Advertisement

“Fifteen Million Merits”: Gamification, Spectacle, and Neoliberal Aspiration

  • Mark R. Johnson
Chapter

Abstract

In the Black Mirror (2011–) episode “Fifteen Million Merits”, we see a reality where life’s commodities (and pleasures) are purchased through “merits”. This is a digital currency earned through drudgery made palatable via trivial interactive games that reframe, in pleasant and light-hearted ways, the monotonous labour. This makes the episode a valuable site for exploring two phenomena: “gamification” (the application of game systems to non-game contexts) and live streaming (the live online broadcast of video content). In the first case, the episode explores an extreme potential future of gamification, where all of life’s activities have been subsumed into “fun” systems, each of which tethers an increasingly fatuous or childish veneer to increasingly crushing drudgery. In the second case, the episode examines the digital celebrity which can be accrued by doing extreme things live on air—as in real-world live streaming—and how such seemingly rebellious acts can be captured and transformed into normalised labour activities for those who perform them. This chapter thereby brings together scholarship on gamification and live video game streaming to examine a striking episode of the series, and what it can show us about the ongoing blurring of labour, play, and celebrity, in a world of increasing media convergence.

References

  1. Banks, M., Irwin, C., & Jones, P. (Producers). (2007–). Britain’s Got Talent. [Television series]. London: ITV.Google Scholar
  2. Bridges, W., & Brooker, C. (Writers) & Haynes, T. (Director). (2017). USS Callister. [Television series episode] In L. Sutton (Producer). Black Mirror. Los Gatos: Netflix.Google Scholar
  3. Bridges, W., & Brooker, C. (Writers) & Watkins, J. (Director). (2016). Shut Up and Dance. [Television series episode] In L. Dyke (Producer). Black Mirror. Los Gatos: Netflix.Google Scholar
  4. Brooker, C. (Writer), & Bathurst, O. (Director). (2011). The National Anthem. [Television series episode] In B. Reisz (Producer). Black Mirror. London: Channel 4.Google Scholar
  5. Brooker, C. (Writer), & Higgins, B. (Director). (2013). The Waldo Moment. [Television series episode] In B. Reisz (Producer). Black Mirror. London: Channel 4.Google Scholar
  6. Brooker, C. (Writer), & Trachtenberg, D. (Director). (2016). Playtest. [Television series episode] In L. Borg (Producer). Black Mirror. Los Gatos: Netflix.Google Scholar
  7. Chyung, S. Y. (2005). Human Performance Technology from Taylor’s Scientific Management to Gilbert’s Behavior Engineering Model. Performance Improvement, 44(1), 23–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cunningham, S., & Craig, D. (2016). Online Entertainment: A New Wave of Media Globalization? International Journal of Communication, 10, 5409–5425.Google Scholar
  9. Dyer-Witherford, N., & De Peuter, G. (2009). Games of Empire. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  10. Foucault, M. (2008). The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–1979 (G. Burchell, Trans.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  11. Freeland, C. (2012). Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  12. Fuller, S., (Executive Producer). (2002–2016). American Idol. [Television series]. New York City: Fox.Google Scholar
  13. Gabler, K., Gray, K., Kucic, M., & Shodhan, S. (2005, October 26). How to Prototype a Game in Under 7 Days: Tips and Tricks from 4 Grad Students Who Made over 50 Games in 1 Semester. Gamasutra. Retrieved from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/130848/how_to_prototype_a_game_in_under_7_.php
  14. Gill, R., & Pratt, A. (2008). In the Social Factory? Immaterial Labour, Precariousness and Cultural Work. Theory, Culture and Society, 25(7–8), 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Graham, M., Hjorth, I., & Lehdonvirta, V. (2017). Digital Labour and Development: Impacts of Global Digital Labour Platforms and the Gig Economy on Worker Livelihoods. Transfer: European Review of Labour and Research, 23(2), 135–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Johnson, M. R., & Woodcock, J. (2017). “It’s Like the Gold Rush”: The Lives and Careers of Professional Video Game Streamers on Twitch.tv. Information, Communication and Society. Retrieved from  https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2017.1386229
  17. Johnson, M. R., & Woodcock, J. (In Press, 2019). “And Today’s Top Donator Is”: How Live Streamers on Twitch.tv Monetise and Gamify Broadcasts. Social Media + Society.Google Scholar
  18. Kollar, P. (2015, December 8). Popular Twitch Streamer Comes Clean About Drug Use on Stream. Polygon. Retrieved from https://www.polygon.com/2015/12/8/9871816/twitch-stream-manvsgame-man-vs-game-drug-use
  19. Lupton, D. (2016). The Diverse Domains of Quantified Selves: Self-Tracking Modes and Dataveillance. Economy and Society, 45(1), 101–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Moore, P., & Robinson, A. (2016). The Quantified Self: What Counts in the Neoliberal Workplace. New Media & Society, 18(11), 2774–2792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Philippette, T. (2014). Gamification: Rethinking ‘Playing the Game’ with Jacques Henriot. In S. Fizek, M. Fuchs, P. Ruffino, & N. Schrape (Eds.), Rethinking Gamification (pp. 187–200). Leuphana University of Lüneburg: Meson Press.Google Scholar
  22. Phillips, T. (2013, April 14). Wheelchair-Bound Gamer Banned from Twitch.tv After Accusations He Faked Disability. Eurogamer. Retrieved from https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-04-15-wheelchair-bound-gamer-banned-from-twitch-tv-after-accusations-he-faked-disability
  23. Pires, K., & Simon, G. (2015). YouTube Live and Twitch: A Tour of User-Generated Live Streaming Systems. Paper presented at the 6th ACM Multimedia Systems Conference, Portland, Oregon.Google Scholar
  24. Read, J. (2009). A Genealogy of Homo-Economicus: Neoliberalism and the Production of Subjectivity. Foucault Studies, 6, 25–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Schrape, N. (2014). Gamification and Governmentality. In S. Fizek, M. Fuchs, P. Ruffino, & N. Schrape (Eds.), Rethinking Gamification (pp. 21–46). Leuphana University of Lüneburg: Meson Press.Google Scholar
  26. Taylor, F. (1967). The Principles of Scientific Management. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  27. Townley, B. (1993). Foucault, Power/Knowledge, and Its Relevance for Human Resource Management. Academy of Management Review, 18(3), 518–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Woodcock, J., & Johnson, M. R. (2017). Gamification: What It Is, and How to Fight It. The Sociological Review, 66(3), 542–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Woodcock, J., & Johnson, M. R. (In Press, 2019). The Affective Labour and Performance of Live Streaming on Twitch.tv. Television and New Media.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark R. Johnson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

Personalised recommendations