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December 28, 2011 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Are you encourages in your place of work by the use of gamification? Congratulations, comrade, you are treading in the footsteps of Soviet Russia!
posted by Artw (50 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
In Soviet Russia, the game plays you!
posted by vidur at 11:41 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Soviet Russia... goddamnit vidur!
posted by kmz at 11:43 AM on December 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


Gamification in the workplace is just a way to create rewards that don't subtract from the only thing really important to the company, profit. If they don't care enough to give you more money, they don't really care.

In most companies I've worked for, the monetary rewards did not closely track with gamification awards, unless the same person rewarded both and directly used those for performance reviews.
posted by zabuni at 11:46 AM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


The glorious MeFi state will now shower the industrious vidur with favorites in sharp contrast to the the slovenly kmz, who will receive none and will no doubt now start worrying about a call from the secret Moderators.
posted by Artw at 11:47 AM on December 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


Ah, gaming. I initially thought "gamification" meant "improving things through the use of attractive women's legs."
posted by kinnakeet at 11:47 AM on December 28, 2011 [17 favorites]


Where I work, whenever a staffer, such as me, completes a task and updates the shared task list in the project folder, a bell chirps on the desktop, and a little stream of saliva begins to pool.
posted by notyou at 11:49 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


In Soviet Russia, footsteps tread on YOU.

And 'encourages' does something something to you, yadda yadda, humina humina.

But seriously, I think large corporate entities do a lot more than that to emulate Soviet Russia. (I'll hold back the snark about Steve Jobs' "cult of personality"... oops.) But then I got praise from a college professor in '76 when I asked if the USSR was not much more than a Multinational Corporation With Nukes (NOT a Business professor), so maybe it was originally the other way around.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:52 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dr. Bruce Banner suggests improvements in the workplace by the use of gamafication.

More effective than than gamification, but unglamorous.
posted by The Bellman at 11:52 AM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


IS VERY AMUSE.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:53 AM on December 28, 2011


Imagine a boot stomping on an 8-bit, anthropomorphic mushroom--forever.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:54 AM on December 28, 2011 [13 favorites]


I was once in an upper management meeting where the boss asked what we could buy everyone for under US$2.00 that would improve moral.

Seriously.

I suggested pizza. He said he'd been thinking of a pen with the company logo. 4 months later, they had a pizza party for everyone. Moral continued to be horrible (because employees were treated poorly) and, a couple weeks after I was terminated, the company went into bankruptcy.
posted by QIbHom at 12:04 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Part of his answer was a theory of "socialist competition", in which factories and individuals were to compete against each other within systems that bear greater or lesser resemblance to game mechanics, and success at the game is symbolically rewarded. A factory might be awarded points for its performance, and win commendations as it surpasses various point thresholds.

The article doesn't really get into it, but a big part of why things like this were necessary for the Soviets was that their centrally controlled economy was heavily dependent upon data and metrics for making decisions. So while a capitalist factory might survive or fail based on how much profit is made from the sale of the products they produce, a Soviet factory's fate was determined directly by things like the total number of units they could produce in a single month. Once an evaluation gets distilled down into a single game-able metric, it makes sense to reward employees for gaming the metric. Of course this caused all sorts of problems when the metrics were not actually aligned with what was actually good for the economy, such as ending up with a massive surplus of cheap shoes that no one wanted because the factories needed to hit their quotas, rather than producing better or more stylish shoes that there was actually a demand for or just not producing as many shoes at all. The Soviet system was dysfunctional for a lot of reasons, but a big part of it was that the game that everyone was trying to win became more and more divorced from reality.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:05 PM on December 28, 2011 [13 favorites]


Ah, gaming. I initially thought "gamification" meant "improving things through the use of attractive women's legs."

It's big in the private eye industry.
posted by yoink at 12:05 PM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


We have gamification at my job. You earn an in-game currency called "dollars" and there's a boss round called "annual performance evaluation." If you get past the boss, you get more dollars you can spend on in-game stuff like food, mortgage payments and iPads. It's a pretty flexible system, but the badges sort of lack graphical flair:

--
Michael Hall
michael@foo.com
Sheriff of Web Development and Mayor of Analytics

posted by mph at 12:05 PM on December 28, 2011 [20 favorites]


This may be the core problem with the current capitalism model in the US. If money is the only important thing, then the only way to reward workers is more money, but, since money is the only important thing, the bosses don't want to give more than the minimum to the workers, since that means that there is less for the bosses, which means that workers feel neglected, work stalls, and the whole system falters....
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:07 PM on December 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


I would prefer a system where you get random drops of lethal weapons. And hats.

Ohhhh...a vintage pickelhaube! Thanks Boss!
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 12:10 PM on December 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


I want a job where you're encouraged by gamahuchification.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:13 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


If they don't care enough to give you more money, they don't really care.

This is very true, and a lot of young people are going do a lot of jar-breaking before they learn this the hard way.
posted by mhoye at 12:16 PM on December 28, 2011


So feared and hated tyrants have utilised gamification to in a doomed attempt to deceive their brutalised and alienated work-force that they do not simply despise them.............AND they tried it in the USSR too! ARF ARF!
posted by howfar at 12:17 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Once an evaluation gets distilled down into a single game-able metric, it makes sense to reward employees for gaming the metric.

Luckily, that will never happen here.
posted by gauche at 12:17 PM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Re: Soviet gamification and making things 'more fun', I remember a Soviet young adult story, probably from the 1960s or 1970s, where the teachers at some school start a sort of a socialist competition for the students where everyone gets points for good behaviour (and negative points for bad stuff); at the end of each day, the points are plotted on a line graph so that you could see how well your class is doing, and at the end of the competition, the winning class is supposed to...get a cake or something. Anyway, the protagonists of the story turn this game into a game of their own and use the graph as a primitive plotting device, and at the end of the first week, after some touching up, their graph read something like "RUBBISH". So I guess it was quite obvious even to them that gamification isn't always the answer.
posted by daniel_charms at 12:21 PM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


...a couple weeks after I was terminated, the company went into bankruptcy

Well, yeah, what with wasting all that money on pizza...
posted by LordSludge at 12:22 PM on December 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I would prefer a system where you get random drops of lethal weapons. And hats.

Ohhhh...a vintage pickelhaube! Thanks Boss!


No thanks, my office is messy enough without having to clear out a drawer for health potions.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:23 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd be more efficient if there were death traps. Also probably dead.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:32 PM on December 28, 2011


You know what industry uses gamification pretty effectively? Wall Street.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:32 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want a job where you're encouraged by gamahuchification.

Maid to a wealthy Victorian gentleman.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:34 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, yeah, what with wasting all that money on pizza...

Think of all the extra work they could have done with a good quality $2 dollar pen. They're all dead of unemployment now...YOU MONSTER!
posted by howfar at 12:35 PM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Of course this caused all sorts of problems when the metrics were not actually aligned with what was actually good for the economy, such as ending up with a massive surplus of cheap shoes that no one wanted financial derivatives instruments that nobody understood or appropriately valued because the factories bankers needed to hit their quotas, rather than producing writing better or more stylish shoes reasonable mortgages that there was actually a demand for or just not producing as many shoes at pretending that housing prices were going to defy gravity forever after all.

burnmp3s, I love, love, love your comment and I'm not trying to derail this into a US economy thread.

I think gamification is a fascinating topic in part because it can create really destructive positive feedback loops when games are not well-designed and continually re-visited to ensure that they are capturing everything that needs to be captured. Jack Stack's book A Stake in the Outcome talks a lot about how important it is to iterate your game design. If you don't, your economy ends up with big problems.
posted by gauche at 12:35 PM on December 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Can I put my gamerscore on my resume? It's pretty high, guys! They should respect my diligence and ability to sit in my recliner all Saturday.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:38 PM on December 28, 2011


Can I put my gamerscore on my resume?

Only if you also put on there whether or not you played that full gamerscore in under 5 minutes Airbender game.
posted by kmz at 12:43 PM on December 28, 2011


Ah, gaming. I initially thought "gamification" meant "improving things through the use of attractive women's legs."

Funny, at first I thought it had something to do with flying, giant turtles in my workplace.

That would be cool.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:54 PM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Only if you also put on there whether or not you played that full gamerscore in under 5 minutes Airbender game.

I did as a joke when approaching my friends GS back in our racing days. He was displeased.

I worked at a videostore! It was freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:09 PM on December 28, 2011


I once owned an original "Hero Mother of the Soviet Union" medal. Have 10 kids, get a medal! Achievement unlocked!
posted by Meatbomb at 1:26 PM on December 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


So. I believe this word is pronounced gay-muh-fih-cay-shun. Not gam "rhymes with sham" -ification. Right?

Also I think it's a terrible word but we're stuck with it 'til 'gamularity' catches on.
posted by Mister_A at 1:29 PM on December 28, 2011


I want a job where you're encouraged by gamahuchification.

And then there's gamelanification--where you're encouraged by traditional Balinese music.
posted by yoink at 1:57 PM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Points could be a good way for some employees to track their goals and projects — and watching others accumulate these points motivates many workers to do better."

Except when it motivates people to do worse. (Here's one.) I read a study a while ago about finance and law workplaces, where high performers are highly rewarded, and it typically becomes clear within the office who's going to be the high performer early on, and everyone else says, "Aw, fuck it, I won't get the bonus, so I'm going to do the minimum to keep my job," and they do LESS than they did before differentiated merit pay came online, and the difference is not made up by the high performers. So overall productivity drops and employee morale plummets.

I participated in a "friendly" fitness challenge where we got points for doing various fitness things, and participants had helped design the challenge, everyone threw in $5 or something, and the winner got the pot (which was around $200 or so) at the end, while everyone else who participated got like a movie ticket gift certificate or something like that. What quickly became apparent was that one of the women who'd helped design it, who'd urged the "all-or-nothing" pot as a way to push people to compete and do their best, was HIGHLY motivated by competition, able to be focused-ly obsessive about things like exercise for short periods of time, and was highly motivated by money. It was a six week challenge and she leapt out to such a commanding lead in the first week -- exercising like four hours a day after work in order to make sure she had an insurmountable lead -- that everyone else was like, "yep, that's an insurmountable lead" and everyone else quit participating by week three because there was no chance to win. The highly-motivated woman, who won, quit exercising as soon as the challenge was over. She wanted to do it again, to force herself to exercise, but everyone else who participated thought it was no fun at all.

Anyway, gaming is only fun when you're succeeding at least a little bit. When you lose repeatedly it's just stupid and not worth doing any longer.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:00 PM on December 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


If you like games and you like Russian stuff, check out Peasant Muse - a blog that talks about both!

http://www.peasantmuse.com/
posted by k8t at 2:06 PM on December 28, 2011


See also "Goodheart's Law", "Campbell's Law"... I think even "Reynolds' Law" is just another special case of the same effect.

Rewarding people can motivate them, but if rewarding people for doing what you want them to do is too complicated, rewarding them for doing something that just correlates with what you want won't be an improvement, it will just destroy that correlation as they figure out how to game the system.
posted by roystgnr at 2:38 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


This, IMO, is just another loser from the "management mind". Not everything important can be objectively measured. In fact, some of the most important metrics of what I would consider a good employee can't be objectified.

Personally, I find the contest system anti-motivational; I can't be the only one. And I usually don't enjoy being around people who are motivated by it.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:44 PM on December 28, 2011


I use this all the time. Of course, I use it in the classroom, with kids. It works, because it makes using target language into a team activity, and they're young enough to consider victory it's own reward. For the older group I teach, I actually give them reward in terms of their participation grade.

The thing is, it's unfair as hell. Some of my students are just better at English, and so I need to slant the games, rework seating charts, all to make sure pairs or teams won't be heavily lopsided because as mentioned above, if you've got no chance of winning, you're probably going to give up pretty quickly.

But that's for a school situation. It can make learning fun. In the workplace? I'm not there to have fun, I'm there because I have a family and a mortgage. If work is intrinsically fun, that's great, but I'm still there to obtain money in exchange for the work I do. Inserting a layer of "game" on top of the shit I already have to do just increases the annoyance factor.

Years back, as a summer job, I worked at Best Buy, and I was hired to help move the store a little further down the strip mall. We were under a tight schedule, but there was just a buttload of goofing off going on. We had several meetings about it and everyone had to stop everything to attend them. We ended up opening a day later than we'd actually planned, and ended up not being able to do the soft opening that had been planned. For the last push, the manager called another meeting, at the end of which, he led the employees behind the store. Across the alley was a circuit city, and he actually led everyone in a freaking Best Buy cheer, or so I heard. I was busy getting my job done.

Team spirit? Games? It's noise, it's unnecessary. If the work isn't fun, if morale is low, it's probably due to the inordinate amount of bullshit the workers have to put up with, and adding more layers of shit probably isn't going to help matters.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:05 PM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


As my father used to say back when he was an insurance salesman about winning sales awards that did not have a cash/paid dinner or vacation prize, "Well, THIS is bullshit. I can't eat a fucking trophy"
posted by KingEdRa at 3:22 PM on December 28, 2011


The problem is, I keep going down into the basement, looking for diamond blocks.
posted by exlotuseater at 3:36 PM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Second prize is a set of steak knives
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:45 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


COFFEE'S for CLOSERS!

Oh, damnitall, fearfulsymmetry...
posted by GameDesignerBen at 3:51 PM on December 28, 2011


Honestly, Glengarry was running through my head during that last meeting. If it'd been me running the meeting, I'd most like have said to everyone, "Hey everyone, you know (insert name of girl and her friend who'd spent most of their time giving each other rides on trolleys). We all like her. She's fun. She's also not doing a damn thing, and we're not being paid to play. So she's fired. Anyone else feel like not getting the job done? Meeting's over, we've got work to do."

Then again, I'm pretty sure I'd be a lousy manager.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:04 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Clause 5; Exception 43-b: It is capitalist rather than soviet to spend lots of time trying to gamify stuff in the workplace when you work for a company that sells the games that you create.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:38 PM on December 28, 2011


I was present recently at a discussion session at my university, with mainly HR people, and also some senior executive people, and a bunch of researchers. The topic was how we could encourage employees to do their work. I was totally baffled by the fact that the HR people and senior executives seemed to have no concept that there actually already is a complex system of incentives and rewards (and punishments) in play in academia. You get a paper accepted, you improve your CV, and your citation rates. And you have a better chance at getting that next grant. Which means you get to (depending on your employment status): stay employed, or be competitive for a continuing position, employ research assistants, or pay someone to take over your teaching duties while you work solely on research for six months which allows you to publish more papers, rinse and repeat. Also, if you get grants you can hire (as TAs, research assistants, postdocs, or research fellows) those of your colleagues who are on fixed term contracts and otherwise would be unemployed next semester. And then you get to not have to watch while your friends' careers go down the drain.

But HR was trying to figure out if a monetary bonus of a few hundred dollars per accepted paper would improve publication rates. And the executive thought that maybe we needed to be paying senior people more so that junior people would work harder to get promoted.

It's not that I object to getting more money, but I cannot imagine that any researcher at any university would put more effort into getting published for the sake of $200 than he/she already is for the sake of a line on the CV.

Does this mean academia is already gamified? It's not exactly... fun. Imposter syndrome as 'game', hmm?
posted by lollusc at 7:50 PM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I always thought the core idea of "gamification" was the use of Skinnerian conditioning techniques, not the use of non-monetary rewards. The reason that clueless managers like it is they think they can replace cash rewards with conditioning (thus retaining more cash for themselves). But you could gamify just as well using cash. (It doesn't sound like Mark Nelson (the author of the linked "Soviet Gamification" essay) would fundamentally disagree with this, but a lot of the comments in this thread seem to be written with the idea that gamification is just the use of non-monetary rewards.)
posted by hattifattener at 11:01 PM on December 28, 2011


The worst thing about these fscking stupid managerial trends is that the people selling them are less hucksters out for a quick and easy buck selling the wrong solution to a non-existing problem, but genuine true believers who actually buy into all this bullshit.

I've seen it a lot around the office: those who can, work; those who can't, invest all their time and energy in those stupid h.r. games.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:09 AM on December 29, 2011


2012 will be the Year of Gamification, comrades!
posted by Artw at 4:45 PM on January 4, 2012


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