On July 10th, small indie developer “Orteil” posted “Things I can’t pixel ever : -stars -feathers” on his Twitter just before going radio-silent for nearly a month. Apparently, during his break from Twitter, he discovered that, while he wasn’t confident he could create pixel feathers or stars, he could make pixel cookies. His very next Tweet — made on August 8th — was: “I made a dumb thing check it out” followed by a link. That little link then made its way around the internet, and after a few days, I finally came across it. Little did I know, that little link granted entry to an incredibly addictive game that I would keep running for my every waking moment.
The main objective in Cookie Clicker is simple: click the cookie, and buy upgrades. And that simplicity is probably why the game has kept my attention for as long as it has. In the game’s current v.0.125 release, there is no ending, so the upgrade progression is infinite (as far as I can tell, anyway). Each upgrade will give you a certain number of clicks (cookies) every five seconds. For example, purchasing a grandma will earn you five additional cookies every five seconds, and a factory will net you an extra twenty cookies every five seconds, and so on. Each time you purchase an upgrade, its cost goes up, and at this moment, the starting price for the most expensive item costs 123,456,789 cookies… and I’ve bought it three times.
This is how Cookie Clicker looks at first (pictured above). As you can see, I have a few upgrades. Two grandmas, and about ten “cursors” that each give me one cookie every five seconds. In addition to those upgrades — although you can’t see it — I’m on the other side of the screen clicking away that cookie. During this stage, you can’t rely purely on your upgrades to get you the delicious cookies you need. At this point in the game, I was getting somewhere around three cookies per-second with upgrades alone. But in reality, I was getting around thirty clicks per-second because of how furiously I was tapping away at my poor computer mouse. Over time you’ll have earned enough cookies to buy more cursors and grandmas, and then you’ll buy a factory, and then…
…you’ll be convinced that at some point during your time with the game you blacked out, time traveled three hours into the future, and your screen inexplicably looks like this (pictured above). You’re suddenly making far more cookies per-second than any sane person will likely enjoy in their lifetime. And that upgrade that used to only cost fifteen cookies? That costs upwards of three-hundred thousand cookies! “What are those grannies doing in the background” you ask? Those indicate that the gods are not pleased with you. In addition to putting the images of grandmas in the background, the gods will lower the amount of cookies you produce per-second. That is, until you offer them an increasingly generous amount of cookies for ten minutes of uninterrupted cookie-making bliss. And like I said, as of now, the game doesn’t end. Everything just gets more and more expensive.
Luckily, by the time you reach this point in the game you can pay less and less attention to it, while still “playing” it. Since you’re making an absurd amount of cookies per-second, there isn’t really any point to clicking on the cookie manually. Even then, there’s something incredibly addictive about watching your total number of cookies grow, and purchasing the increasingly expensive upgrades. Because of that, I always have the game running when I’m using my computer, and since it runs natively in your browser, it’s easy to keep it running while attending to (debatably) more important things. In fact, it’s even running in the background as I type this fine article.
Perhaps an ending will eventually be added to the game, but for now, I’m happy with its infiniteness. And I’m even happier with the small updates it’s been receiving. Just yesterday, a new upgrade was added, and it seems like the game has received enough attention that the developer plans to continue working on it. Will it lose its flair over time? Will the novelty of making these digital confections wear off? Maybe. But for now, I’m enjoying my constant, albeit passive, relationship with Cookie Clicker. I am currently producing over one-hundred thousand cookies per-second, and fully intend to raise that number significantly over the next few days.