Gamification and Value Capture

Gamification and Value Capture

Book cover of Games Agency as Art

November 17, 2020 | 3:30 p.m. | Zoom

UNC Greensboro’s Department of Philosophy will host C. Thi Nguyen (Philosophy Department, University of Utah) for a Zoom talk on Gamification and Value Capture.

Right now, institutions and technologists are trying to fix our motivational problems through gamification. By adding points, achievements, and medals to processes like education, work, and fitness, they promise to fix our weak wills with technology and game design.

But the techniques which work so well in the special space of games has some dangerous consequences in gamified life. Games give us pleasure by narrowing and simplifying our values — by giving us a momentary shelter from the complex value confusion of the world. When we try to gamify ordinary activities, we can make them easier and more pleasurable by simplifying the goals. We have increased motivation, but for a changed target.

This leads us to think about a larger phenomenon: value capture, which is when institutions, bureaucracies, and technologies present us with simplified versions of our values, and those simplified versions take over in our motivation. Examples include FitBit, GPA, citation rates, academic assessment, US News & World Report rankings, points in wine and beer reviewing, and money. Quantification makes evaluations clearer and easier to manipulate by stripping off nuance and context.

When we integrate quantifications into our valuing, we make gains in the capacity to socially integrate, but at the loss of subtlety and sensitivity. And thinking about the dangers of value capture will show us something important about what it means to be a free and autonomous being — a full participant in forming the terms of our life’s worth — and what we lose when we get our values off-the-rack

Anyone interested in attending can email Taylor Heise ( to be added to the Google Calendar invite.