The Gamification of Work

 In Ideas

Ender’s Game and its element of attack by a hostile alien species are, thankfully, wholly within the realm of science fiction. However, the idea that people could be working while they play a video game—in some instances without even knowing that they are working—is becoming part of our reality. In the language of cyberspace, introducing elements of play and gaming into non-game situations is known as the process of “gamification.”  Gamification is an important element of what in previous writing I have termed “virtual work,” that is, work taking place at the intersection of the Internet, crowdsourcing arrangements, and virtual worlds.  Virtual work is part of a broader transformation of work from assembly lines to knowledge and information. Indeed, in her book From Widgets to Digits, Katherine Van Wezel Stone documents how the manufacturing economy is increasingly giving way to work based on knowledge work. Professor Stone insightfully catalogues these systemic changes.  Gamification, like some other forms of virtual work, blurs the line between “work” and “leisure.” The gamification of work is a growing trend with important implications for employment law.  Analyzing this topic will help us make sensible choices about regulation (or the lack thereof) of these new forms of work.

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