Every once in a while I actually play a game for fun. Recently after writing the Race to the Sky article, looking at other #BoRT articles I ran across this (Spoilery) article about Universal Paperclips on Matt Schmalzer’s great blog. Apparently this wonderful little clicker game is very popular but I hadn’t heard of it. I won’t reiterate his observations on the game, they’re very good and you should just read them for yourself. I just want to discuss my own experience and how it affected me.
It took me about two days to play through it. It was interesting and scary how constantly aware my brain was of the amount of progress I was making. It’s just a funny feeling to go into an experience knowing that it is set up to manipulate part of your brain but still not being able to stop it from happening. I guess I went into it assuming I would be at least semi-immune because I was entering on my own terms, that wasn’t the case.
But thinking back on it I have had similar experiences with several other games. I don’t generally think of myself as a completionist. I’d say I consider practicing and getting good at a game as more of an accomplishment than getting all the achievements, or finding all the flags, or whatever. I guess the small feeling of achievement and being able to unlock something gets a hook stuck deep in my brain. Several of the games I’ve played the last few years have hooked me in the same way: I 100%’d Rogue Legacy. I bought everything in Crypt of the Necrodancer, and spent arguably too much time playing Enter the Gungeon (even though I still haven’t bought everything). If I actually went and looked through a list of what I’ve played I’m sure there would be several more examples of me getting sucked into earning a false sense of accomplishment. As a small aside, I’ve never liked the phrase “false sense of accomplishment”. The sense of accomplishment is very real, the questions is whether or not what you are accomplishing is important.
That act of getting consumed by your task is exactly what Universal Paperclips is all about though, and why I think I enjoyed the experience so much in hindsight after I saw how it all ended up. If you haven’t played it for yourself it’s worth trying just to see how much you end up caring about it.
I think it may have inspired me to make my own little game about playing a clicker game and how getting sucked in can affect you.