"If a player repeats something, it’s fun," said Zynga’s Mark Skaggs in 2010. At DICE that year, Jesse Schell now-infamously made a doomsday prophecy about players desiring rewards for every behavior, a consequence of a design trend that favored Skinner Box mechanics, where users receive gratification, then are forced to wait a requisite amount of time before doing it again.
By the time 2010’s Game Developers Conference came around, the spiritual anxiety around social games was palpable. Ian Bogost released Cow Clicker, a satire of hollow social game mechanics that, to his consternation, became his most popular work.
In “Fear and loathing in FarmVille,” Soren Johnson delineated the tension: Veteran designers took center stage, excited about a new frontier for games, joining burgeoning social game companies like Zynga and Playdom. Meanwhile, a moral disgust for Zynga and its model for Facebook games radiated from the gaming world’s corners.
It seems hard to believe that only two years later the roar of battle has all but died.
On the boom and bust of Facebook games.