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Getting Played: Gameification and the Rise of Algorithmic Surveillance

4S San Diego

4S San Diego

I’ll be speaking as part of a panel Surveillance and the Mediation of Big Data: II at the 4S (Society for Social Studies of Science) Annual Meeting in San Diego on Friday, October 11th, 10:30AM to Noon. You can find more information available online here.

Gameification, the idea that game mechanics can be integrated into assumed “non-game” circumstances has gained ascendance amongst champions of marketing, behavior change and efficiency. Ironically, some of the most heated critique to gameification has been the broader community of “traditional” videogame developers. Connecting broadly to projects surrounding “big data” and algorithmic surveillance, the project of gameification continues to expand and intensify. This paper examines the complex relationship between game designers and the rise of arguments in support of gameification. The essay presents an analysis of the various actors and interests mobilizing arguments, deconstructing their underlying assumptions about the relationship between games and social phenomena. Turning to an analytic framework rooted in Actor-Network Theory (Latour, 1999) and work in Game Studies on the Assemblage of Play (Taylor, 2009) and emergent forms of (played) control (Taylor, 2006) the essay critiques assumptions on either side of the debate on the role of games and play. The strained connections between debates on gameification and broader interest in serious games offers an important moment to explore algorithmic surveillance.

About Casey O'Donnell

Casey O'Donnell is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University. He is part of the games faculty and Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) lab at MSU. He is also part of the game development collective Affinity Games. His research examines the creative collaborative work of videogame design and development. This research examines the cultural and collaborative dynamics that occur in both professional "AAA" organizations and formal and informal "independent" game development communities. His research has spanned game development companies from the United States to India. His research examines issues of work, production, copyright, as well as third world and postcolonial aspects of the videogame development workplace.

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