Grand Theft Auto V. DOTA 2. The Witcher 3. Those are some of the most played games on Steam right now. And then there's Clicker Heroes... for some reason.
As spotted by PCGamesN, Clicker Heroes is a clicking game (think Cookie Clicker) that somehow had 40,000 people playing it on Steam today. At the same time. That puts it in the top ten, behind only Civ V, Team Fortress 2, GTA V, The Witcher 3, Counter-Strike, and perennial chart-topper DOTA 2. It's extremely simple (you can't even die, from what I can tell), and your only goals are to watch monsters die, amass glittering piles of gold, and level up characters, all through clicking repeatedly.
It looks like this:
So then, why the hell is anyone playing this damn thing?
Well, there are multiple facets to this answer: foremost, in order to play Clicker Heroes, you don't really have to do much. It's a perfect office space distraction, an immensely dense productivity killer. If you leave it running in a window, it mostly plays itself. It's kinda sad, actually; it's like every monster in the game is stricken with some vicious terminal disease, born to die literally in seconds. In a way, clicking — giving them a great big push down the slip 'n' slide of their suffering — is an act of mercy.
Money collecting, too, can be automated. So if you want, you can leave the game running and pop open the window every once in a while to allocate your money and maybe click a few (hundred) monsters here and there. Clicking is satisfying. Clicking is love. Clicking is life.
Occasionally, bosses pop up, and those require your firm, steady finger to flail madly if you want to have any hope of vanquishing them. They're on timers, so it often comes down to the wire. If you fail, the boss dies, a new one replaces it, and you've got to start your 10k clickathon all over again.
Every once in a while, you unlock a new ability or an achievement. They don't really mean much, but fuck it, people like shiny things. You do too. Don't try to deny it. If you do, that makes you no better than the helpless, disease-afflicted monsters you're murdering with an idle flick of your finger. But yeah, Clicker Heroes is all reward principle all the time. Do little, get a lot, repeat. You can also "ascend" to essentially start over, but you'll unlock more special powers in the process. So basically, level to max, ascend, repeat. FOREVER. UNTIL YOUR EYES MELT OUT OF YOUR SKULL AND DRIBBLE DOWN INTO THE GAPING MAW OF OBLIVION ITSELF, NOT THAT YOU'LL NOTICE BECAUSE YOU'LL BE TOO BUSY CLICKING NOTHING, YOUR NEW EVERYTHING.
Oh, there are also microtransactions. So far as I can tell, there's no compelling reason to shell out aside from supporting the developer. I mean, it speeds things up, but this game is all about the grind, and the grind is automated.
It's free-to-play, so there's no reason not to at least give it a try, which is what I imagine happened here. People tried it, and then they never un-tried it. In case you're wondering, yes, I am now one of those people. I've flicked open the game window probably around 12 times while writing this article. I'm gonna close it soon, though. Probably. I mean, it's such a dumb little thing.
COME ON, NATHAN. THE WITCHER 3 IS OUT. WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE.