While Amazon’s efforts to get into video games haven’t panned out, there’s one arena where the company has managed to release multiple titles: its own warehouses.
According to a report from The Washington Post, Amazon has a number of its warehouses outfitted with optional games playable from screens at workers’ desks. The games, which come with colorful names like Dragon Duel and CastleCrafter, are played by completing the tasks warehouse employees spend most of their time doing: Pulling packages from shelves and sorting them into outgoing bins. As more tasks are completed, workers progress towards set goals that reward them with badges, points, or “Swag Bucks” that can be redeemed for company merch.
The ultimate goal seems to be gamifying the drudgery of working in an Amazon warehouse—where conditions have reportedly been abysmal for some time. As anyone familiar with video games knows, grinding for points, progress and rewards can go a long way towards making menial tasks more bearable—fun, even—but it’s only fun if it’s fair, and it’s only fair if players know how the system works. Which, the Post notes, isn’t necessarily the case, since there’s nothing stopping an employer from bumping up quotas without telling anyone in an attempt to up worker productivity.
Amazon has a well-documented history of treating laborers poorly, and Amazon leadership has an equally well-documented disinterest in using the company’s vast resources to significantly improve their circumstances. Games may be useful in improving worker happiness, but it’s only sustainable if their needs elsewhere are being met. Otherwise, they’re as predatory as any loot box scam.