Bad Game Design – Clicker Games

Today’s video is sponsored by Squarespace
– to build the site of your dreams today, go to and use the code
snoman for 10% off your first website. Let’s go! Oh, hey, sorry guys give me one second. I gotta reach the level of chocolate chip sensae. Okay…and we’re good. Whenever I think of clicker, or sometimes
called idle or incremental games, I get really confused. They’re essentially the most bare bones experiences
when it comes to actual gameplay, you just click numbers to watch those numbers go up
and then wait for other numbers to increase so you can click more numbers – so why in the
world are these games so addictive? I’ve seen countless people, myself included
get sucked into the same trap time and time again – why do we keep playing them knowing
they’re so inherently shallow? Let’s talk about it. Oooh, golden cookie! In case you’ve never played a clicker game,
they’re called that for a reason – your only mechanic is to click things on screen
and you’ll be doing it a lot. Most all of these titles follow the same structure
– you start out with nothing and need to click your way to the first upgrade which will automatically
start clicking for you, and you build from there until you have an army of enhancements
so you don’t have to click at all to gain resources. These increase in power but also jump exponentially
in cost the further you get, so eventually this leads to major progress walls where you’ll
have to wait for your currency to get high enough to purchase the next upgrade. This is where the monaker “idle games”
came in, the longer you play the more you’ll have to wait, so many people just let them
run in the background while they do other things until they can play again, and then
repeat ad nauseum. Now many clicker games get around this becoming
boring by introducing a “prestige” system that allows you to completely reset your progress
to the beginning but with a permanent buff to your click power, so you can get back to
your original state much faster and beyond to higher heights from there. On top of this, several games include little
bonus clickables that appear on screen for a limited time which allow you to have an
extra boost to your productions, while others keep collecting even when the game is turned
off, so if you go to bed and come back in the morning you’ll have a nice pool of money
to spend. Either way this system has drawn in huge audiences
that keep coming back day after day to watch numbers rise, with no other purpose than that
alone. And nowadays it’s spawned countless wikis
and thousands of different iterations, complete with memes and terrible art assets galore. Who puts corn on a pizza?!? How did something that started as a joke to
make fun of grindy game mechanics turn into an industry behemoth that’s so alluring? What caused me to drop over 60 hours into
Adventure Capitalist without even realizing it, it just doesn’t logically add up! Well we’re about to get scientific up in
here. Strap in Snobabies. There’s a few different psychological elements
going on in clicker games, but let’s start with the most obvious – we as humans love
reaching goals. If there’s something you’ve been working
toward, it feels good when you finally achieve it, and at an even more basic level we just
like watching numbers go up. They did experiments on animals in these things
called operant conditioning chambers, or Skinner Boxes named after their creator, to see if
giving a piece of food would encourage the animals to keep doing a desired repetitive
action, or in some cases punished them for NOT doing so, and wouldn’t you know it,
of course they kept doing the random simple task, because they got a treat out of it. In gaming, we see this all the time – besides
obvious comparisons like slot machines or loot boxes, this is also why achievements
are so effective – it feels good to be rewarded for your actions, and instead of only getting
that feeling of satisfaction when beating a game, this is taken to the extreme in incremental
games because you gain achievements all the time, in fact it seems to be what the entire
system is based on. So if you don’t feel like you’re accomplishing
much in your real life, whether you’re just bored or simply going through the motions,
you can boot up an idle game and feel rewarded over and over again, and with very little
effort needed. Progress feels good, even if it’s in a silly
video game. But in addition to this you’re dealing with
our need for closure and something called the Zeigarnik effect, coined by a psychologist
named Bluma Zeigarnik, but you can just call her Ms. Z for short. She basically found through her research that
people remember incomplete tasks better than ones we’ve completed – And I’m sure you
can attest that this is true. I can’t tell you how many games I’ve beaten,
but I can definitely remember the ones that I haven’t. The games that bested me stick out like a
sore thumb in my brain that desires order. We want goals and tasks to be completed, so
when they aren’t we will put in the effort to finish them – this is why you see people
like The Completionist or those satisfied when they get another platinum trophy. There’s a sense of relief when you achieve
your goals. So with all that considered, are clicker games
really all that bad? Is it hurting anyone to have games that focus
on those aspects of our brain? Well, from a game design perspective, I would
argue that yes it is, and for two major reasons. 1) There is no ending to these games and 2)
it uses real time as a mechanic. Let’s break it down a little bit. So yes while you can complete various tasks
throughout your playthrough of an idle game, without an actual win state or end in sight,
there will always be that sense of lingering desire to play more. It will never go away because there is no
final accomplishment. You can see everything the game has to offer,
but your numbers will keep going up until they simply don’t mean anything anymore. Eventually it feels like the only reason you’ll
keep playing is because of the sunk-cost fallacy where you’ll tell yourself “I’ve already
spent so much time building up my stats, it would be a waste if I quit now” and even
if you reset with an added prestige bonus, that feeling of satisfaction will quickly
become more and more fleeting as you realize the entire experience is ultimately pointless. But even from a more tangible design aspect,
it’s my opinion that using real time to drive your progress is a manipulative practice. The hilariously ironic thing about idle games
is that the best way to play them is to actually NOT play them at all. If you go away and focus on other things and
then come back after not playing for awhile, you’ll have a much larger amount of resources
to spend than if you sat there and watched it the entire time. Now I’m not talking from an optimal strategy
perspective, but simply from a perceived enjoyment point of view. When you wake up and come back to your game
that’s been collecting money all night, you can spend it on bigger upgrades than if
you kept buying smaller things as they became available. And if you stop playing entirely for let’s
say years at a time, you can come back to an inconceivable amount of cash to blow, but
what you’ll find is that when you take away the real time limitations by doing this, the
entire game design philosophy falls apart. When I was in high school, my dad and I used
to play Mafia Wars on Facebook, back when games were the main reason people made an
account at all. And we were having a fun time with it until
one day my dad got a weird glitch and when he opened the game it had given him an obscene
amount of money, way more than he could ever make normally. But instead of being excited about this, what
he found was that the enjoyment of the game had totally gone away. Without the slow progression and building
up of his assets, the game had lost all of its allure in one fell swoop. This is where games that actually get this
stuff right really shine through. When I first booted up Stardew Valley, I realized
it did everything Farmville tried to do but infinitely better because it had taken out
any element of real-time waiting. If you wanted to keep playing, grow more crops,
or gain more resources you just could right away. There was no asking your friends to help water
your garden, or waiting 24 hours for green beans to sprout, it was balanced around playing
at your own pace – you know, like what a game should really be about in the first place? It’s your time and enjoyment after all,
not Zynga’s. Plus, when you start dealing with real world
minutes and hours, it only invites other predatory practices to join in, like microtransactions
to speed up the process or buying a leg up to reach the next plateau even faster, which
not only feels slimy just to talk about, but in the case of clickers defeats the actual
purpose of playing the game in the first place! Edmund McMillen even made an incremental title
himself called AVGM. The goal of this game was to click the lightswitch
over and over until more items appeared in your room. It took more and more clicks in between each
item as time went on, eventually reaching upwards of 10,000 clicks to beat the game. And what do you receive for finishing the
gauntlet of doing nothing but clicking a lightswitch for over 30 minutes? The revelation of what the title actually
stands for – Abusive Video Game Manipulation. At the end of the day, that’s really what
it is. Do you have to play them? Of course not, and I’m not saying you’re
a bad person for playing them, I’m guilty of this as well, but when you sit back and
look at the big picture they highlight how many different games can take advantage of
our subconscious desires to steal our money at the worst, but our time at the very least. And to me, in no way can it be considered
good game design. They’ve sort of dropped off in popularity
in recent years, but I’ve noticed the techniques that they employed are still cropping up all
over the place, especially in the mobile game space. It’s no secret that microtransactions seem
to be the mainstream way to get people to pay for your free to download title these
days, but I want to encourage you to support creators who are making actual quality experiences
without predatory practices, and be sure to look out for the next big game that might
try to swindle you behind your back. We’ve come a long way from horse armor DLC,
and have accepted shady business strategies today that would have been unanimously condemned
10 or 15 years ago. I guess I’m just trying to say to be diligent,
and make sure you know what you’re getting into before you click on that next big shiny
cookie. Thanks for watching another episode of Bad
Game Design, I’ll see you guys next time. Stay frosty my friends! Huge thanks to Squarespace for making it possible
to launch my website! I wanted to make sure you knew I’ve posted
a new editing tutorial on animation that you can check out RIGHT NOW in the description
below. Not only was it super easy to use the tools
Squarespace provides for sitebuilding, but it helped me to create something I’m really
proud of. There’s so many templates and options to
choose from and I had no issue purchasing the domain through them as well. Due to being extremely helpful through customer
support and full of resources to learn from, I had the confidence to try and create beyond
what I thought I was capable of. So if you’re in the market for a website
of your own, you can go to and use the offer code snoman for 10% off
your first purchase. Buh-bye!


  • TheEmrald Wolf

    Idle games are the best types wtf

  • 『 B e n j i 』

    Also merge games, idle games, tycoon games, gacha games

    Pretty much 99.99999% of the mobile game market

  • The Crimson Axe

    Mobile games, basically. Microtransactions, ads, and button games. I want to make a game that tells you "Ok. Press this button 100,000,000 times to win. The button presses itself once per second when you aren't using the game." and I bet that no one would ever actually play the game, just keep it installed ap it could play itself.
    We need to redifine what we call a game. Thanks for the video snoman.

  • vizthex

    whatcha mean it's "bad game design"?!

  • Lazar Stankovic

    Autoclicker da best

  • Callum John

    Every so often, I can't help but find myself re-watching this video. The older I get, the more I realise that time is the most precious resource you have. When I really stop and think, I'm shocked by the days and months I've spent on games like this, and what else I could have done with them; World of Warcraft, Pokemon, Toss the Turtle, Animal Crossing… Once you notice it, you start seeing it everywhere. It frightens me how little designers seem to know or care about the consequences of using Skinner box mechanics. We really should be more critical.

  • Codin Fox

    Some of them are good, but most of them are bad.

  • Jackson Mcleod

    Double ad buti use android so i dont have the clown emoji.

  • Ezequiel Blanco

    I disagree. Yes, they are simple games with simple mechanics, but that does not mean they have a bad design.
    Having NO END, is not a bad thing itself. Sim City and Minecraft do not have an ending. I do not know what you think about these, but I pressume you don't believe they have a bad design because they never end.
    Using REAL TIME as a mechanic is more arguable, in fact I mostly agree with it. But in some of these games (e.g. Cookie Clicker) you can upgrade your click power so that manually clicking is still relevant when you are earning tons of in-game currency per second, that is in fact (for me) a sign of good balance, which is actually good game design.

  • Vannis

    Clickers anônimos…

  • EEYM

    Umm… Clickertale?

  • geppy74 Musu

    Cookies clicker vs

  • Luffy


  • Javi Mínguez [Orgem]

    I recognise the girst song and I hate myself so much

  • Red Trout

    Okokok – Candy Box 2 is a good idle game (not really an idle game, really just an RPG where you get currency over time as well as much more from playing the real game.) It gets repetitive at some parts, but is still a good game.

  • Red Trout

    Real comment section statistics
    60% – People saying their 300 to 800 playtime on adv capitalist/communist
    10% – People listing idle games
    30% – People talking about the great and holy "Adventure capitalist music"

  • Polarbear Frost S

    Can't click if you don't have fingers.

  • NeoCraft836

    I played all the games your playing while doing the video xd(except Stardew Valley), my hand hurts 🙁

  • Unknown Channel

    I don't think that clickers are inherently evil. I have used it's mindless gameplay in college to give myself a break and as a way to feel like I was getting something done while doing homework. I do agree that predatory clickers are a problem, but don't damn the whole genre for it. Think of the problems of a clicker and try to fix them. There is a game called Universal Paperclips and it is a great example of what a great clicker can be! It has many different kinds of gameplay and players can get through the game faster if they play strategically. There aren't any micro-transactions and seems like a passion project for someone. There are wait times, but seems to be a message to the player, saying it is a break time. There will always be bad genres, but don't condemn them for there flaws. Try to evolve them to a point that can make them great! That happened to battle royals with apex legends and Tetris 99, so why not clickers?

  • Frankie Doodle

    AdVenture Capitalist is fun because of all of the puns and jokes hidden in the names of upgrades and the music.

  • Crab King

    Thank God I'm not the only one who saw through this money trap.

  • Brandon Tackett

    I hate idle games

  • I suck At life

    Fuck you

  • Gnome Warlock

    I swear these games are made by mouse companies like Razer.

  • Ebony

    Wait…are you Ystervarke?

  • Ebony

    I found this happened to me with Torn City. I got married to a player who had been playing for 20 years and who gave me anything I wanted. I didn’t actually need to play the game at all any more. I didn’t want to play after that point. There was just noting fun

  • DocAragon

    Hoa hoa hoa. Who doens't put corn on pizza? It's a must have on pizza here in brazil

  • Jason Allcreator

    Moral of the story: Don't trust Nintendo.

  • SadToffee

    By your two principles, terraria is a bad game

  • Sung Hwang

    Tap titans 2??????

  • Lightsaber09

    I thought you were PeanutButterGamer at first

  • Jeff Venancius

    "Who puts corn on pizza?"

    Hey, have you met Brazil? We put Strogonoff on pizza, we put sushi on pizza, we put pizza on pizza

  • ?

    David cage

  • Aperture Productions Studios

    Use code: Snowman

  • Adam Trott

    Fuck off cookie clicker was my time simulcast in 7th grade

  • Jordan Dude

    I came to this video because I honestly can't understand why anyone would play such trash.

  • Austin Starke

    Animal testing is terrible

  • Billy

    What really puts me off these "games" are their names. "idle" and"clicker" sounds so unappealing and doesn't make me want to even try them out. Same with the recently mainstream autochess genre. I don't want my games to be auto, I want to play them myself. I realize it might sound petty to be caught up in semantics but there it is.

  • Masterslam999

    I tried a clicker once. After one or two times I stopped because nothing was happening.

  • Nehoy Meɴoy

    aww man…
    deletes unity clicker game project

  • Zurtron D

    It’s also know as the completion principle

  • Casual_Ice_Consumer

    I searched for AVGM.
    The link for Kongregate is normal.
    The Newgrounds link, however, leads to some NSFW ads that start playing before you open the game (Warning)
    What is up with this?
    Edit: Mystery Solved. The game contains a female blow-up doll as one of the objects. Apparently Newgrounds thought this was inappropriate, but Kongregate did not.

  • Luke Taylor

    I absolutely refuse to give a second glance to "games" that utilise shady monetization, microtransactions, and freemium things. I go waaaay out of my way to do background checks on any game I pick up, because I want to know who I'm dealing with; not just the game, but the people who made it. Thanks for this video. More of us need to hear this truth.

  • Click

    It's actually good game design

  • Andres Bravo

    Man, I have too many cookies on my Browser. Can Somebody eat my cookies instead?

  • aminthemar

    This is exactly how Social Media works. Post something, Go to sleep, Wake up in the morning and check all the numbers that went up over night!

  • Puyo Goldie

    tubersimulator is the best idle game

  • *Self - Unbeknownst Idiot*

    I just exploit time mechanics

  • FrenchToast

    I was literally spam clicking my mouse on Clicker Heroes. I was at level 100. Damn, I miss that game.

  • Sweet_Sukeban

    These games and the people that play and genuinely enjoy them are absolute cancer.

  • Net 15

    We could be playing Mario Oddyssey… BUT NO

  • Popa Ionut

    Cookie Clicker is a very,VERY, addicting game,with features like, ascends,sugar lumps,massive upgrades,and yes grandmapocalypse

  • Dogethethird 12

    Why are there 20K likes

  • Derek W

    I'm convinced that free to play and mobile games can be great, just as good as other platforms despite having no buttons for control options.

    However, as of now, I am convinced that no developer is interested in even trying to make such a game. So far, I've seen only half baked games that are designed to get you to buy currencies or other microtransactions, and games that are ported from console or PC which are actually good, but play better on their original platform.

    And then there's Pokemon Go. It's not the full-fledged game I'm looking for, but it's a great pull-out-when-you're-bored game. While it has microtransactions, they're not in your face at all. You can pay for currency, grind for currency, or ignore the microtransaction items altogether.

    I've played games that basically say, "If you don't buy the currency, you will grind for hours to get what you want, you'll finally get it, and then the game will no longer be fun. (If it was even fun to begin with)" Pokemon Go doesn't do that, because it lets you have a good experience without having the microtransaction items at all.

  • Amy Alcorn

    I remember playing tuber simulator with my friends in high school, we’d compete to see who would design the coolest room and have the highest level. It was fun, but eventually got redundant.

  • Frank East

    Universal paperclip is the only good clicker

  • Shaquille O'Neal

    Bad take

  • Maverick Pierce

    I’ve never spent money on a mobile game In my opinion that money is better spent on small developers making good games ( Toby Fox with undertale) studio mdhr with cuphead etc

  • KyleTheJudge

    Most of those clicker games can be easily hacked. I can tell if a game is good based on a few things, for example, if you could get all in-app purchases for free, can the game be completed in around an hour? For all clicker games that I have seen, the answer is yes.

  • kornelbut

    talk about Roblox Simulators

  • VidGaMeR777

    I'm still gonna play Crush Crush cause I'm shitty weeb trash, even tho it's more of a dating sim idle clicker. They get you tho cause they only bank 7 offline days for you, so if you wait more than that you actually lost progress. Still enjoy it tho

  • The Fox

    Warning: a partial review coming up ahead:
    There's one game that does real-time stuff semi-right: Tsuki Adventure. It's mostly because it's the main mechanic and it just works. The main character is Tsuki, a rabbit who got bored of the city life and decided to live on a farm.

    By default, your farm gives you 50 carrots (which are used as currency) every 2 hours. It might look like a regular "wait 50 hecking hours for anything to happen or sell a kidney to do it instantly", but waiting seems very natural in this specific case. You kind of feel like you're on that farm waiting for carrots to grow, most likely because the world isn't your standard copy-paste top-down view of a city and has actual characters and lore in it. You can also speed up the whole process by fishing, which is kind of like clicker games, but without any upgrades. It actually feels like any other video game fishing.

    It does have microtransactions, but you have to be very impatient to want to buy these, since farming carrots is fairly easy after you get the golden ticket for the fiest time. There's a dog that gives you 300 carrots after watching an ad and most items are in the 100-1000 carrots price range. You still have to wait for him to appear though.

    I feel like Tsuki Adventure is kind of in the gray area.

  • Enrymion

    I really like the idea of idle games since in theory they could reduce game only to the interesting decision of what you want to do while automating the easily boring part of babysitting the execution of that thing. I think it was Skyrim that made me really question how much time do games waste on simply moving around without anything interesting happening or on forcing you to prove that yes, you can still do something you've done hundreds of times already and if those things are really worth the presumably increased immersion or whatever it is that they provide besides using up more of your time.
    Also the zeigarnik effect sort of explains why I'm very reluctant to finish reading or playing anything that I really enjoyed since I don't want to have the closure that would cause me to not have it occupy my thoughts anymore.

  • johnsepticlemon

    Monkey brain like number….number big…want Shiny….

  • Vinnie Syarif

    What if from software make a clicker game?

  • tcartt

    Whats the track that starts at 7:28?

  • jklw10

    yeah but i can have 10 of them active at the same time! (mostly they're about the "story" elements)

  • Gochocles s

    Ever heard of
    Btw dont click the link the website doesnt exist

  • The True Cake

    Me:sees tuber simulator
    Also me who has extreme bias: ANGER.

  • A good Kid

    9:22 you leave tuber simulator out ok

  • TheMelonsofHarmony


  • Alienrun

    Can't help but feel I remember games I beat much more than ones I don't. If I don't beat a game I'll forget about it, but if I beat it then I'm more likely to look back on what I did as a whole and contemplate over it ect.

  • Nikolas Johnson

    I think clicker games are a conspiracy by Big Mouse.
    Mice have a limited amount of clicks before they break and you need to buy another one. And what's the best way to sell more mice? Invent games that focus solely on how many clicks per second the player can do and add to the wear and tear of a device.

  • tore hall

    Snoman: what caused me to drop over 60 hours in adventure capitalist?
    Me: FiLtHy CaSuAl

  • Yeeter Skeet

    I…………i just play it cuz im bored as hecc. This is literally the reason i download this stuff, its because i have nothing else to do.

  • Chelsrat

    Cookie clicker is a treasure to our society.

  • c b


  • Dylan Swift

    Old good. New bad.

  • KotaJMomo

    4:26 Bulma??

  • Oliver Fawcett

    Man do I miss Mafia Wars. I probably spent 100+ hours on that game

  • Table 2.0

    Excuse YOU, but sweet corn on pizza is an underrated masterpiece

  • MasterXatrax

    I still play a cockie clicker like game name Almost a Hero, this game actually save my ass in the electric problems of Venezuela becouse of the lack of imput i have to give, so my battery last longer so i don't die boring in the darkness :d just a curious anecdote for the people, good video 😀

  • Octopus Of the nine realms

    And you have the music of a clicker game playing at the start

  • Henry Stanton

    Lol all of his psych references are psych 101

  • Fjuron Game Designer

    Yeah, I recently had an optiortunity to join an idle game company.
    And allthough it was the best offer at the time, I passt.

    Now I have to wait until I can work in the games industry.
    I don't regret my choice.

  • Chimera Manticore

    I know this is an old video but I love how often you reference shovel knight as a good game in so many different aspects lmao it's one of my fav games ever and it's always a pleasant surprise to see it pop up in one of your videos. if ur seeing this btw, I love your channel!!

  • GarrettThe Awesome

    I like the adventure capitalist music in the background

  • CookieJar


  • Smokon6789

    say sike right now

  • Alison

    I just use auto clickers

  • CD-i Ganon

    If you don't play for years you gain a lot but compared to what you could gain by playing it is just epsilon. Quit a week, get 7 days of gold. Go up 100 stages by playing 6 days and quit a day, you'll get 1 days of gold in 100 stages higher = a quadrillion times more.

  • Louis-Patrick Lauzon

    Being a clicker was once my job

  • TheTruffleShuffle

    ow that light switch part hurt my eyes

  • Azadanzan S

    Adventure capitalist is NOT a clicker game, though it is similar

  • Limek

    2:41 me so im dislike'ing (IM SO FRUSTRATED)

  • Winx West

    I refuse to play a clicker that has micro transactions.

  • TheSixthMonth

    ….. Uuuuuhm…

  • Suwin Khamchaiwong


  • Scott Whitman


  • Jarom Christensen

    when you hear descriptions of clicker game mechanics and realize he's also describing the mechanics of real life


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