Oct. 24, 2013 at 2:09 PM ET
Against all odds, there hasn't really been a video game that lets players delve into the exciting world of the meth trade à la "Breaking Bad" — until now. For those of us who are still broken up about the end of Heisenberg's reign over basic cable, two college students in California offer "Dr. Meth," a browser-based game that lets players step into the empire business and try their hands at cooking and selling the elicit product.
Released two weeks ago, "Dr. Meth" has already scooped up more than two million addicts, with more than 250,000 simultaneous players expanding their meth empires at any given time, Business Insider Australia reports.
While "Breaking Bad" is an undeniable inspiration for "Dr. Meth," the game also bears an uncanny resemblance to another recent Internet craze: "Cookie Clicker," a browser-based game which, as the name suggests, asks players to click on cookies to produce more of the titular baked goods. Similar to "Cookie Clicker," "Dr. Meth" starts you out with a simple chemistry set you use to produce the drug. After cooking a batch, you click on a small money icon below it to sell the product.
Pretty soon, your empire is in full swing. You can hire dealers to sell the product for you, and purchase new structures such as trailers to house cooks and a research facility to hire chemists that up the meth's purity rating. Each of these tiers is unlocked when you gather a certain amount of money, but once you have a healthy amount of cooks to churn out the product and dealers to sling it, you can sit back and watch the money pour in until you have a cool million to drop on a new facility.
Unlike the real world (or the real world according to "Breaking Bad"), there are no nosy DEA agents, axe-wielding maniacs from competing drug cartels, or teary-eyed relatives to stand in your way. Which gets to a fascinating question of what, exactly, makes games like "Dr. Meth" and "Cookie Clicker" so compelling to players.
After a few minutes, you're not really playing the game at all. Rather, you're managing the overall production of meth while all your little cartoon underlings do most of the clicking for you. A recent article about "Cookie Clicker"on the gaming website Polygon suggested that games like these are "created for a computer, not a person, to play."
Whether or not you buy that, the inexplicably intriguing clickfest that is "Dr. Meth" does help illustrate something that kept "Breaking Bad's" kingpins like Walter White and his often psychotic antagonists into the drug trade in the first place: the obsessive longing for an undisturbed and exponential accumulation of wealth.
You may not be making a real-world pile of money in "Dr. Meth," but since the game is bereft of any real challenge other than how fast you can cook and sell meth, at least you can feel secure in the fact that nobody's going to come knocking on your door looking for trouble. Then again, I haven't "finished" the game yet, so maybe I shouldn't speak too soon…
You can throw your pork pie hat into the ring here.
Yannick LeJacq is a contributing writer for NBC News who has also covered technology and games for Kill Screen, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic. You can follow him on Twitter at @YannickLeJacq and reach him by email at: Yannick.LeJacq@nbcuni.com.