In a future age of technology and machinery, humans no longer need to perform physical grunt work.

The most menial of jobs are performed by very simplistic machines. These are not learning or intelligent AI, they are simply robots.

The jobs which require problem-solving or other characteristics which cannot be done by simple robots have been abstracted into various games. We had once depended on incredibly intelligent problem-solving AI, but they turned against us and we no longer trust computers to make those level of decisions anymore.

On any given day, a person can fire up their favorite game - or even a new one. They can participate in practice sessions, which don't count towards their score. In fact, in all games it is required to reach a certain level of proficiency before being allowed to play in a way which influences your score. If you were to play a regular session and fantastically failed for whatever reason, the cost of the failure is taken out from your score.

Your score is very important. It is essentially your money - and it is what you trade for goods or services.

Obviously, some games will be more popular than others. The importance of the game being played is always weighed against the number of people able and willing to play it. - In this way possible score values can be manipulated to encourage players to play games which need more players.

Are there obvious drawbacks that I need to account for in this setting?

  • $\begingroup$ Why is a non-intelligent AI called an AI? $\endgroup$ – Samuel Jul 29 '15 at 21:18
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ We prefer the term synthetic life. $\endgroup$ – punkerplunk Jul 29 '15 at 21:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This kind of reminds me of Ender's Game. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Torres Sánchez Jul 30 '15 at 0:02
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Important question: Are people aware that the games they play are actually real jobs? If so, the situation's not actually that different to how people work/play for points/money now, except for the ubiquitous UI design and it being a little easier to change careers. If not, you've got a very interesting lie-based civilisation on your hands... $\endgroup$ – user867 Jul 30 '15 at 0:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Here's a potential pitfall: smbc-comics.com/?id=2286 $\endgroup$ – Erik Jul 30 '15 at 5:13

This is essentially an attitude shift away from how things are now.

But with some significant drawbacks.

If people considered their current jobs as games, the concept would be the same. There are finite jobs/games available, because there are limited positions/robots capable of working at the same time. You have to be qualified to work/play at a certain job/game. You earn money/points for working/playing which you trade for goods and services.

The main difference is that work is done remotely, through a robotic surrogate. There is some work on this, the telepresence aspect, in regards to elderly care and tourism. Even Apple sells a telepresence robot. Moving from straight telepresence to gamification is simply an abstraction on the reality of the situation.

The drawbacks would be things like:

  • Child labor law violations. People could teach their children the simpler games and have them working rather than going to school.
  • Hacking of other people's accounts to cause damage and get that person banned from that game (fired). Personal responsibility in general may be called into question.
  • Connection latency could come into play for timing sensitive jobs like communicating with other humans or navigating traffic.
  • It also removes humans from what is really happening. It makes things unreal to people. Certain jobs would be dangerous for bystanders if the person keeping them safe, driving them home, or operating heavy machines was disconnected from the danger in what they are doing.

In summary, for all jobs to become gamified would be a disaster. But to limit it to certain simple jobs no one wants to do already is brilliant. It could be similar to a service like Uber. Regular people could log in to a time-multiplexed robot and perform simple tasks through a game like interface. It may even be advantageous to use multiple people on a single session to make sure a single person doesn't have full control. Like a pilot and copilot system. These people would be rated on their work and a higher rating would allow for higher priority on jobs while a low rating could result in a banning from the system.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Do you think the "realness" of a situation could be communicated somehow? At first, I considered that, loss of human life (due to your error) is simply a massive point loss - considering the financial and personal losses a driver today would suffer if they hit somebody (even with insurance). If they knew, beforehand and after, that they had just killed someone - would it still be too dangerous? $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Jul 29 '15 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ @DoubleDouble Honestly I don't even know how to communicate to people today the realness of potential dangers in driving a vehicle they are actually really driving. Just look around on the freeway at the number of people texting and talking on the phone and I think we can conclude it's a basic problem of human evolution that we can't actually appreciate moving 100km/hr in a metal box. The best solution for the gamified version of a driver would be to monitor them to make sure they are really paying attention. Of course transitioning gamers would be tricky... $\endgroup$ – Samuel Jul 29 '15 at 22:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm not usually economically rightist, but in some ways gamification would reduce the need for child labour laws. You might still want to mandate that children must be educated, but gamified jobs could help to prevent the onerous conditions that children are protected from by labour laws. Ofc the devil is in the details, but if "gamification" implies that the job can be played a couple of hours a day then it might be very suitable for a child alongside school. Current child labour laws don't really protect children from their parents anyway, there are other mechanisms for that. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Jul 30 '15 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ @SteveJessop I'm in agreement. But we're listing drawbacks here. More kids these days should learn the value of good work. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Jul 30 '15 at 7:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Samuel: re "transitioning players", I guess a lot of games won't have a "pause" or "insta-quit" button, and if a player tries to quit on the freeway then they risk losing points to pay for the resulting pileup. This might make sense anyway: you can do what you like if you can afford it, but since almost all people can't afford it they won't do it. Perhaps you'd need to purchase insurance in order to enter jobs with a risk of a higher points penalty than your current balance. re children: the drawback could come in the same form as WoW addiction: a well-designed game/job sucks kids in. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Jul 30 '15 at 7:59

You need to account for Supply vs Demand.

Certain games will be more popular than others. The popularity of games will almost certainly not line up exactly with the amount of work that needs to be done. Some games you'll have way too much work done, some you won't have nearly enough.

You could balance this with a smart system that gives point multipliers to high-demand jobs (this smart system could, itself, be another game). In general, you should also try to ensure that more people play the games than are needed, since if you drop below the required amount in certain jobs - like say, for a nuclear safety technician - things might get ugly.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I tried to cover this with the short paragraph on, "Obviously, some games will be more popular than others..." - which I think is the same as the "smart system" - It is a big thing to keep an eye on though, maybe it should also be able to introduce limits to the number of players. $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Jul 29 '15 at 21:35

One obvious drawback is people cheating or even hacking the games. This would manipulate their score, serve no benefit towards the workload and undermine the whole system. You can guaruntee people would try to do this. I guess you'd need extreme surveillence to prevent them.

  • $\begingroup$ If you don't hack points from the machine, you're hacking points from your family :( $\endgroup$ – punkerplunk Jul 29 '15 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ I hadn't considered the hacking perspective. It could be that you could only send your inputs across the connection, (game itself is run from the server and you are just a terminal), which calls into question whether latency or connection issues are ever a problem in the future. $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Jul 29 '15 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ There is always a way to hack something, no matter how sandboxed and secure you make it. Having said that, a lot of money is technically just numbers stored in computers now-a-days, however those computers aren't connected to the internet. I guess you'd have to play the games in designated areas on purpose-built terminals and log in using your fingerprint, iris scan and voice. $\endgroup$ – Varrick Jul 29 '15 at 21:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Ayelis: the agile planning game would be a lot higher tension if the points values agreed for the various tasks translated straight to pay, and consensus might be harder to reach. I suppose this kind of thing (the actual mechanisms involved in these game-jobs) will either be the focus if this gamification is what the questioner's fiction is about or else hand-waved away if gamification is merely set-dressing ;-) $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Jul 30 '15 at 7:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I didn't say there wasn't a way to cheat at Capitalism's gamification, @Webkanguru... ;p $\endgroup$ – Ayelis Jul 31 '15 at 16:12

Hmmm, I would consider what kind of games and outcomes people would play for such a society to evolve. Are they 'win lose' games? No, how could all of society work with inner competition, who would lose in society so others can win? So for society to evolve games as work - they are likely to be 'win win' games which require large scale participation, thus requiring a large work force to even exist.

Think 'Bucky Fuller's World Game'. Every player has access to billionaire wealth via resources, but only when they play the 'win win' game.

Fun question!


One thing that might happen is change in the perception of work -- as well as games. When a "game" determines how you are able to live by being the source of your income or can lead to IRL penalties (i.e. fines and so on), then I think it will stop being a game, but simply become a different sort of work.

In such a future, "secretary", "construction worker", and "Lv 79 Dark Elf Wizard" are all equally valid and recognized job titles / positions. If your next paycheck was decided by whether your avatar could dig up some digital ore or not, then the difference between digital mining and actually going into a real mine with pickaxe in hand is reduced.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.