This story begin way back when the first article regarding Ian Bogost's Cow Clicker game was published. At the time I'd been quite irritated with the slew of viral feeds on my News Feed on Facebook and as far as FB games went, I'd made sure to steer clear from anything with the barest of hints of being contagious. Whatever few games I played (and still do) are generally non-viral in nature though I've seen one of them slowly make a partial shift towards the methodology wherein friends become resources. Pity, really...
Anyways, the fact remains, when I stumbled across the article I thought it was the greatest thing since ketchup and that's saying quite a bit. Now, pointless analogies aside, the first thing I did that fateful evening was find Cow Clicker on Facebook and partook in my first ever bovine click and chuckled as the dulcet call of a cow responded. I, however, didn't post the feed quite then, not realizing that the only way to make more Mooney was by doing so. Yeah, I wasn't really paying attention to it but eventually, when I was particularly bored and took the time to notice that I hadn't earned any more Mooney, I decided to do my research (read, went to the Help page). In my bored stupor, it occurred to me that the only way I'd make more Mooney was if I had other friends play; and this got me thinking... which this article will prove before its over, that that isn't always the best of states for me to be in.
So, I set out on a recruitment campaign and slowly got two other friends to join in and slowly between our combined wall feeds and the occasional reminder to 'click my damned (other variants of profanity apply) cow, will you?' we soon got more members from, first, our group of friends and then those that we knew passingly and happened to be curious enough to ask us while we called out the aforementioned reminder in class. Before I knew it, I had a healthy group of people clicking cows and actually liking it.
While the start of the Cow Clicking Chronicles (as I decided to call them, being such a lover of alliteration) came about simply as a means to, in some small way, show my support for or more aptly, support against the general direction FB games had been taking; it slowly became much more than that. While I might venture to say that this was a bit of an experiment, it actually wasn't nor did it quite start that way. Instead the initial motivation of playing and getting others to play was to support what Cow Clicker stood for. I had then believed that I was the only one who cared, naively forgetting that out of all of my friends I was the only one who aspired to be a Game Designer. While I acknowledge I was a bit overenthusiastic at first, loving the idea of a spoof of the very mechanic I hated so much, I did eventually calm down by which time the others had joined. So it began thus but slowly, as I saw the response it got in the ways everybody would remind each other to click their cows and so on, I got the idea that this would be interesting to watch and take part in to fan the flames so to speak. And fan I did!
On that note, worth noting is an interesting situation where a conversation about the different types of cows available spurred me to buy one that everyone had on their minds (and I think was a genius move by Mr. Bogost for adding, if not entirely a no brainer of an addition... and yes, pun intended) – The Zombie Cow. At this point I became a bit of a zealous clicker and its here that I found myself lost in my own experiment. A great way to highlight this is when I once woke up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water and on my way to back to bed I realized that the timer on my cow would be up and since I was awake, I might as get that extra click in, so that I could have two clicks for the night duration – The one then and the one I'd click when I woke up. Groggy as I was, this didn't seem like too much of a deal till the next day where I realized that I'd suddenly stepped into the Skinner side of the game. I fell out my zealous Clicker mode almost instantly then, but I didn't stop clicking then... I just made sure to keep my head about myself. I think its a testament to the persuasive power of these types of games sometimes, that I talk about it as if it were an addiction.
Getting back to the point, I managed to buy the Zombie cow before the others and the next day I found myself met with envy. Mind you, I don't mean a particularly strong version of the emotion but the type one displays when someone has something cooler than you. I did notice an increase in Clicking activity after that point and soon enough we had people buying new cows all around and comparing the costs of their cows to those of others.
I ventured out to see just how viral gaming can be viral and I found myself questioning a few things about the undertaking. The first and foremost being, is it truly viral if the acquisition of newer users is brought about by word of mouth as opposed to curiosity (and a certain amount of boredom) along with an obscene amount of wall posts? My own answer to this, as far as I can fathom it, is that it isn't but I will cover this aspect of viral games later onwards. Though its worth pointing out that I did get two people to join Cow Clicker by the 'traditional' viral method.
The other question worth asking is, would I have gotten any other people to join if I hadn't asked them personally or worked through a non cyber-space medium? While I'm not entirely sure how to answer this I have a feeling that I might have been asked about it sooner or later, though this might be because of how most people know about my stand on viral feeds and the sudden turn around with my posting them.
The final observation however, stands as thus – I have a multitude of people from my college currently playing Cow Clicker and egging each other on to click their cows so that they earn Mooney. All of them are working towards earning (or what I'd call friend farming) more Mooney so that they can buy newer cows.
After Thoughts – The Click upon a Click, if you may
What I've noted about this entire experience is something that surprises me quite a bit. While the game in and of itself, much like the other Skinner box games FB has to offer isn't inherently funny, most of us who played got a real kick out of the 'Moo'. Seriously, that's actually pretty funny in the beginning... well, except when you forget to turn your speakers off in class and a very loud moo makes itself know. That, however, is still very funny in hindsight. While the appeal of the sound did wear off pretty quickly, the clicking of cows was never really any fun. The clicking of friend's feeds that urged you to 'click their click' to earn Mooney wasn't fun either though it did carry with it the apprehension of how much Mooney you'd receive which in a sense reminds of RPG's with randomized loot. Borderlands and Diablo II comes to mind first. But that aside, there is no actual game-play and I'm certain there was never meant to be any. Its basically just an exercise in trained repetition with the occasional bit of 'coveting thy neighbor's cow' to keep you going.
The surprising bit came about not in the game but rather in the way the game became part of normal conversation. There's the obvious instances of urging each other to click cows, as I've mentioned multiple times already but then there'd be times where out of the blue we'd end up discussing cows we wanted to buy or what would look cool or recently, how awesome our pasture's look now that everyone's bought some kind of a cow and aren't stuck with the default. Another great instance was where one of our number dared me (since I was the initiator of this craze) to go click on a real cow... one of the many that can be found on Indian streets. For those of you who find this interesting, I didn't 'click' it having pointed out that it was a buffalo and not a cow. There's quite a list of such instances where jokes were made with reference to the game and its this aspect about it that I like the most. While the fact that its become so ingrained into our lives is a bit worrisome, its all good (at least to me) as long as its place remain within the boundaries of idle chit-chat and jokes.
So, now that I've had my say, I now must find suitable shelter before said friends find this and decide (as they understandably would) to clobber me with a suitably heavy and blunt object just to ensure I live long enough to hear them cuss me out!
With all of that being said, I'd like to officially end my Cow Clicking days! It was fun while it lasted...
But first... just one last click...