The Blurring of Work and Play
Embedding Real Work into MMORPGs
Given that MMORPGs are creating environments where complex work is becoming seductively fun, how difficult would it be for MMORPG developers to embed real work into these environments? In fact, this is already occurring in There.com – a virtual world in a contemporary setting. Fashion companies pay There.com to embed test products into the environment where they can track user purchases and how often they wear the garment. More importantly, because the social network of every user can be mapped, it is also easy to spot who the trendsetters are. The information of how likely trendsetters purchase and wear a test product provides highly valuable information to the fashion companies. Of course, the irony is that There.com users are paying to work for a third-party company, with both sources of profit going to There.com.
This can be taken one step further because we know that users are willing to perform complex, tedious tasks in these environments. In fact, they have been trained to have fun performing these tasks. Consider the fact that cancer screening is routinely out-sourced to India because it is relatively cheap to train a lay-person to identify suspicious patterns on a diagnostic scan, and it is cheaper for several dozen of these workers to look at a single scan than it is to have a doctor in the US look at the same scan. Moreover, the accuracy rates are actually better because the redundancy lowers the rate of misclassifications. MMORPG environments could easily tap into their free labor pool of dedicated users by embedding real world tasks into the "game". What is clear is that there are many different ways in which real work can be embedded into MMORPGs – different ways in which game developers can seduce users to pay to perform free labor.
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