How I Lost My Soul In AdVenture Capitalist

AdVenture Capitalist is a free game, in theory. AdVenture Capitalist is an idle game – i.e. one which plays itself – in theory. AdVenture Capitalist is a satire of everything that is wrong with Skinner Box games and free-to-play games. In theory.

In practice, I have dishonored myself.

Hyper Hippo’s financial management game (let’s call it that for now even though it’s not entirely helpful) came to our attention because it was an unknown quantity suddenly doing very well for itself in the Steam charts. It was free, it seemed to be a managementy thing, it seemed like it might be mocking the world of high finance, and so I reasoned it was a reasonable way to spend a little bit of my time in between other features.

I’ve been playing it for getting on for six hours now. I say playing, but what I mean is ‘watch numbers roll in and occasionally press a button when one lights up’. This is a game which solely concerns itself with the acquisition of money, which is then spent on buying things which mean more money. Speculate to accumulate and all that. An infinite snowball effect – buy a small industry, spend its profits on a larger industry, and then a larger one, and onwards and upwards until what began as a handful of dollars trickling in every second becomes billions.

All you have to do is click a button to buy/found/invest in/not sure but it doesn’t matter I guess a new company as and when you have the cash. So initially you’ve got just one lemonade stand, but its profits get spent on buying another one. Make it to 25 and the speed of its profits double. Same again and 50, 100 and 200 (and beyond, but I’m not there yet). Or you can wait a while longer and unlock a whole new industry – newspapers, pizza delivery, donut restaurants, all the way up to banks and oil companies. Each ‘new’ industry brings in vastly more sums of money, but at a slower rate, at least until you upgrade it. So you sit there waiting for these little money timers to reach their end, then you click again, repeat and repeat and repeat, spending everything you earn on making everything you own earn more.

With enough cash, you can hire managers to do the cash collection click for you. At that point, AdVenture Capitalist is supposed to become an idle game. It runs in the background, making lots and lots and lots of oh my God sickening amounts of money, and every so often you dip back in and unlock something more, in order that the next time you go back in you’re earning orders of magnitude more cash all over again. You can even exit the game and when you load it back up it’ll have calculated what you’ve earned since the last time it was open. It’s Fable III without the fighting, basically.

But I didn’t do that. I didn’t exit. I barely even alt-tabbed. I just sat there, watching, waiting, hungry for a button to turn orange so I could buy more of something. I was ravenous for more cash; cash which only had a function within this accursed game. Every line I write in this post, I flick out to see if I can buy anything else. And then I end up staring at these green rows, all refilling at varying speeds.

The lemonade stands on top left move like lightning, earning $762 a second, while the oil company at lower right will give me $89 billion every 10 hours. By tomorrow morning I can have upgraded the oil co enough that it’ll be making me something like $200 billion every five hours. By tomorrow night, I might see my first trillion. A few of them and I can triple profits across the board.

At some point, I’ll sell all my shares and start over, this time with a horde of angel investors impressed by my monstrous ability to make monstrous profits, their input meaning I’ll make money even faster, even bigger profits this time around. And it will go on and on and on and on and on and maybe that would be OK if only I could stop watching. If only I could tell myself I didn’t have to be there, watching, the second another button lit up, that it doesn’t matter if I don’t buy an upgrade as soon as I can afford it, that the world will not stop turning because I’m not at maximum revenue efficiency every second of every minute of every hour of every day.

It’s just numbers getting bigger. It’s the cynical serpent curled aroundthe heart of every social game, every action RPG, every MMO, every gambling machine, but at least it makes no pretence that it’s about anything more than that. There’s this thin veneer of Monopoylisms with a touch of sardonic Fallout nonchalance and lazy references to famous figures, but it’s just set-dressing and it knows it. This is an experiment in how venal we can be.

I know that, even by the standards of videogames, nothing I do in it has any meaning, that I could never begin to justify the time I spent with this. In my only defence, at least I’ve resisted the entirely optional in-app purchases which would make everything happen faster still. It feels like cheating, but I know that even so all I’m doing with this game is cheating myself of time and life.

Yet in an hour I can upgrade my Bank to 25, which will double the speed it cashes out, and that’ll mean something like $60 billion every half an hour. It would be wasteful for that bank to spend even a minute performing beneath this amazing potential.

A lifetime ago, I was making $2 every few seconds from lemonade sales. What a nobody I was.

AdVenture Capitalist is out now on Steam, Kongregate and various portable things. It’s free, bar the enormous cost to your immortal soul.

52 Comments

  1. Sir_Deimos says:

    I’ve been playing the iPhone version for a couple weeks now, and know this feeling very well. It’s at the point where I need to wait at least 24 hours before any meaningful purchases are available, but I can’t bring myself to delete the app.

    Bonus points because it teaches you lots of number vocabulary (who knew a googol was ten duotrigintillion)

    • Lukasz says:

      Just reset, get the angles and start over.

      currently sitting on sixty thousand which is nothing I know but I barely started few days ago.

      • SgtStens says:

        Yeah, but there’s some strategy in how long you delay your Skinnerboxsatisfaction by timing your restarts. Also the bonuses where you pay in angels have to be strategically timed (the ones that give you free newspaper stands are the critical ones, because late in the game they quickly become the most expensive by several orders of magnitude)

        I’ve been playing this on iOS for a couple of weeks now, and I’m about two or three sets of benchmarks for unlocking everything. It’s kind of like gourmet jellybeans: it’s got a bit of sophistication in the design and some polish but it’s still junk food.

        • Lukasz says:

          True. What I found out is to reset when you double the angles.

          That’s the only strategy I’m following

          • ceponatia says:

            I reset every morning and by then I’ve usually doubled or tripled the angels.

    • ceponatia says:

      I feel better now that I know it isn’t just me.

  2. commentingaccount says:

    Jesus Christ.

  3. rexx.sabotage says:

    Whats a sextillionaire? You’re looking at one, baby. Boo-yah!

    Gonna flip for angels when I’ve accrued about another million or so, shit’s gonna fly on the rails then.

    but, yeah. what the hell is this and where did it come from?!

    • MadTinkerer says:

      In a nutshell, A Dark Room and Candy Box were made. Those two games are Unlocking games, a relatively new genre. Then, in an attempt to make something inspired by Candy Box, Cookie Clicker was made, but it was accidentally a whole new other genre called an Idle game. Then Adventure Capitalist was made and it was just a clone of Cookie Clicker with some tweaks.

      Having played all of these, Adventure Capitalist is basically a perfected skinner box that doesn’t cost real-money (although there is a “store”? but I haven’t touched it) and doesn’t take more than a couple minutes per day. But I prefer the Unlocking games in principle.

      • Kitsunin says:

        Cookie Clicker wasn’t actually the originator of idle games, though it is probably the most popular one. It’s only a couple of years old, but there are many games like Anti-Idle, the best idle-game I can think of, which is from six years ago — 2009. By the way, anti-idle is amazing, it’s being updated with new content to this day, and the amount of different mechanics it ties into a predominantly idling-based system is crazy.

      • rexx.sabotage says:

        Ahh I think you misinterpreted my rhetoric, the sentiment was more, “Wow, this game has gone from novel mobile app introduced to me by my non-games-savvy significant other to being an article on RPS.” I’m sure you can see why I opted for the former.

        I actually recently discovered Candy Box shortly before this while perusing Windows 93’s internet browser’s bookmarks and had a blast with it. The earliest idle game I can recall is Progress Quest, a silly little thing lampooning the grind of early MMOs like the original Everquest. Apparently it’s still ‘a thing’ and it was Kongregate’s Anthony Pecorella’s answer the question, “Who is responsible for Cookie Clicker?” in a recent Gamasutra article.

  4. Cochise779 says:

    Saw this on Steam last week. Debated trying it but resisted for C:S. Now I’m legitimately not sure if I spared myself or missed out.

    • SomeDuder says:

      Well, its free and the premium features really are just ways to save time. The people who spend actual money on this type of stuff really should lose it all.

      Its a fun “game” though! Threading the balance between investors and moneygeneration is a game on its own

  5. Premium User Badge

    artrexdenthur says:

    If you enjoyed that, might I recommend Cookie Clicker

    Or if you want more plot in your endless-fearsome-numbers-ticking-up games, there’s also Candy Box, Candy Box 2, and A Dark Room.
    Of those I’d say the last is probably the best overall, partly because it’s relatively short, and also for reasons that you should find out for yourself :)
    They’re all fun though, in the MOAR MOAR MOAR way of these games.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Phasma Felis says:

    So it’s Cookie Clicker with a different skin on, right?

    I actually liked Cookie Clicker. I “played” it for few weeks, I had a good time. I kind of don’t understand why so many people want me to play Cookie Clicker again, and I really don’t understand why enough people actually do want to play Cookie Clicker again and again and again, enough that there’s now an entire genre of “idle games” that are 100% just Cookie Clicker with different graphics.

  7. hbarsquared says:

    So, it’s a reskin of Cookie Clicker?

    • Napalm Sushi says:

      It’s more of a genuine idle game than Cookie Clicker, which demands a good deal of continued attention to the golden cookies and wrinklers and stuff if you’re to achieve anything close to maximum income.

  8. int says:

    What’s Ricky Gervais doing in that game?

  9. maturasek says:

    I’ve been playing Clicker Heroes for a few months now. Basicly the same thing just the money comes from auto killing monsters with a large party of helper characters – you can upgrade the DPS with the money and so forth, it event has the reset/angel paralel, called Ascension/Ancients.

    What facinated me with that game is the elegant transition of mathematical mechanics. The HP of the monsters incerases exponentially and the DPS of a Hero grows somewhat “polynomially” i guess – so a hero has a short usefullness window in an run. To compensate the exponential growth in the monsters you have to unlock exponentially stronger heroes – who has tha same polynomial characteristics as they level up, but starting higher. At a point method starts to be painfully slow. Here comes a reset mechaninc and ancients, what will compensate the HP growth in a mathematically different way – so you can push further and there are more of these mathematical mechanic switches, that makes an all elegant game of effort optimization, with the ancient builds and such. I’ve based my build on the desire to be the most effective when I touch the game as little as possible.

    The next step in going full meta, that I will create a program that plays the game optimally without interference. The perfect embodiment of the idle games, and existencial effort justification :)

    • jrodman says:

      So many people have written software to autoplay clicker heroes now.
      I might have done the same with a sane programming interface, but simulating clicks just didn’t seem interesting to me.

      I did have fun “playing” it for about a month or so.

  10. BradleyUffner says:

    If you want to see game of this type with some true depth, check out “Kittens Game”. Unfortunately it’s browser only at the moment, I don’t think it works very well on mobile. link to bloodrizer.ru

  11. Premium User Badge

    Serrit says:

    Aww this is the perfect post for one of those spam comments to show up about how much an hour one can make.. :-D

    • pack.wolf says:


      Looks like I was 14 minutes late, and I didn’t make any money in that time.

      • Premium User Badge

        Serrit says:

        Hehe. KatieFarmer decided to contribute at least under comment #1

  12. pack.wolf says:

    So when the “my aunt makes X amount of money per hour working from home”-bots post here they’ll actually be on topic?

  13. Synesthesia says:

    Cookie clicker!

  14. jenkins says:

    Oooh, my guilty pleasure in the idle game arena has been . It practically plays itself after about 50 clicks.

    • jenkins says:

      Ah, maturasek beat me to it. And I botched my HTML anyway. Sad face.

  15. namad says:

    people really need to stop playing adventure capitalist right now.

    it’s a cheap flimsy game in a genre of powerfully deeper games… like a dark room, cats, that one xkcd spoof idle game, or the grand master “anti-idle”.

    Ad Cap is simple and cute but it lacks any….real depth/strategy that many other idle games have in spades.

    • eggy toast says:

      The sense of superiority over joke games where you hardly do anything makes me really relish imagining your sad broken life.

      • alms says:

        Did you just find out you pissed into your own coffee? he’s just saying that there’s better in games in this genre, and having only tried Cookie Clicker and another one whose name is escaping me right now, I can’t disagree.

        • April March says:

          I don’t know what’s funnier; the person that attacks an obvious satire for its obviously satirical point, or the person that defends an obvious satire for finding merit in its obviously satirical point.

          • alms says:

            If you can see anything other than a plain tone in that reply, then I’m inclined to think you’re putting things into it that aren’t there.

  16. Servicemaster says:

    What I love most about this game is how it is a physical manifestation of the Lemonade Stand within the game itself. So meta. “Just click here and get money!”

    I’m about to take some ClipArt images, smash them together, program some numbers to go up and then ask for money so you can see those numbers go up faster.

    Why can’t I stop playing these fucking games???

  17. Mr Coot says:

    The suspicious part of me thinks this is a social experiment or marketing campaign to identify the ppl most easily satisfied by Skinner box mechanics. I did like this Steam review however: “Cant exploit long work hours, cheap labor in other countries, or resources from other countries, Worst capitalism simulator ever.”

    Players concerned for their immortal souls – Progress Quest is still with us! And it’s an RPG setting! I wish I had stayed with it these 10 years or more… my landshark would be sheer ownage.
    link to progressquest.com

  18. jrodman says:

    It’s an entertaining little game, but man what a buggy pile of crap.

    I had fun dorking around with it for a while and I’m happy to have:
    * Finished buying everything that existed in the game
    * Run into some same game corruption that prevents me from ever wanting to start over.

    • Nixitur says:

      To be fair, corruption in a game about capitalism seems thematically appropriate.

  19. mmalove says:

    Ah, the old incremental genre is slowly creeping its way onto steam. Clicker Heroes is working its way onto here too.

    If you enjoy this little niche of game, I’d recommend reddits’ /r/incremental_games, for a community dedicated to varients of this gameplay. While Adventure Capitalism has gained a relatively large following, it’s a pathetically simple game. Try something like Sandcastle Builder or the Kittens Game for a truly soul sucking experience.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      I’ve played a few of these fairly compulsively, but I’m still not quite sure ‘enjoy’ is the right word.

    • Nixitur says:

      I personally still like Candy Box which was probably one of the first of this genre. It also takes a fairly short time (less than 12 hours) to “complete”, as in “lock your lollipop amount at Infinite”.
      I also quite enjoyed Clicker Heroes because the endgame upgrades aren’t just simply higher multipliers, but there’s some that just make you more money, there’s some that increase different sorts of damage and it’s actually quite fun to find out what upgrades are actually available.

  20. Turgil says:

    I have been playing it since last year on Kongregate, it is bit worrying how much time you waste watching numbers go up, my favorite idle at the momentan ist Swarm Simlutor. Very minimalistic Design but for some reason quite addicting.

  21. mandrill says:

    Is there any way to turn that bloody music off? No options menu or anything :/

    • BradleyUffner says:

      Click the little face in the top left, there is a mute button in there.

  22. Ejia says:

    I…

    …I’m still “playing” cookie clicker. Someone help

  23. Deano2099 says:

    6 hours? Hahahah. Come back to me in 6 months. I’ve been to the god-damn moon!

    I’m loving these idle games recently. For my money, Mine Defense is the best one (it has an actual end state, which you’ll reach in a month or so). But yes, also been hooked on Cookie Clicker, Clicker Heroes, Tap Tap Infinity, and a whole bunch more. I have about five running concurrently at the moment. There’s a certain fascination in picking one up early and watching it develop.

  24. Mirdini says:

    If you feel like raising a galaxy-devouring empire of insectoids instead of making puny Earth dollars check out http://swarmsim.github.io/.

  25. drewski says:

    You’re pretty evil, Alec. Pretty evil.

    11 minutes until I can buy my 100th oil rig and get the speed up bonuses. Is it time for angels yet? PERHAPS

  26. clickera says:

    Way better to play

  27. clickera says:

    Way better to play link to clicker-heroes.com