“You get a cow. You can click on it. In six hours, you can click it again. Clicking earns you clicks.”

Such is the basic description of Cow Clicker, a new Facebook game that definitely delivers what its title promises — the ability to click on a cow. Yes, there are a few other social game trappings thrown in there — you can invite neighbors whose cow clicks count towards your total, and you can purchase prettier cows with in-game “mooney” — but there’s really little besides the titular cow clicking to this simple parody game.

Cow Clicker Creator and Georgia Tech professor Ian Bogost describes Cow Clicker as “Facebook games distilled to their essence” and in a way he’s right. Read that description from the first paragraph again. Replace “a cow” with “crops,” and “clicks” at the end with “coins” and you have a bare bones description of the basic gameplay in Facebook mega-hit Farmville. The same process can be applied to describe countless other popular social games. Cow Clicker even lets you spend mooney to skip the six-hour wait for more click opportunities, mimicking the way many other social games let you spend in-game money to avoid having to wait for rewards.

But Bogost’s simple parody utterly misses the point of social gaming in some major ways. Sure, in strict gameplay terms, there’s little to differentiate Cow Clicker from countless popular social games. But for million of players, the appeal of social games isn’t in the gameplay, but in the opportunity for world building and role-playing.

(full article)