Work As A Game

“Fun is not the enemy of work.” That’s the slogan of Natron Baxter Applied Gaming, a boutique game development firm that’s developed gaming experiences for the World Bank Institute, Institute for the Future (where I’m a researcher), and many other organizations. When I first heard that motto, it echoed something Douglas Rushkoff talked about on his blog and in his 2005 book “Get Back In The Box” — essentially that fun shouldn’t be a “reward” for miserable work.

“In psychology, it’s called “extrinsic motivation,” and it only works for a short time. The net effect is to make the thing you’re doing for that extrinsic reward less appealing – more like work. “Compensation” becomes precisely that: compensation for doing something you don’t want to be doing,” Rushkoff writes.

Instead, the work itself should be more fun. More engaging. Now, most people aren’t fortunate enough to absolutely love what they do for a living. Sometimes, a job is just a job. But tracking your billable hours? Doing expense reports? Data-entry? There are plenty of boring daily tasks that can be made more fun with a bit of thoughtful game mechanics. In fact, several companies are, um, betting on it:


Seriosity is a consultancy that helps companies increase productivity, innovation, and fun through online “serious” games. They’ve also developed a productivity app called Attent that’s designed to help individuals deal with email overload at work. The app is based on a fake virtual currency, called Serios, that must be bought and spent to prioritize incoming emails and denote the urgency of outgoing messages.



Bunchball is an enterprise gaming software firm whose Nitro game “engine” integrates with the likes of Salesforce, IBM Connections, and Jive. Nitro adds scores, leader boards, teams, and levels to the interactions and functions of those CRM and collaboration systems. Bunchball has also published a free whitepaper on enterprise gamification.


Badgeville offers another software-as-a-service gamification platform. Their software is meant to enhance a variety of business functions, from employee training to HelpDesks and call centers.
“If it’s good to be engaged at work, why should we have the tools that IBM and Oracle give us that are stunningly boring?” says Stanford professor of communications Byron Reeves. “All the things that are true of the software I use when I’m at home are not true of the tools we are given at work. The idea that work is work and play is play and never the two shall meet is melting quite a bit.”


See more from Boing Boing:

Blended Worlds: Augmented Reality Games
Gameify Your Life
Is Minecraft the Metaverse?”
Fantastic Sources for Free Soundtrack Music
My Favorite Mobile Games
Classics of Internet Art
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Boing Boing is a pioneering blog that offers an eclectic blend of of tech culture, gadgets, entertainment, business, and more — a “geek’s eye view” on the world. Original feature reporting from some of the most-respected technology writers today and original Boing Boing Video episodes have made Boing Boing an Internet mainstay. As co-editor of Boing Boing, David Pescovitz is a collector of online anomalies, esoterica, and curiosities. He is also a research director at Institute for the Future.

David Pescovitz / Boing Boing
David Pescovitz
As co-editor of Boing Boing, David Pescovitz is a collector of online anomalies, esoterica, and curiosities. He is also a research director at Institute for the Future.
Read More From David Pescovitz
  • Michael J. Kaer

    I created a concept called “PLORK” which is play and work combined. If you busy playing it is not work anymore. Life is a game we play to learn our lessons.