Main Article Content
By their nature, digital games facilitate surveillance. They allow for the compilation of statistics, internal states, and rules to be recorded, thus hiding many of the internal workings from the players and making the games much more complex. This digitization makes it much easier to collect player data and metrics, and then, as a process of function creep, to use this data in new and innovative ways, such as improving the user experience, or subtly shaping users' in-game desires and behaviours. Increasingly, these practices have moved from non-game spaces into social networking sites and spaces of play.
The "gamification" movement is benefiting from the increasing sophistication of such metrics. Gamification combines the playful design and feedback mechanisms from games with users' social profiles (e.g. Facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn) in non-game applications explicitly geared to drive behavioural change (e.g. weight loss, workplace productivity, educational tools, and consumer loyalty). As critics point out, gamified applications rely on the points, leaderboards, and badges often seen in games, but are not games in themselves (Deterding 2010; Bogost 2011). Advocates of the gamification movement - including Al Gore in a recent Games for Change keynote - argue that this monitoring and feedback makes difficult tasks more playful and enjoyable (McGonigal 2011; Gore 2011). However, the marketing and political discourse of using games to change behaviour in positive ways is quite different from messy actualities rooted in advertising, consumption, and intrusive user monitoring. The current potentials to ‘gamify’ life have incited debate on whether the spread of these points based systems heralds playful utopias or dystopic surveillant societies run by corporations and advertisers.
This paper highlights the rise of gamification and the implications for surveillance studies. In particular, it focuses on describing the increasingly intrusive monitoring practices are propagated under the banner of fun and play.
Surveillance & Society uses a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
- The author. The author licenses the article to the Surveillance Studies Network (SSN) for inclusion in Surveillance & Society (S&S), right of first publication. The copyright to the article remains with the author and any subsequent commercial reuse must be agreed by both parties.
- Non-commercial Users. SSN authorises all persons to use material published in S&S in any manner that is not primarily intended for or directed to commerical advantage or private monetary compensation, also provided that it is not modified and retains all attribution notices.
- Commercial Users. SSN retains the right to benefit from commerical reuse, in each specific case subject to the agreement of the author, and payment to SSN of a standard per-page fee (set by a vote of the Network and Editorial Board) by the Commercial User.
- Surveillance & Society supports open access archives and the free distribution of the results of academic work. Authors are encouraged to place copies of the final published version of their article in their university and / or other open access archives. We only ask that you make sure to include a link to the original published version on the Surveillance & Society website.