You’ve Been Played: How Corporations, Governments, and Schools Use Games To Control Us All

Basic: Perseus. Sept. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9781541600171. $30. POL SCI
As a trained neuroscientist and game developer, Hon (A History of the Future in 100 Objects) takes a detailed look at how gamification is permeating every aspect of people’s lives. After examining the incentives behind wildly successful videogames like his own Zombies, Run!, he explores gamification’s use by companies like Amazon, Uber, Peloton, and Apple. He argues that the reward system that motivates people to complete tasks in daily life (such as a double star day at Starbucks) is manipulative and often ruins tasks at work, in schools, and within the larger geopolitical system. The examples are topical and include COVID, China’s social credit scores, and QAnon. After thoroughly studying society’s compulsion loop, Hon refrains from introducing the word “addiction” to his argument, settling instead on a status of “softlock” (an area of stalled progress) to describe the current relationship between gamification and society, leaving readers to wonder whether it is really their responsibility to humanize the gaming industry and its influence.
VERDICT An expansive view of how gamification permeates modern culture that lacks a strong conclusion.
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