February 3, 2012
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Wired’s Jason Tanz reports on the unintended and thoroughly ironic success of a videogame engineered explicitly to mock Zynga-style shovelware like Farmville.
Cow Clicker, which is just as banal as it sounds, was designed by Ian Bogost, a game developer and professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. It’s a Facebook game that’s little more than a bucket list of the annoying, spammy features that characterize social games like Zynga’s -ville line: the goal is to rack up clicks on a picture of a cow, mainly by pestering your friends who probably have better things to do. There’s a leaderboard, and other dubious incentives to increase your click count.
The kicker is that in spite of its blatant parody, Cow Clicker became wildly successful, forcing Bogost to switch servers to handle traffic and upgrade the game to even more inane specifications.
[Bogost] meant Cow Clicker to be a satire with a short shelf life. Instead, it enslaved him and many of its players for much of the past 18 months. Even Bogost can’t decide whether it represents his greatest success—or his most colossal failure.
Bogost has also released Jetset, a Kafkaesque TSA simulator that “almost makes you feel sorry for the petty tyrants behind the backscatter machine.”