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I guess I played Paperclips enough that I should write about it here? Or rather I spent enough time watching it in my browser, or I spent enough time being distracted by it, or something.

Paperclips isn’t the first cookie clicker I’ve played, but it’s the one I’ve played the most; I think it’s the only one I’ve made it to the end state of, and certainly the only one I’ve replayed. And the narrative, as slight as it was, was actually a rather good fit to the mechanics.

Mechanics-wise: it’s all about bare numbers, and the game helps you think about them by exposing derived information (rates, in particular). And there’s enough complexity that it’s not obvious what the optimal strategy is at any given point: you basically know what to do, but you have a couple of directions you can go when optimizing, and also you don’t know when the next deflation event (or, more rarely, cataclysmic change, e.g. a new currency introduction) is that will invalidate all of your current calculations. And, if I’d want to think about it more, there would have been more that I could have dug into: e.g. part way through the game you start picking a competitor in a robot prisoner’s dilemma tournament, and I haven’t figured out (either theoretically or empirically) which strategy is the best.


That’s the game play; but, ultimately, much of the time you’re just sitting and waiting for stuff to happen. (Maybe buying more production capacity every once in a while, but not in a way that makes a real difference.) And, most of the time, the game is even happy to play itself on autopilot: continuing to make more of the relevant currencies without needing explicit action.

So you could imagine having it run in a background browser window while you, say, write a blog post or something, checking in once every half an hour. I found that very difficult to do, however: there’s always something just around the corner, some slight reward for spending three minutes watching numbers go up and then clicking as soon as possible.


There is, fortunately, an end state to the game. Which gives you two options; one is to start over, with slight tweaks to the numbers; the other is to contemplate the void. I picked the first option the first three times I finished the game, and I have no complaints about having done so; after that, though, I picked the other option, and I’m glad it existed.

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