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Zynga employees speak out on 'doing evil'


Google has been long-admired for its unique company motto: "Don't Be Evil." Critics will note that some of Google's practices have fallen from that mantra, but it's a better place to start than, say, Zynga, the company known for the popular Facebook games FarmVille and Mafia Wars. "Zynga's motto is 'Do Evil,'" a former employee of the company told SF Weekly. "I would venture to say it is one of the most evil places I've run into, from a culture perspective and in its business approach. I've tried my best to make sure that friends don't let friends work at Zynga."

The driving force behind this bitterness and resentment of Zygna is the company's derivative culture. "You're not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers," one employee recalls Zynga's founder, Mark Pincus, telling the team. The SF Weekly report shows clear examples of Zygna's copy-paste attitude: there's Farm Town (pictured right), which preceded FarmVille (left) by months; and Playfish's Restaurant City, coming before Zynga's Cafe World.

Zygna has already been sued by Digital Chocolate for the use of the Mafia Wars name. According to another employee, lawsuits have been accounted for, with the company mindful of possible settlements. "I was around meetings where things like that were being discussed, and the ramifications of things like that were being discussed -- the fact that they'd probably be sued by the people who designed the game," he says. "And the thought was, 'Well, that's fine, we'll settle.' Our case wasn't really defensible."

Supposedly, things are changing. With hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the company, the public has been placing much more attention on Zynga's upcoming games. The era of the quick copy-paste cash-in may be over for Zynga, with at least one employee saying that there's a "new emphasis on original content and more sophisticated applications to draw in and keep users."

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