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How Agario is a metaphor for Capitalism

Updated on March 7, 2016

Do you ever just like to pretend while you’re playing Agario that you’re secretly at the helm of a multinational mega-billion-dollar company in the process of conquering the world-wide economy? Right, me neither.

But do you maybe see how someone might see it like that? I’m asking for a friend.

Btw, if you didn’t know/weren’t in the loop, Agario is an extremely popular online game with one simple objective: to get as big as you possibly can.

I’ve probably spent more hours playing Agario than I’d like to admit. So what is it that makes Agario so fun and addictive?

Well, after philosophizing (and playing) for a bit, I found an answer. But it's not what you think...or maybe it is. How am I supposed to know what you're thinking? Anyway...

Drumroll please...here's my theory: Agario is just one giant metaphor for capitalism. Break-out the charts:

Cells - Companies

Companies (in the real world) are entities designed to make a profit and continuously get bigger...just like cells in Agario. Do I really have to explain this one? Cells are literally just mini companies, floating around on the map of a free market economy.

The small cells are like small businesses, constantly struggling to survive. The big ones are like multinational corporations, massive and established...and slow.

That's one of the few advantages is that when you're small, you're able to move more quickly than the bigger cells/corporations.

In the economy, small businesses and entrepreneurs are able to adapt to changes much more easily than their larger counterparts. They are usually quicker on the uptake of new technologies and new opportunities.

Disadvantages are pretty obvious. They're smaller so they're more prone to getting eaten...uh, I mean going out of business. And there's a lot less of a buffer separating them from bankruptcy.

So in Agario each cell can kind of be looked at as its own company, determining its own fate as it drifts through the world economy, adapting and getting bigger over time.

Split/Jump – Risk-taking

You know when you hit the spacebar, and you jump for that smaller cell, and you MISS! Don’t you hate that? And then some bigger cell just comes along and eats you whole?

Welcome to the real world economy. Because just like splitting/jumping in Agario, capitalists make decisions every day that are sometimes risky. And sometimes those risks pay out ten fold, while other times they can spell destruction for the entire business.

Take for example, Elon Musk, who in 2008, invested the remainder of his fortune in what seemed to be a failing company (Tesla Motors Inc.). And look how it paid off for him nearly 8 years later. Tesla is now a $25 billion company.

On the flip side, the often less reported risk-takers are the ones that failed tremendously. Take for instance the film, The Golden Compass, which was a $180 million box-office flop that ended with its parent production company, New Line Cinema, folding to Warner Bros.

The more you split in Agario, the more vulnerable you are to attack from other players, similar to the way that a company that engages in a lot of really risky behavior is more likely to end up collapsing under its own weight.

You have to find a balance, in business and in Agario. Definitely take some risks, otherwise you won't get anywhere. But not too many. As a general rule I almost never split more than twice in Agario, unless I’m really big and can handle it.

Viruses – Government Intervention

We all know that there really is no perfect free market. We need government intervention in the economy (e.g. price ceilings, taxes, and incentives), just to keep everything fair.

Viruses are those annoying green things in Agario. You kind of hate/fear them if you’re big, but you accept that you need them in the game, otherwise a person could just become #1, and then could basically hold that title for eternity. I mean think about it, without viruses, a cell could conceivably become unstoppable in the game.

So the big guys hate ‘em. But on the flip side, smaller cells love them, just like smaller companies generally love government intervention in the real world (am I making too many generalizations here?).

Small cells can hide behind viruses in the game, shielding them from larger, predatory cells (think of parallels like tax-breaks, loans, and grants in the real world that shield smaller companies from the market dominance of the big guys).

But if you’re a larger cell, you have to watch out for those little green things, because they can do some serious damage if you’re not careful. If one gets launched at you, BAM! You're in 8 pieces.

Kind of like how American Anti-Trust laws can lead to break-ups in the real world. Thinking about Standard Oil’s court-mandated 1911 break-up here, which split the company into various smaller oil companies like Amoco, Chevron, and Exxon.

So next time you're about to pop off a virus at another one of those massive cells, just imagine that that virus is a Supreme Court subpoena.

Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Consumption – Acquisitions/Mergers

When you eat another cell in Agario, it doesn’t just disappear. Its mass is added to your mass.

It’s the same for acquisitions and mergers in the corporate world. When Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012 (for $1 billion), Instagram’s market value was added to Facebook’s (kind of). Facebook got bigger. Same with Disney and Lucasfilm.

Teams – Collusion

It’s something that wasn't really designed to be a part of Agario, but even with limited communication, somehow teams have managed to emerge. This is a form of collusion.

When two companies collude in the real world, they are working together (in smoky rooms and behind closed doors) to the advantage of both corporations, and usually to the disadvantage of both the consumer and other non-colluding companies.

In the same way that corporate collusion has been outlawed, angry members of Agario sometimes take it upon themselves to break up these teams. These cells often name themselves, “F**k Teams”, or some variation thereof.

Food – Money

You know those little colorful pellets that you see in Agario? That’s food. Real world counterpart? Money!

In Agario, the more food pellets you eat, the bigger you get. In the coporate world, the more money you make, the more profitable your company is.

You could also look at it from the perspective of market share. Each little pellet is like a customer transaction. Each time you eat a pellet, you’re basically selling someone your product or service, and you're getting the resulting profit.

Really small cells can only do one transaction at a time, while large cells can sweep through an entire field of pellets in one swoop. (Idk, maybe I’m going WAY too far with this. You tell me in the comments).

Also, another thing to note: by pressing W in Agario, you release little bits of yourself, which can become food to others in the game. In a way, that’s kind of like your capital, which you can use to invest in things like viruses or other players.

Now I'm going to go even further. Occasionally those W's actually become new players themselves. Think of an equivalent corporate example, like IBM and Microsoft.

I mean, Microsoft basically grew out of IBM, back when personal computers were a "specialty item". Imagine a big IBM cell hitting the W key in Agario, and all of the sudden this tiny little Microsoft cell appears, swimming along, seeming like it's not going to be a threat at all, ever.

It quickly swims off. And then a little while later, Microsoft suddenly comes back around. And it's this massive cell now. And it starts eating IBM, the company that created it. True story. That basically actually happened in the real world. And it could happen in Agario too. Something to think about...

Dow Jones Graph
Dow Jones Graph
Agario Graph
Agario Graph

Leaderboard – NASDAQ

Ok, maybe this is a bit of a stretch, but you can kind of see what I’m saying, right? If you’re listed on the NASDAQ, you’re legit. You’re a big company and everybody knows it.

Same with the Agario leaderboard. If you’re up there, you’re big. People are looking for “jimmySlash98”.

They want to find you so they can team up with you, or maybe take you down. There are greater stakes once you’re up there, but also greater rewards.

Not to mention, the graphs at the end of the game seriously resemble graphs used in the stock market...just sayin'.

Lag – Economic Crisis

Alright, I know the joke is getting a little old at this point. But seriously, we’ve all been there. (I’m imagining myself talking to a room full of avid Agario players). You’re huge, you’re feeling good, and then suddenly everything FREEZES.

And then some slightly bigger ding-bag just comes along and eats you whole. Kind of like how Lehman Brothers failed in 2008…alright I just can’t keep a straight face anymore.

Before I wrap this up, I just wanted to say a couple more things (as I desperately try to piece together all this nonsense for a decent conclusion).

There’s a lot of luck involved in Agario. Just like there’s a lot of luck involved in the markets. In life. Timing is everything.

In Agario, sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time. You’re there when some big cell gets totally destroyed by a virus, and you get to quickly slurp up all the pieces and skyrocket to the leaderboard.

Or maybe some guy just got tired of playing the game and you had a funny username, so he decided to give you all of his mass. That happens too (sometimes).

But on the flip side, there's also a certain amount of hard work involved. Everyone starts small. At the bottom. No one's born big, and I think that's in line with what the American Dream is all about (bear with me here).

Agario is basically like a super-simplified meritocratic capitalist economy. Seriously. No seriously. It has a currency, which creates profit, which creates competition, which creates capitalism. It's a simplified simulation of a real economy, with real players interacting, adapting, and growing.

It's all about people working their way to the top from nothing. And that's the American Dream, plain and simple. That's idealist capitalism.

Here's where it gets interesting. Nowhere on Agar.io does it actually tell you that the game is about getting as big as possible. That's just what we (as the Internet, and as people) collectively decided the game was going to be about. That's just what we assumed it was.

And that's what makes it so compelling...so real. We all kind of created the game together, as a society, and modeled it after our own capitalist culture; our eat-or-be-eaten, survival-of-the-fittest, hunter-hunted world.

All the creators really did was make an open-ended platform with a few simple rules, and human nature filled in the rest of the blanks.

I think that's what makes this game so timeless and so fascinating. That's what keeps bringing people back to Agario time and time again. You know it's going to be hard work to get to the top. And you never know what to expect, because every game is different.

But you know it'll all be worth it once you're up there. It's like a new rags to riches story every time. And that's the hook. People want success. But they also want to feel like they've earned it. Agario makes you earn it.

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