieved 4 August 2015.
- Davis, Justin (10 October 2013). "Inside Cookie Clicker and the Idle Game Move". IGN. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
- "Idle Game Maker Documentation". Orteil.dashnet.org. Retrieved 2014-07-10.
- Boing, Boing (2 December 2013). "Distract yourself with free browser games". Boing Boing. Retrieved 12 May 2015.