A recent NPR Interview with my colleague the game designer and theorist Ian Bogost endearingly focused on his frustration at having accidentally made an enjoyable game.
Cow Clicker was meant to parody the wildly successful Facebook game Farmville, exposing its unchallenging and pointless gameplay and its cynical commercialism. But to Bogost’s dismay his intentionally boring game unexpectedly attracted 50,000 users. Stunned out of his customary ironic detachment, Bogost found himself unable to resist the direct “pleasure” of having people play his game. He began to pay attention to what they liked and to fulfill their requests, though he was bothered by their unironic pleasure in the gameplay. In order to reinforce his satiric intent, Bogost tried to subvert the game by charging ridiculous amounts of money for obviously worthless virtual items. To his dismay, people paid and continued to enjoy the game. Eventually he resorted to outright destruction, starting a counter that ended with a satisfyingly absurd “rapture” that left no cows standing, just a little clickable shadow in the pasture: a “cowpocalypse”!