Just watched the Gamification episode of Extra Credits.

One part shows a cartoon Earth menaced by a Cthulhu tentacle reaching out from a colossal void. The voiceover says “The world is facing a really weird crisis right now…” Hmm, the crisis of capitalism? The burgeoning environmental catastrophe? Peak oil? No! We face “…a crisis of engagement.”

Anyway…the thesis is that the problem with the world is that we’re too distracted by the spectacle to do anything, but games can hold our attention. If ordinary life is ‘gamified’ then we’ll all do good things and the world will be a better place. According to Extra Credits this idea “sounds like it could be the key to solving all of our problems with education, to making the workplace more exciting, to getting people to want to re-engage and become socially responsible.”

Extra Credits seems to think that the problem with hospitals and schools isn’t political or economic, isn’t that they’re run like businesses instead of public services; it’s that they aren’t enough like games! All you have to do is make this stuff fun and they’ll work perfectly!

So the solution to the problems of the world is motivational gaming. Brilliant. Because motivational speaking was so good, right? Extra Credits also suggests the amazing innovation of targets and quotas. If you call it “levelling up”, then it’s fun!

"The Giants of the Five Year Plan"

I’m guessing from reviews that this is the same thesis as Reality is Broken. My only contact with the book so far has been the depressing Chain World incident, but this ‘gamification’ stuff sounds like pure self-help nonsense. For years positive thinking has told people that anything bad that happens to them is their fault, that they just weren’t thinking properly, they didn’t have the right attitude. Don’t blame your boss if you get downsized. Don’t get angry – get happy and good things will come to you!

Positive thinking is pure pseudoscience that puts everything on the individual so no one will blame the structural problems in society. It looks like ‘gamification’ is stepping up to take the place of it. The twist now is that instead of thinking yourself better or motivating yourself better you will now game yourself better. Because that’s what doctors and teachers need, right? More work. Making management bureaucracy come in the form of Call of Duty is not going to stop it from being a total waste of time.

This sort of thing shows how truly limited individualism really is. No need for a critique of structural problems, no need for collective action to force a change to those structural problems. No, just change your own habits and that’s it. Buy the right coffee, think happy thoughts and play the magic games that fix society.

I know we’re talking about videogames here, but where are the adults?