The cynicism behind Farmville's cuteness

When Farmville first blew up, I played it for about 45 seconds and thought, “Do I really need to add slopping the virtual hogs to my already excessive online to-do list?” But it was clear that a lot of people were really getting into it. In an interview excerpt posted on Consumerist, game designer Jonathon Blow reveals that these kinds of games are intended to create anxiety in the player as a way of increasing participation and revenue:

“…when you look at the design process in that game, it’s not about designing a fun game. It’s not about designing something that’s going to be interesting or a positive experience in any way — it’s actually about designing something that’s a negative experience.”

Clearly, creating incremental frustration is a big part of many games, but usually the player can overcome it by improving her skill through gameplay. With Farmville, Mafia Wars, et. al., you literally buy your way out of your incremental frustration. Or you can advance by getting other people to play (and presumably, spend). Doesn’t seem like a sustainable strategy—eventually the pool of suckers will dry up—but Zynga sure seems to be making piles of money for now.

Here’s the full interview: Catching up with Jonathon Blow (gamasutra)