If you have ever been to Cookie Clicker there are two things that you have done. One is that you are running Cookie Clicker in the background every time you open your internet browser or two you are now clean after clearing all cookies on your browser.
After playing Cookie Clicker for a couple of hours I realized that the gameplay was pretty much just one big Skinner Box but for some reason I did not care and was still having fun just clicking cookies.
If you haven't heard of a skinner box, Extra Credits has a good episode. In its most basic terms a skinner box is something that can condition someone to do an action over and over even when it is no longer fun. Skinner boxes also revolve a reward schedule that can include things like leveling or loot drops or the ability to buy new items. Games that include examples of Skinner Boxes include Farmville and World of Warcraft.
In Cookie Clicker, the goal is to click a giant cookie that will make more cookies and eventually save enough cookies to buy buildings that will make cookies for you. Eventually you buy enough buildings so that they earn you more cookies than you get from just clicking.
After a while you get addicted as you are just waiting until you get enough cookies till you can buy a new building or some upgrade. Also, this game has achievements so you know there will someone out there that you will be clicking cookies until they get that last achievement.
Even though the game is based on a pretty devious mechanism I still can't get enough of it. I think it is because the game is innocent. Unlike Facebook games where they use the Skinner Box to either annoy friends or to drain you of your money. But, with Cookie Clicker there is no ulterior motive other than being one big time sink. I can play Cookie clicker at my own pace and be able to get that next big upgrade whether by waiting for that one special golden cookie or by leaving my computer on all night. There is no time limit that limits how long I can play for and I can leave it open in the background. Even though there is a little thing in the back of my mind telling me to get that next big upgrade there is nothing in the game that is stopping me from getting it at my pace. Besides if I ever do get tired with Cookie Clicker I can always clear my cookies and there is nothing stopping me from starting over again.