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Cow Clicker Boils Down Facebook Games 237

mjn writes "Game designer and academic Ian Bogost announces Cow Clicker, a Facebook game implementing the mechanics of the Facebook-games genre stripped to their core. You get a cow, which you can click on every six hours. You earn additional clicks if your friends in your pasture also click. You can buy premium cows with 'mooney,' and also use your mooney to buy more clicks. You can buy mooney with real dollars, or earn some free bonus mooney if you spam up your feed with Cow Clicker activity. A satire of Facebook games, but actually as genuine a game as the non-satirical games are. And people actually play it, perhaps confirming Bogost's view that the genre of games is largely just 'brain hacks that exploit human psychology in order to make money,' which continue to work even when the users are openly told what's going on."
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Cow Clicker Boils Down Facebook Games

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  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:04PM (#32983186) Journal

    I don't understand this "cow clicker" joke. Only game I ever played was Sorority Life and it appeared to be modeled after any typical RPG game (gain experience; level up; gain new powers).

  • by kyrio ( 1091003 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:10PM (#32983250) Homepage
    I'd be concerned if this game didn't make a load of money. The people who play those games should be filtered out of life by having their money taken away from them until they don't have enough to pay for the basics of life. Facebook games are pretty much just a hopped up version of those retarded viral text based games that you need to sign your friends up for so you can go up the ranks. Internet text based games turned into lame graphics based ones. There will always be morons out there willing to pay real money for fake things that can and will disappear without warning as soon as the creators decide to sell the business (or quit because they've made enough money) or move on to other things (other interests or legal issues).
  • Prior Art (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:11PM (#32983274)

    And people actually play it, perhaps confirming Bogost's view that the genre of games is largely just 'brain hacks that exploit human psychology in order to make money,' which continue to work even when the users are openly told what's going on."

    Meh. Slashdot's been doing this for years.

    We know it's pointless, but we keep clicking that reply button. And when they deliberately make the stories misleading and poorly edited, they get even more clicks.

  • Exploiting? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clarkkent09 ( 1104833 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:12PM (#32983292)
    genre of games is largely just 'brain hacks that exploit human psychology in order to make money,' which continue to work even when the users are openly told what's going on.

    Of course they are, but so is everything else. Slashdot exploits human psychology (why exactly am I posting this? I am spending my time and energy and not getting anything tangible in return) in order to make money. Ever felt pressured by your better half to buy a small piece of metal (jewelery) for $1000 dollars or a tiny bottle of water (perfume) for $100? Those also continue to work even after the users are told what's going on.
  • by Michael Kristopeit ( 1751814 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:12PM (#32983298)
    to gain experience you click the cow. when you do, you level up. your new powers are the ability to spend more in game currency to allow you to click on cows more to gain even more experience and level up more.

    it's a minimalist presentation of the same ultimate waste of time typical RPGs are. the joke is YOU.

    (side note: "RPG game"... really? did you use your PIN number on an ATM machine to buy that typical RPG game?)

  • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:20PM (#32983410) Journal

    I've never actually played a Facebook game, but I've had friends try to draw me in by demonstrating the games at length. So I know the mechanics of a few popular ones.

    Facebook games have, from what I've seen, three goals:
    1. Keep you in the game regularly by setting events up so you have to visit frequently.
    2. Send messages in your name to all of your friends to "join me in this fun game that's the awesomest thing ever!!!!!".
    3. Hopefully occasionally sucker someone into spending real money to level up or gain new powers.

    Facebook game developers, on the other hand, have only one goal. Access to your Facebook account so they can see information about you and all your friends. The actual mechanics of gameplay are almost irrelevant, as long as it's compelling enough to draw you in and maybe use your account to convince your friends to help with your lost sheep or by giving you a pink balloon or a warm huggie or whatever.

    The upshot of this article is that the bar can be lowered significantly and still manage to sucker people in. Who needs a whole Farmville when you can just scan in a bad picture of a cow and have people click it every 6 hours, and get the exact same data on them that way?

    Personally, I'd do a blue circle that sighs every time you click on it. Then, if you convince enough friends to join, your circle slowly turns from blue to red. I bet I'd get full account profile data on a million people within a month.

  • by Haffner ( 1349071 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:41PM (#32983642)
    When applications first came out, I just started hiding them every time, and hiding the people who announced them. I haven't seen any application-based spam in well over 6 months.
  • Re:Prior Art (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ceraphis ( 1611217 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:42PM (#32983654)
    That's one way to look at it, but that's like saying that human interaction has no worth. Slashdot is at a much higher level than click spam games because even though its just text on a screen, someone is behind the keyboard conversing with you. Face to face interaction is at a higher level than that, but that doesn't mean text to text interaction is at the same level of click spam games.

    The vast majority of what happens in farmville is interacting with a constructed world with a constructed set of rules meant to keep you addicted and spend money. The proper comparison to something like slashdot would be if everyone who has an account (other than "you" or "me") was a robot programmed to either disagree, agree, flame you/me or ask for money.

    That would be what is actually "pointless". Slashdot and anything else that involves human discussion is far from pointless. Many times I'm scanning the discussions for posts from people with a different knowledge set, so I can learn. And I do. Posting something funny or reading funny comments at the same time, while seemingly pointless actually brightens my day, which has value.
  • by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:56PM (#32983788) Homepage

    As long as they don't stop buying lottery tickets, I agree with you. They save me the trouble of paying too much in state taxes...

  • Re:Strange Game (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Logic and Reason ( 952833 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @05:59PM (#32983820)
    You know, it's entirely possible to have a Facebook account without spending excessive amounts of time on it. Nothing forces you to play these insipid games, update your profile every day, or respond to every message you get.
  • Re:Strange Game (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:06PM (#32983912) Journal

    It's also very invasive. It's likely he cancelled his account for many reasons, but that less time on facebook altogether was a happy byproduct.

  • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @06:54PM (#32984438) Homepage Journal

    I'll tell the 40 or so women I've slept with and my two ex-wives what you said.

    So you confirm that you fail regularly in your attempts at relationships with women? Interesting ;)

  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:30PM (#32984734) Homepage Journal

    So you confirm that you fail regularly in your attempts at relationships with women? Interesting ;)

    Sex 5-20 times per week with one women I was common law married to for five years plus one marriage for a year following a year being engaged ... no, based on US stats, I've done pretty well.

    Whatever, dude, the point is that you project your inner core self into your gaming, when all it is is just a game and pixels at that. The difference between Ms PacMan and PacMan is ... the bow and lipstick.

    Those who worry about other's sexuality are frequently overly concerned about their own.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:34PM (#32984772)

    I don't think there's a one-dimensional score of "fun" that's the "only" thing that matters. Different media have different mixtures of qualities: they provoke thought, entertain, addict, inspire, horrify, bore, explain, question, etc. And I think it makes some sense to look at why people are drawn to different media, and what we're getting out of them. What's compelling about reality TV, for example, and how is that similar or different to what's compelling about Futurama, or about Seinfeld, or about 24? Are there interesting angles to explore, things maybe people would be better off avoiding, etc.?

    Using some pure "fun" metric is like judging films by their box-office totals or exit surveys or something, which is a pretty boring one-dimensional way to do it.

  • Re:Strange Game (Score:4, Insightful)

    by quanticle ( 843097 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @08:32PM (#32985180) Homepage

    As I indicate in a response to a sibling, the deciding factor in me quitting Facebook was Mark Zuckerberg's statements characterizing a desire for privacy as disingenuous and socially unacceptable. He can think what he chooses to, and I can choose not to do business with him.

  • Re:Strange Game (Score:2, Insightful)

    by uslurper ( 459546 ) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @09:38PM (#32985648)

    Funny, I always loose to my girlfriend in chess because she /does/ show me her pieces.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @09:57PM (#32985778)

    >>>RPG game?

    Role Playing Genre game.

    See? Wouldn't I make a great politician?

    No, you're just too fucking stupid, Mr. "I'd flash my gun at the cashier to make them take the sale price I want."

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling