Why Farmville Turns Humans Into Lab Rats

Do you like playing Zynga's Facebook games? There's something wrong with you. Not because you enjoy them, what you do in your spare time is your business. Your problem comes in thinking they're games.

They are not games. They are specifically-engineered programs designed to take your money and compel you to advertise the product to your friends so they can do it. And so on. It's like hard labour, breaking rocks, only instead of doing it in prison you're doing it at home, and somehow feeling compelled to tell all your friends about it just because the rocks are covered in cute farm animals.

Something Zynga freely admit. In a panel discussion at IndieCade in October 2011, Zynga's Demetri Detsaridis took a very long time to say what The Atlantic's Benjamin Jackson much better puts as "one of the most compelling parts of playing Zynga's games is deciding when and how to spam your friends with reminders to play Zynga's games."

That great quote is part of a much larger piece over on The Atlantic by Jackson, called "The Zynga Abyss", which compares Farmville players to lab rats. Very convincingly. That piece is itself only an excerpt from a larger effort called Distance, a quarterly publication featuring essays on the tech world. You can check that out here.

The Zynga Abyss [The Atlantic]