Well, here we are. After listening to Jeff Gerstmann speak feverishly and passionately about an idle clicking game called Time Clickers on the Giant Bombcast for the past two weeks, I decided to see what was what. The blasted thing is free on Steam, and I dabbled in things like AdVenture Capitalist and that strange monster-driven mini-game during this past Steam Summer Sale to grok the concept. Little did I know that watching colored cubes explode would be so gratifying, even when I barely contributed to their demise.
Made by Proton Studio Inc., Time Clickers is…a clicking game with guns. For those that don’t know what that means, a clicking game basically revolves around on you, the player, clicking on different elements to eventually get to the point where actions are happening automatically and you can just sit back, eyes dilated, absorbing the delicious, dopamine-triggering rewards. A few examples that I’ve not played but heard of include Cookie Clicker and Clicker Heroes. In this one, you collect gold by blasting apart colored cubes, upgrade your click pistol, hire a team of elite soldiers to fire additional weapons at the cubes, and take down bosses as quickly as you can. You do this ad infinitum, constantly leveling everything up and “advancing” further through the game.
For a game that demands such little interaction, I can’t stop thinking about it. See, even when you are not running Time Clickers, you are continuing to earn gold. It’s like in Fable II, when you’d purchase houses and rent them out to villages. You could turn the game off, come back a few days later, and be much more richer, as the pay-rent-to-landlord system kept turning even while you were away. A part of me wonders how much money I’d get now if I turned Fable II on and loaded up my save from 2009-ish. Anyways, Time Clickers does that, which means it is always luring me back, with the completed promise of more gold to spend on DPS upgrades.
Steam says I’ve logged about two hours or so already in Time Clickers. Ugh. Here, let me let you in on a dark secret; the other night, while on the phone with my sister, I let the game run, watching cubes explode and Achievements pop, all without my hand even hovering over the mouse. Yes, it’s that kind of experience. It’s as if you had a fish tank full of bright, vibrant sea life, and every now and then you got a reward just for looking at it. Or not looking at it. Nothing can stop the clicks.
I’m sure there’s plenty to probe here. It all boils down to this: clicking games are a horrifying examination of human psychological weakness. They take hold of us and never let go. Even now, while I’m far away from my gaming laptop where Time Clickers is installed, it’s calling out to me, a siren on the shore, lulling me into a haze, one where the numbers keep going up and the cubes explode faster and arena bosses grow in size. I wonder if I’ll ever escape its grasp.