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Who knew I’d get obsessed with a spreadsheet game?

‘Clicking Bad’ was built for shelter-in-place.
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Clicking Bad is a 2013 browser game inspired by Cookie Clicker and Breaking Bad, with the cooking and sale of meth replacing cookies. Do it enough, and you’ll soon create an empire that spans from a beat-up RV to owning your own police department, and beyond. And despite the fact that it’s basically a spreadsheet game, I’m hooked, it’s exactly the sort of time-sink game that shelter-in-place orders call for. 

The setup is simple enough, there are two buttons: Cook and Sell, and you have to click one before you click the other. Of course, destroying your mouse in short order won’t get you very far, so you’ll need to work out how best to use your limited resources to juice things. That includes managing the risk of your operations, fending off the DEA and IRS, as well as recruiting more soldiers for your empire.

So far, I’ve gone from buying a beat-up RV and recruiting street dealers to having a couple of sleazy lawyers in my pocket at all times. Actually, the game’s Breaking Bad inspiration only really covers the first third of the game, after which point, we’re into a Space: 1999 parody. But, no matter how long it takes for you to work your way up the tech tree, you can’t put it down. 

In fact, while it doesn’t command a lot of your time, it’s the sort of game that sits in a browser tab for days, and weeks, on end. Not, uh, that I’d do such a thing at work of course, but you might feel the need to, and I wouldn’t judge. It’s not the clicking that’s addictive, although the more work you put in, the more attached to your empire you do become. It’s more that there’s that little buzz when you’ve saved up and laundered enough cash to expand.

And I’m now at the point where I’m trying to visualize in my head the perfect game, or at least the most efficient one. It’s a well-traveled road, since the Reddit for the game (long since abandoned) has plenty of folks talking about their most effective systems. And there’s even a well-researched Wiki containing the full tech tree and upgrade path for every part of the game.

Daniel Cooper/Engadget

Maybe this is, to me, what Animal Crossing has been to most folks as an escape from reality. Whereas those folks like to explore their island, build a community and try (in vain) to pay back that parasite Tom Nook, I’m taking a different approach. You know, by becoming a drug kingpin and making sure that I’ve got a perfect balance on cooking and distribution. After all, meth sat in my lab not being slung by a sleazy lawyer is akin to having turnips in your backpack that you’re not selling to Daisy Mae. 

Here’s how bad it’s gotten: Along with playing the game on my desktop, I have a separate session on my iPad that I play in the evenings. It’s become something that I check on both first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I keep thinking about how easy it would be to speedrun the game and complete it in a day, rather than a week, which is how long it’s taken me this time around. But if there’s a better time to work on your meth empire than the wee small hours while trapped indoors, I’ve yet to know about it.

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