CfP: Gaming, Gamification, and Labour Politics

We are soliciting 350-500 abstracts for consideration in a special issue of the Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds.

Gamification has been celebrated as a potential solution to problems ranging from healthcare management to employee training, similar to the Power BI training course, to education (McGonigal, 2011; Zichermann and Cunningham, 2011; Kapp, 2012; Werbach and Hunter, 2012). However, even as gamification projects are rolled out in various industries, little time has been spent reflecting on the potential moral and political problems these same projects may present. Gamification often blurs the boundaries between labour and leisure, and not always in obvious ways—creating game texts, playing them, using them as training, analyzing data generated by game results, and modifying work practices or work processes through games, are all forms of labour often disguised within the promise of fun. And, this sense of fun obscures the very nature of games as work (something that Sutton-Smith, 2001, and McAllister and Ruggill, 2011, discuss in their respective monographs), which then allows the labour of games to erode the boundaries of leisure and non-commoditised activities.

In this proposed special issue, we would ask researchers to grapple with the thornier aspects of gamification:

* Who are the multiple agents in gamification? Who does gamification benefit, and how?
* Who does the work of gamification? Players? Designers? Institutions?
* What is at stake in the gamification of labor?
* What are the economies of gamification and labor? Who pays and/or profits?
* What ethical problems arise from the commodification of play through gamification present? How might the laborification of games change how we think of games and game theory?
* In what ways might gamification reinscribe old hierarchies and inequities of power? What new systems of power are brought to play in this arena (IT, technical surveillance, and so forth)?
* In what ways might gamification present opportunities for critical interventions either through playing the games or through critiquing gamification?
In raising these questions, this special issue invites researchers to address the problematic aspects of the largely celebratory rhetoric surrounding gamification. This is particularly timely as universities, granting agencies, and corporations are interested in leveraging the tools of a multi-billion dollar industry for over-determined purposes. In addressing gamification as a potential moral and ethical concern in the domain of labour politics, this special issue asks that we subject gamification to careful thought before over-deploying it as a strategy. Ultimately, the purpose of this special issue is not to argue against gamification (we have both been involved in gamification projects); rather, we intend to add a level of critical inquiry and consideration for those who are considering this novel approach to non-game-based materials.

If you are interested in contributing, please submit a 350-500 word abstract of your paper with your name and institutional affiliation. Proposals can be sent to Carly Kocurek at or Jennifer deWinter at

Important dates are as follows:

September 1: Abstracts due.
September 20: Acceptances will be sent
October 20: Rough drafts due for editorial comment
November 1: Editorial comments will be provided
December 1: Final drafts due

Following the submission of final drafts, the Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds will submit the special issue to a double-blind peer review. Publication of accepted work will appear in 6.3 of 2014.

Research articles including long and short papers, poster abstracts, research reports and interviews should:
• Contain original research or scholarship
• Not be under consideration by any other publication
• Be written in a clear and concise style
• Conform to the instructions outlined below. Contributors are requested to adhere to the following word limits:
Long articles: 5,000–8,000 words
Short articles: 3,000–5,000 words

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