In recent modern day society there has been a peculiar new obsession with gamifying each aspect of our lives; Classrooms, sales, small businesses… Gamification is growing and becoming imbedded into the more practical aspects of life. It’s an unusual phenomenon. In this blog post I want to relate what we have talked about in class to gamification, providing a viewpoint of why this might be happening and a couple different perspectives as to what this means.
So what exactly is Gamification? Essentially, it is turning everyday activities into games. Gamification usually involves a point system. That is, doing good work will earn you more points and doing sub-satisfactory will earn you less. It might reward a student in a class for achieving a certain pre-set goal (the same structure as our “Concept of Power” class). It also incorporates competition, Using co-workers and colleagues as measurements of ones own success. Competition has always been an inherent part of both human nature and games. Having employees or teams compete creates a drive and a passion for higher performance. The overall result from gamification is a heightened work ethic. People become more passionate, efficient, and work harder.
In Chattanooga, TN, a young up and coming company has already hopped on this idea. Ambition, also known as “fantasy football for sales teams,” helps other companies “Gamify” their workspace. Using their computer and phone software, companies are given the customized lay-out needed to effectively turn work into a game, and ultimately create a more efficient work-force. They use peer competition, scores, teams, and a leader board system. Ambition has found much success in this industry as well. They have won awards, and also secured some pretty substantial clients. You can learn more about Ambition on their website here.
What is it about this concept of gamification that is so appealing and effective? In a world where work has become monotonous, industrious, and autonomous, one could say that gamifying people’s lives returns a lost sense of accomplishment. People need a relevant goal to achieve in order to feel passionate about what they do, and games help inspire that. However, In Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the “Spirit” of Capitalism, the author uses “the machine” as a unique analogy that might serve as an excuse to why people prefer games over work.
The “machine” as Weber describes it arose from asceticism– with its radical view on efficiency and productivity. As time passed, however, the spirit of asceticism left, while its ethos did not. The religious drive that helped this lifestyle become complete and balanced has disappeared with time. What society is left with is the machine– an unstoppable, inescapable influence over mankind which forces those born into it to adjust with the ways in which society is run. The hard-working, profit-producing spirit of capitalism still remains, as Weber states “‘doing ones job’ cannot be directly linked to the highest spiritual and cultural values.” (Weber 121).
From this viewpoint, we can see how gamifying might be a coping mechanism for one’s lack of purpose in society. Humans are trapped in this mechanical society, but no longer are able to make work a part of their inherent values. As a result, working loses its meaning, and people begin to half-heartedly do their jobs. Gamification returns the meaning to work by giving work a more relevant factor. Through achievement and competition, gamifying peoples lives makes them feel in control and effectively battles the machine which Weber describes.
Another interesting, somewhat funny, viewpoint that should be considered is from that of a Marxist. This is a pretty obvious point, but not one people may think about often; that a company like Ambition serves only the bourgeoisie by re-sparking the good little capitalist in all the proletarians of society; all for the sole purpose of making more profit for themselves. The illusion that gamification’s purpose is to make our lives more pleasant is only a front for an opportunity to make large corporations more money. I mean….. the slogan of Ambition IS “Ambition makes companies more money.” Moreover, not only is Ambition serving the bourgeoisie, but they themselves are making a huge profit off of their business, creating a classic, ironic circle of bourgeoisie winningness.
Personally, I chose to write about this because I feel gamification, on some level truly does have a connection to the trapped state in which lower working classes are found. Obviously my thoughts are up to interpretation. Whether gamification is a coping mechanism to deal with the way in which society is run, or simply another economic tool to benefit the bourgeoisie, or both, there is something about the relation between gamifying work and our society as a whole that is relevant to us and fascinating. Please comment and share your own opinions of this subject!