You click a cookie for points and you can earn items which click for you. That's it. So then why is this game so popular?
There’s a new video game in town. It’s called Cookie Clicker, and news about it is spreading like wildfire on all the major social media sites. From Tumblr to Twitter, it’s interesting (at least for me as a new media professional) to just watch it go viral. There are videos of Cookie Clicker gameplay clips and reviews appearing on YouTube, memes and fan art being created and sent around, and a flurry of discussions on a host of game-related sites. But if you decide to try out the game yourself, be forewarned: going by comments on the forums, it’s highly addictive to a whole lot of people.
When you first open the game, you’re presented with one giant cookie, replete with heroic light rays bursting out from behind the cookie, suggesting that it’s the One, the Holy Grail of cookies. There are no instructions, but you’re drawn inexplicably to click on The Cookie, slowly at first, and then much faster as each of your clicks is registered and a counter prominently displays the running total number of cookies you have. You’ll soon find yourself clicking as fast as you can, and if you keep this up, it’s a sure-fire way to hasten carpal tunnel syndrome.
As you click on The Cookie, you’ll notice ‘power-ups,’ which can be ‘purchased’ with cookie-points to help you produce more cookies. It starts with small and affordable power-ups like Grandma – a tiny, 8-bit-like graphic of an elderly lady who bakes a couple more cookies for you every second. Then as you progress, you can ‘buy’ a Farm for 500 cookie-points. With this, you get to plant cookie seeds to grow yet more cookies. Soon, there’s a Factory and Mine available to you. And Shipment, which “brings in fresh cookies from the cookie planet.” There’s the Alchemy Lab, which “turns gold into cookies,” the Portal, which “opens a door to the cookieverse,” and the Time Machine, which “brings cookies from the past before they were even eaten.”
A few days ago, the Antimatter Condenser power-up was introduced and superseded the Time Machine as highest end-tier level power-up available. This Antimatter condenser, which by the way is available for the one-time only initial sale price of 3,999,999,999 cookie-points, is said to condense “the antimatter in the universe into cookies so you don’t run out of regular matter to make cookies”. Just in case you’re wondering, according to forum discussions and because the price of any power-up increases as the game progresses, the price to achieve 100 Antimatter Condensers is 31,314,807,992,171,298, or 31.3 quadrillion cookies.
And then things get surreal and weirder still (as if they weren’t already surreal and weird enough). There are upgrades available for each power-up that make your power-ups even more productive, allowing you to make many more cookies per second. For example, you can transmute your Grandmas into all sorts of Cosmic Grandmas that are many times more efficient than plain-old Grandma so that you end up with a veritable army of cookie-baking, alien-looking Grandmas. Or how about a Quantum Conundrum upgrade that makes your time machines twice as efficient? When you get to this option, a quote appears with the upgrade: “It’s full of stars” – an obvious geeky reference to Dave Bowman’s dramatic remark in 2001: A Space Odyssey. And speaking of the Time Machine, according to the Cookie Clicker wiki (yes, there’s a wiki), “getting to 100 time machines takes less than two weeks. However, without catching golden cookies, getting to 150 time machines would take about 30 years.”