Cookie Clicker Analysis

The conglomerate that will destroy your soul.

Cookie Clicker is a game by Polygon and designed by Julien Thiennot. The objective of the game is to click the cookie to produce cookies while setting up systems to increase the number of cookies produced per second. Cookie Clicker is an idle type of game where direct attention is not needed throughout the playtime of the game therefore does not need player input the entire length of the game. Cookie Clicker is designed for low pressure management of a growing cookie company. Affordances include clicking on the cookie or buttons on the right side of the screen for upgrades or to purchase systems. Other feedback includes the sound the cookie makes when you click on it as well as the text generated letting you know how many cookies you made with that click. The top left corner constantly ticks up how many cookies you are generating and is a form of feedback for the systems you purchase and what you can purchase.

The player will start with a cookie image on the left side of the screen. The only signifier, while vague, is to click on the cookie. The player will earn one cookie per click and with the signifiers on the right, the player will be able to purchase the help of grandmas, farms, mines, factories, and more to generate more cookies per second. The long term as well as short term heuristics of the game is to generate more cookies. Other short term heuristics are to purchase systems to increase the number of cookies per second to help purchase more systems. Eventually you will be generating so many points that it becomes pointless to click the cookie yourself and could be an intentional design decision. This could be a message that when you build systems, you get people to bring you chocolate so that you can make money off the chocolate and use the money to build more systems and get more chocolate. Eventually, the effort you put into it by clicking the cookie becomes irrelevant as your systems that you built bring more chocolate at a faster rate. You then become the conglomerate and collect the labor of your systems without doing direct work, but rather purchase and sell your systems to be more efficient, therefore becoming a CEO. You then can see the feedback your cookies are having on the world through text on the top of the screen. They start good, but as time goes on, the world gets more and more cookies, the text talks about how well received your cookies are, but at a price. The grandmas, who helped you from the beginning, get more disgusted with you. The world’s resources start to go down and causes earthquakes and sinkholes. As your company succeeds, you start to make the world a worse place.

First time players are introduced to the game similar to the means of Minecraft or No Man’s Sky, where the game does not have a tutorial and does not inform the player what to do, how to play, or how to win. When you enter the game, there is no tutorial and only few signifiers with few information that forces the player to learn how the game. After the player gets a hang of the systems, the player can understand that they want to make more cookies by buying systems. The intensity curve does not reach a high point at any time; this is because the game, in a way, plays itself. The game’s up moments are when you purchase a new system or upgrade watching your cookies made per second go up. Downs include all other aspects of the game, to the point that I found other things to do while waiting for my number to go up, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Some spikes occur when you purchase an expensive service or upgrade and see your cookies per second go up, but again, it is a low intensity game by design. The rewards from getting more systems or higher numbers are rewarding because we like high numbers; but the game shows how our success and rewarding gameplay comes at the expense of other people. Cookie Clicker is the type of game you run in the background and occasionally mess with, making it more like a low attention casual game. Similar to Papers Please or This War of Mine, Cookie Clicker does a great job of having simple gameplay linked to a strong subtext of the world around you and how your actions effect it.