Playing work, or gamification as stultification

Bateman, Chris ORCID: 0000-0003-1627-8392 (2018) Playing work, or gamification as stultification. Information, Communication & Society. ISSN 1468-4462

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The contrast between work and play as activities collapses if play is seen, following anthropologist Thomas Malaby, as a disposition towards the indeterminate. Once play is positioned as a state of mind, activities that constitute work need not be disjunct from playful behavior. Yet for most workers, work is rarely if ever playful, and attempts to import play behavior into the workplace (‘gamification’) do not result in greater playfulness. Part of this problem results from specific aesthetic values for games having dominated both work and play. As Roger Caillois warned half a century ago, sport-like values have increasingly saturated the culture of the overdeveloped world. Meanwhile, gamification processes have only been able to export task-focussed reward structures from the domain of play – practices that descend from Dungeons & Dragons, but that have been denuded of their playful qualities. In parallel to the gamification of work has been the gamification of games, namely an increasing emphasis on tasks to structure video game play (e.g., achievements), and thus make them more compelling yet less playful. In so much as this entails forcing particular patterns of understanding onto both players and workers, this makes gamification a parallel to Jacques Rancière's stultification in education: a binding of wills instead of an emancipation. If we want a world where work could be more playful, we must begin by breaking the cultural dominance of sport-like and task-like aesthetics of play, and endeavour to overcome the underlying fears that prevent work from being played.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Paper to be published in Information, Communication & Society, 2018 Taylor & Francis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Communication, Library and Information Sciences
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Divisions: School of Creative Technologies > Games Computing and software engineering
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 23 May 2018 12:35
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2019 02:30
Identification Number: 10.1080/1369118x.2018.1450435

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