How to fix Cow Clicker

July 19, 2010 at 3:16 pm / by

Ian Bogost created Cow Clicker, according to this tweet, as “a Facebook game about Facebook games.” And I do get it. It’s funny. Ha ha. Okay now but seriously, it could be better.

Ian, if you’re paying attention, here’s how to improve your Facebook game about Facebook games.

1) Reduce the Click Window: Currently I can only click my cow once every six hours. MouseHunt lets me sound the hunter’s horn every 15 MINUTES. And I can cook cheeseburgers in Café World in only five. Procrastination and distraction operate on fairly tight cycles. How often do we refresh our RSS Readers? Our Twitter pages? Facebook? Try a 15 minute window. Let me click my cow every 15 minutes.

2) Make the Stream Stories Actually DO Something: You’re spoofing the infamous “Lost Cow” viral, but you’ve missed why it started a trend. People aren’t clicking cows for their health. They’re clicking them because they get something for it (namely, a cow). If a newsfeed is not incentivized, it’s only valuable as advertising to new players, and a reminder to those who haven’t played recently. When incentivized, every player has a reason to click it. Click click click.

Try awarding one Click to each player who clicks a Cow Clicker Stream Story. And while you’re at it, award one Click back to the poster for each player who clicked. All your newsfeeds do right now is breach the platform policy (VI.A.1, if you’re curious).

3) Prime the Mooney Pump: Paying players are a little like vampires. Once they’ve tasted blood, it’s hard to stop. Wet their fangs with 15 Mooney — enough for one low-level cow, and enough left over to make them want to reach for cooler cows.

You can then keep priming the pump with small amounts of Mooney awarded to players. Create a low instance in which upon clicking, a cow in your pasture will, ahem, “drop” some Mooney. More cows in your pasture means higher chance of Mooney droppings, means more of a reason to invite friends.

4) Send me a Highland Coo: I guess this won’t actually help you in any way, but they just look so fuzzy.



  1. This is an interesting post for a lot of reasons. It’s possible you’re misconstruing why I made this game (it’s not a response to the Lost Cow, for example), but at the same time, it feels in the spirit of the project to embrace the values of user feedback that so-called social games claim to embody. So I read these suggestions in earnest.

    (1) is the hardest for me to swallow, not because I don’t understand why you suggest it, but because I wanted the game to disrespect the player’s time in a different way than most of these games do (to create the frustration that you’re describing). (2) is interesting, because it serves as the most recent example in an increasingly common trend of social game developers grousing at me about platform policy issues. I’ll say more about that in another context (on my blog tomorrow, most likely), but for now, I think you’ll find that my feed stories are now fully compliant with Good Father Facebook’s will. As for clicking cows for their health, that’s precisely what Cow Clicker is all about. But I find your suggestion intriguing anyway. To be honest (I’ll say more about this another time too), the operation of the Facebook platform is almost completely opaque, and the very concept of action links wouldn’t ever have revealed itself to me from the documentation alone. (3) is a good idea that I’d considered, but the 15 mooney value is quite smart. I implemented that (easy enough). The cow is yours if you want it; you’ll find the mooney is waiting in your account.

  2. I’m having trouble understanding the point of Cow Clicker as a parody. I see all the (old fashioned) Facebook game tropes in there, but it seems to just implement them rather than twisting them.

    I suppose the metaphor is funny because it is references the interaction style for a lot of these games, but if it was renamed “Cow Feeder” and clicks became “feed”, then the entire game would become a standard, basic (but hard) Facebook game.

    It seems like Guru Meditation could be renamed “Don’t move your iPhone” and be just as effective as a parody of accelerometer-powered iPhone games.

  3. I suppose I’m more interested in your reasoning behind Cow Clicker than anything else. I’ll look forward to reading whatever you write on the topic, but from what I can gather from your comment, Cow Clicker is apparently about the meaningless clicking associated with social games.

    Sad, then, because social games (the good ones, anyway), are all about *meaningful* clicks — “appointment” clicks that impact play-time and non-play-time alike.

    It’s been over two years since Parking Wars happened, and it’s still one of the best examples of that return compulsion — that sense that even when you’re not playing, you’re still in some way playing. You’ve enacted something in the game space that makes it anticipate your return. In a good social game, ceasing to play is as important a decision as starting to play.

    Also, the image of the cow in the Stream Story should pass the same URL as the “Click the click” link. Just sayin.

  4. @Ben
    I’ve written more about the project here: I didn’t want to twist the genre, but to try to distill it.

    I’m not against Facebook games as such, and I agree with you that there have been some good ones. Parking Wars is high up my list. You might want to read the link above, in which I try to talk about the bad kinds of social games that I’m after.

    On the stream story thing, I don’t think it’s legit to link from the image, right? Cf. platform policy VI.A.5. Or are they just talking about textual calls to action?

  5. @Ian
    They’re talking about literal calls to actions. You can’t write “Play Now!” or “Click Now!” in the image. The only place in the entire stream you’re permitted to use call-to-action language is the “action link.”

    Happy to read your article and move the conversation over to your home turf.

  6. @Scott
    In that case, I’ll change it!

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