Fifteen Million Merits

Sat 13th Jan 2018 - 4:28pm Gaming

What have games to offer business?

Technologies like virtual reality, multi-user environments, and real-time gameplay are immersing gamers in war zones or distant planets today, but will be used by organizations to build a more collaborative workforce tomorrow. Consider the implications just for remote workers. A 2012 survey by Siemens Enterprise Communications found high levels of frustration, disconnection, and distraction among members of virtual teams. Virtual reality promises a solution. That’s one reason why Goldman Sachs has predicted that by 2025, the virtual and augmented reality market will grow to $80 billion or about the size of today’s PC market. But the workplace won’t be just 3d augmented reality live meetings and sci-fi designed offices. What if the game become the workplace? We will literally earn money while playing video games, sounds good? Today the idea of earning money is already mainstream with platform as Twitch – streamers earning money while playing video games. But not everybody can be streamers – so why not implement the idea of gaming into your working process? With recent development AI will possibly change the Jobs. Sofia the robot recently received citizenship from Saudi Arabia so soon it won’t be so shocking when robots will change as on our work place. The economy will expand, and our need to toil will be reduced. This will not decimate mankind - it will elevate it. Now when you don’t need to do boring job to make your living – you can play games and earn your living? Or maybe we need to rethink the function of what is "A Job".

Each process, and working as also gaming is a process, is a set of activities and / or operations that transform certain inputs into outputs. The process can be recognized by changes that occur during the performance of activities and operations. Results of these changes are outputs. But what can influence better motivation for better outputs? Many theories on intrinsic motivation, sense of satisfaction, and other reward concepts have been developed that form the foundation for current thinking about game reward systems. In the 1930s, B. F. Skinner explored reward schedules with pigeons, and his findings have influenced the design of reward mechanisms both inside and outside of the field of game mechanics. In their paper Game Reward Systems: Gaming Experiences and Social Meanings (2011), Hao Wang and Chuen-Tsai Sun analyze the main structural features of reward systems within videogames that have relevance outside videogames as well.

For example in management activities, the process are called management functions. H. Fayol gave us the first well-known classification of managerial functions in the early 20th century. With logical sequence he lined up management functions such as planning, organizing, ordering, coordination and control. Half a century later, P. Drucker presented his conception of management functions, namely: setting goals, organizing, motivating and communicating, measuring and evaluating of achieved results and staff development. Considering the time in which they occurred significant differences in the concept of function are more than visible (Buble; 2006, 12). Exactly as in gaming, setting goals, organizing, motivating and communicating specially in MMO type of games when you need to be a team player to succeed. Fayolle concept is almost rigid, the terms are strictly defined, and partly borrowed from the military terminology. According to him, all these functions are required not only for the successful conduct of business, but also in politics, military, religion, and elsewhere, which means that the management functions are universally applicable. So why not apply them in gaming? Drucker’s concept is characterized by mainly two new moments. Firstly, a different attitude toward people and variable rewards. He insists on communicating and motivating instead of ordering and controlling. And secondly, emphasizes the qualitative aspect of management, and measurement of achieved results (wins/sufficient outputs).

Scheduled measurement of sufficient outputs can be correlated with reward schedules in game design theories. It suggests that, generally speaking, games can increase player engagement by varying when rewards are given. By adopting a variable reward schedule into their games, game designers allow players to play the game for the game itself. The fact that a player cannot predict when a reward is going to come means that the shift to extrinsic motivation that would normally happen when rewards are presented does not occur. In this way, players are free to complete quests, find gold coins, and earn levels for fun, based on their own intrinsic motivation for doing so.

To add nuance, however, different reward schedules tend to produce different kinds of activity, and there are many different types of games with just as many different systems of rewards. Within the context of videogames, four different types of reward schedules can be described:

1. Fixed ratio schedule: the player receives a reward after a fixed number of actions

2. Variable ratio schedule: the player receives a reward after a random number of actions

3. Fixed interval schedule: the player receives a reward after a fixed interval of time

4. Variable interval schedule: the player receives a reward after a variable interval of time

Lets switch the word “player” with “employee” or ‘manager”. And apply the reward system for set of actions they need to perform. The conceptual idea of a reward system can be applied for all tasks. According to some opinions working or management of tasks process consists of four functions: organization, planning, control and influence. Therefore, influence includes motivating, leading and directing. (Sikavica et al; 2008, 20) The concept of classification of managerial functions such as planning, organizing, human resources management, managing and controlling dominates today. Such an approach is dominant in the way of structuring managerial functions. (Weihrich & Koontz; 1994, 15) Managers do not differ according to whether they need to perform some or all of these tasks or functions, but in that to what extent they will devote to some of these activities or functions. (Sikavica et al; 2008, 23) So, all managers, regardless of organizational level, perform all management tasks, main difference is how much time they spend on each of the functions of management. Planning is the most important function for managers at the highest levels of management, less important features are organization and control, and the least important features are guiding and management. At the middle level of management, all the managerial functions are equally important, while at the lowest level of management the most important function is guiding or managing, less important is function of control, while the least important features are planning and organizing. (Sikavica; 2008, 24) It is evident that managing is crucial important at the lowest level of management because they are the only managers in direct contact with the executors. Other authors agree that management functions are generated by all managers in the organization, and they devote more time to particular functions, as already been said, and function like control takes the least amount of time at all levels of management. (Buble; 2006, 15) Not because it is the least important function in comparison to other managerial functions, but because of constructed control systems which facilitate the work of managers and also because of self-control which is increasingly important part of every business.

A simple game (workplace) might make use of just one type of reward schedule. The more complex a tasks gets, however, generally the more reward schedules will needed in order to provide the right level of engagement for the managers/executors. Ratio schedules tend to promote high levels of activity, as the managers/executor races through the actions necessary to get their reward, while variable schedules tend to promote constant activity, since everything has a chance to reveal a reward. Burnout can happen in the case of a variable ratio schedule, so it might actually benefit. To include some rewards in the form of a fixed schedule and to provide a necessary break in the work. A reward set on a variable ratio schedule might be like opponents that the managers/executor can choose to take on, which, after being defeated, may or may not release rewards. To combat burnout that can happen from the managers/executor pursuing these variable rewards, the workplace might include a fixed ratio schedule of rewarding the managers/executor with increased maximum health every time the managers/executor finds a fixed number of special healing potions. 

We will call that health potions - snacks, brakes and actual money rewards. I think the idea of “grinding” for money can be nice in our capitalistic society. A wet dream of every gamer will be living of his game, transforming the game process into a workplace. In 2014, Microsoft made headlines when it acquired Minecraft – one of the most popular gaming platforms on the market. In early 2016, they announced the release of Minecraft Education Edition, placing a huge bet that gaming is the future of learning. Cisco Systems has implemented a game-based learning program to help employees and contractors improve their social media skills. And Deloitte integrated gamification into their Online Leadership Academy in 2016. Within three months, the number of users returning to the site on a daily basis increased 46.6%. As companies see the benefits of increased engagement through games, the number and variety of learning applications will continue to grow. The future is already here.

But what if the job itself will be a game, intentionally designed as a game. Let’s imagine. Remember "Black Mirror" season 1 episode 2? "Fifteen Million Merits" is the second episode of the first series of British science fiction anthology series Black Mirror. It was written by series creator and showrunner Charlie Brooker and his wife Kanak Huq and directed by Euros Lyn, A society of people live in an enclosed, automated space, with nearly every surface a video screen with personalized entertainment and frequent advertising. They earn their living by riding on stationary bikes to generate power in exchange for "merits", a form of currency used to buy food, goods, virtual items for their dopple, and for entertainment. The idea of "working" as a product is very suitable here. Implementing commercial advertisement and gaming. Vr/Ar city as a space for shooting game, like in Overwatch, a warzone, but the billboards are real commercials for real companies. This way the game can pay the players to run the city and do all kind of tasks. The game will pay the players as the commercials will pay to be shown there. The game as a commercial space. I am sure the ROI (Return on investment) can be calculated there. It is the new level of free-to-play games, it will be pay-you-to-play games. But it is just a dream – we will see what will happen!

Boris Marinin

A sketch by me



Insipered and edited from

David L, "Game Reward Systems," in Learning Theories, January 15, 2016,

DECISION MAKING AS A MANAGEMENT FUNCTION mr. sc. Mato PUŠELJIĆ University of Applied Sciences Baltazar Zaprešić, Republic of Croatia. Ana SKLEDAR, Ivan POKUPEC, Baltazar Zaprešić.

How Gaming Is Shaping the Future of Work by Katy Tynan in Harvard Business Review.



Joshua Forbes

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