Dear Jason Tanz,
First off, I think its exceptionally funny that the game Cow Clicker received so much success, and I'm not surprised at all that many people played the game for actual entertainment rather than realizing the message behind it. I used to be an avid player of Farmville, my freshman year of college. I played for about a month before I realized how addicted I was and stopped. Everyday in between classes and during hours I was supposed to be studying or being productive, I would be playing. I can't tell you why I was so addicted because normally I'd find a silly and simple game like Farmville pointless, but I couldn't stop tending to my crops and trying to build my level. In the end of your article, you point out "It may be that Cow Clicker demonstrates the opposite of what it set out to prove and that social games, no matter how cynically designed, can still provide meaningful experiences." Obviously Cow Clicker was meant to mock the social media games that are loved by so many people, like Farmville, but people do respond with an enjoyment to it. Besides giving them something to do, there's a sense of accomplishment when you move onto another level, even though you honestly gain nothing of value from it. That goal and reward practice in the game makes it very attractive for people to play.
Dimitri Williams also makes a very valid point in his excerpt in Tree House to Barracks. After researching gamers and guild types, he concludes that, "the most common reason to seek a particular guild type out was to accomplish game goals. This is a powerful case of the game mechanic influencing social decisions with unintended consequences" (346). It continues the idea that setting goals and bringing a semblance of a reward (or an illusion to one) gives the incentive for people to play because they gain a certain feeling of completion. Life does not always turn out the way we plan: working hard does not always elicit a reward. These games provide an escape to reach that idealistic achievement we crave for in life, in my opinion.