This is the response one of my friends had when I tried to describe Clicker Heroes. It wasn’t an unexpected response. Heck, it wasn’t even an incorrect response. But the game is compelling, if you can even call it a game, that is. I will do my best to elaborate on what the phenomenon of Clicker Heroes is, but I’m not sure I can do it justice. I’ll just use the words that come to me from the strange depths into which this game has plunged me and if they pale in comparison to the feelings the game evokes, well, just download it for yourself and do better than me. It’s free on Steam and there is a mobile app version of it well if that’s something you want to try. Here goes.
Clicker Heroes is a program that generates monsters on your screen in a little window (or on a Full Screen, I guess). You start by dealing 1 Damage per click. You click the monster until it’s hit points, or HP, has been reduced to zero. The monster then drops gold. You can spend this gold on hiring the eponymous “heroes” of the program. The first, named Cid, increases your clicking damage by 1. Which when you think about it, is a DOUBLE in your clicking damage! So that’s pretty efficient! Cid can be leveled up with more gold, providing more damage in a steady gold paid to increased damage to clicks ratio. The hero you unlock after Cid is named Treebeast, who can also be leveled for more damage. Treebeast increases your idle damage per second (or DPS) by about 5. This means just sitting there, without clicking or anything, you are doing 5 damage every second to the monster you are staring at.
Pop quiz: Did that last sentence just end in a preposition? Answer: It most certainly did! (at.) But that doesn’t matter for now! Because I want to draw your attention to another specific linguistic choice I made just moments ago. It was my naming Clicker Heroes as a “program” rather than a “game.” Specifically, this is because when you leave Clicker Heroes open, your DPS is still running, gently slaying every cartoon monstrosity you encounter. In fact, when you close the game, it saves the calculation of your DPS and generated monster, averages the gold, and gives you that gold when you return. IN FACT, THIS OCCURS WHEN STEAM OR YOUR COMPUTER IS SHUT DOWN AND YOU ARE SLEEPING. So is it a game? Or is it simply a program you keep running in the background to amuse yourself with flashing lights and patterns, buying a few upgrades here and there, like a Windows screen saver from 20 years back if you monotonously counted the number of unique toasters flying across like some sort of visual mantra used to pass the time until you grew up and could buy a computer for yourself? On the Steam game page, there is a featured review of Clicker Heroes on Rock, Paper, Shotgun earnestly comparing it to the Windows Defrag application. But that’s besides the point, because hey! You leveled up!
Like I said, my friend was not wrong in trying to discern the point of this “game.” And to pull an old standby out of my pocket, sometimes it’s just for the satisfaction of seeing tangible progress because “all play means something” (Huizinga, 1938). The game keeps trucking, with or without you. Of course, you can speed up your progress if you click while it idles, but that cold probably lead to carpal tunnel syndrome very quickly. Imagine it, a person sitting at their computer madly clicking so they can click faster. That would be a very silly scene. Though it wouldn’t be as silly if there were abilities you could activate on a timer. Let’s say, one exists that doubles your clicking efficiency and another increases your idle DPS by 100%. Not forever, maybe just 30 seconds. And that’s exactly what happens! You can increase your clicking power or idle DPS or even generate money when you click instead of only when a monster dies. These cool downs are on timers anywhere from 10 minutes to 8 hours, depending on the power of the cool down. This of course, adds another element of depth to the game.
It keeps going. Every new level brings a new challenge, another layer, another level, and the cycle begins anew. If you notice the little Illuminati eye on a tab in the previous screen shot, that represents where your Ancients are; beings you can purchase with ‘hero souls,’ which you earn from defeating primal bosses and leveling up your heroes 2000 times. You earn and can then spend these hero souls when you ‘ascend,’ which is the game’s VERY dramatic way of saying “new game+.” And then the game resets, and you repeat the cycle. The reason this works is because every hero soul you have in you bank, unspent, equates to an additional 10% damage to your total clicks and DPS. So every time you ascend, you are at least a flat percentage stronger than when you began. This allows you to push further and attain more souls, for more damage, essentially resulting in the Diablo 3 Greater Rift system of progression, or for all you non-Blizzard players out there, New Game++++++++++ad infinitum. And this is one of those very rare and special occasions where I mean it when I say ad infinitum.
So there you have it. A truly infinite game, as far as I can tell. And I do believe it is a “game” because you have to make choices and spend resources wisely and choose what relics to use and how to send your mercenaries on quests for you and all sorts of esoteric, jazzy nonsense. But really that’s exactly what games are until you get the hang of them. If you are looking for an eternal madness simulator, look no further than the dread reality Clicker Heroes. I personally think you should give it a shot on Steam for three reasons:
- It’s much easier to click a mouse than to tap a screen.
- It plays itself while you sleep.
- It’s free dollars and no cents.
Of course, standard micro-transactions apply, but I really don’t see the need since the in-game currency can be earned by clicking little fish/peach/orange hybrid monstrosities that appear on screen. Like I said, esoteric, jazzy noise. But hey! It’s something new. Forever.