The Sunk Cost Fallacy

Here’s another fascinating study of the mechanics of Farmville, with a little psychology thrown in for good measure.

The Sunk Cost Fallacy « You Are Not So Smart (h/t Lifehacker)

Most true line in the post:

Every garage sale is a funeral for someone’s sunk costs.

Say what you will about Farmville and its ilk, but all of can see how cleverly the sunk cost fallacy is manipulated by the game play.

As designers figure out ways to include game mechanics into software, the face of what you use for work will change forever, leading to a realization of Paul’s (@ppedrazzi) prediction that gaming is the future of everything.

Initially, Farmville just irritated me with its annoying News Feed spam, but as I read more about it and the levels of addiction it causes, I’m frightened to play it or any of Zynga’s social games.





  1. Nice. I try to stay away from games like these, after a run in with Civilization back in the day. I always thought it was devilishly smart to punish the game-player for not playing enough.

  2. In addition to the whole “sunk costs” argument, addictive games result in behaviors that you wouldn’t engage in otherwise.

    An example – when I set up my Facebook account, I determined early on that I wasn’t going to be as open with my friend requests as I had been on other services. No, sir – my Facebook friends were either going to be people that I knew in real life, or people whom I knew pretty well from online interaction.

    I held to that until I ran into several games that promised better rewards if my Facebook friends were also fans. Rather than spamming my Facebook friends to get involved in Farm Town (Farmville’s less-popular competitor), I searched the boards to find other Facebook players – people I didn’t know – who also needed game-playing friends to advance in the game.

    For the game developer AND for Facebook, this is a win-win.

  3. Indeed, of course Zynga initially made it dead simple to spam your friends, another smart tactic. I have a lot of respect for social game developers; it’s amazing how successful they’ve been with an idea that sounds laughable on paper.

  4. I had sent this link to my wife, and she wound up reading it as I dozed on the couch nearby. I could tell by her reaction when she reached the “Mother kills her baby” link.

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