When games steal data and turn us into machine algorithms

Despite its name, Gamification has never been about making life experiences more like games. If a common feature can define these games at all, it definitely has nothing to do with badges, achievements, points and other things that motivate the player. Games, if they mean anything, embody the spirit of play itself and the emotions they evoke [not the numbers on a screen] temporarily suspending the rules of life to create a powerful experience of competition, playfulness, concentration, enjoyment. If the historian Johan Huizinga - whose book "Homo Ludens" in 1938 is considered one of the basic works in the study of games - had the opportunity to define playfulness according to his theories, he would probably have written " A temporary abolition of the everyday world, where within the loop of the game, the rules and customs of everyday life no longer play a role." , which lay out tactics to make life under neoliberalism more fun and addictivea "magical loop" that we should never break out of if we had the chance. The concept was first floated in the late 2000s in the game developer and marketing communities, who realized that websites could be monetized by adding some features to games. Back in 2008, before "gamification" had even become an accepted and standard term, a blog defined "gamification" as: "Using the mechanics of games and implementing them with other web features to further engage the audience." In Wharton School of Business's popular online classes titled "Gamification," the instructor acknowledged that "some features of games are more common and widely used, and play a more effective role in shaping instances of gamification." These features are "scores, medals and leaderboards [a board on which the names of all players are recorded in the order of their points]". These are points that "are a kind of universal currency, and allow us to build a system where every action, like going on a quest with your friends, is somehow equal or comparable to another action, like sitting and watching a video on a site [and both earn points for the player, but the former is game-like and engages the audience more].

BingMag.com When games steal data and turn us into machine algorithms

Despite its name, Gamification has never been about making life experiences more like games. If a common feature can define these games at all, it definitely has nothing to do with badges, achievements, points and other things that motivate the player. Games, if they mean anything, embody the spirit of play itself and the emotions they evoke [not the numbers on a screen] temporarily suspending the rules of life to create a powerful experience of competition, playfulness, concentration, enjoyment. If the historian Johan Huizinga - whose book "Homo Ludens" in 1938 is considered one of the basic works in the study of games - had the opportunity to define playfulness according to his theories, he would probably have written " A temporary abolition of the everyday world, where within the loop of the game, the rules and customs of everyday life no longer play a role." , which lay out tactics to make life under neoliberalism more fun and addictivea "magical loop" that we should never break out of if we had the chance. The concept was first floated in the late 2000s in the game developer and marketing communities, who realized that websites could be monetized by adding some features to games. Back in 2008, before "gamification" had even become an accepted and standard term, a blog defined "gamification" as: "Using the mechanics of games and implementing them with other web features to further engage the audience." In Wharton School of Business's popular online classes titled "Gamification," the instructor acknowledged that "some features of games are more common and widely used, and play a more effective role in shaping instances of gamification." These features are "scores, medals and leaderboards [a board on which the names of all players are recorded in the order of their points]". These are points that "are a kind of universal currency, and allow us to build a system where every action, like going on a quest with your friends, is somehow equal or comparable to another action, like sitting and watching a video on a site [and both earn points for the player, but the former is game-like and engages the audience more].

BingMag.com When games steal data and turn us into machine algorithms

If the historian Johan Huizinga - whose book "Homo Ludens" in 1938 is considered one of the fundamental works in the study of games - had the opportunity to According to his theories, if he could define playfulness, he probably wrote "the temporary cancellation of the everyday world, where within the circle of the game, the rules and customs of everyday life no longer play a role." are, but usually their purpose is limited to determine the winner of a certain match or competition. Gamification, however, considers the points to be an amount that can be issued and a symbol of the player's capabilities, which is no longer related to the game that first gave the player that point. Y and Z games also use it, while they have nothing to do with X game, and it is like someone can use the points he got in football to use them in basketball as well]. "Score" here becomes another name for "data"the "universal currency" by which any activity or behavior can be identified and quantified. In this sense, games are becoming more than ever tools for data generation, and not just a better or more rewarding form than before. With this in mind, applications that convert player activity into points are not concerned with improving the quality of the player's engagement with the game and simply making him more dependent. Consider how well-known gamified apps like Nike+ (an exercise tracking app), Habitica (an app that turns life into a role-playing game), and Duolingo (a language learning app) collect data. Their advocates praise these apps for how the features of games have been transferred to them, but watchdogs accuse them of violating users' privacy and stealing data.

The use of gamification to collect user data is of course not a secret. The instructor of that gamification class praised this feature quite frankly: One aspect of gamification is that you can get a lot of information from your players; Information such as who they are, what their characteristics are, and most importantly subtle information about what exactly they are doing at the moment. Every action in The game can be recorded and this is not a small thing at all. Scores, medals and leaderboards have always been set up in the name of "data" and have nothing to do with the verb "to play". Z: Scoring systems are added with the intention to record certain behavior in the game in the form of numbers, measure it and make it exportable and usable in other apps. Digital games today usually have features that are more like app notifications: achievements, medals or trophies that are used outside the game world. It is no coincidence that almost all so-called "hardcore" games on modern consoles - Call of Duty, GTA, Mario, etc. - from time to time inform the player that he has released a new achievement and can see its details in his profile. For example, I got 51 out of 93 "achievements" in Assassin's Creed: Odyssey (made by Ubisoft) while I was in quarantine due to the coronavirus. These achievements, which include receiving medals for, for example, "fooling a sphinx [a creature with a human head and an animal body, usually a lion]" and performing "a hundred headshots", can even be earned on Google Stadia's streaming platform and in the "Champion Room" section. is to see These achievements have no use in the game itself, and the player can do nothing with them, except to think about how much time he spent on something that must have been an achievement.

BingMag.com When games steal data and turn us into machine algorithms

Categorizing gamers based on data obtained through games is itself a multi-million dollar industry known as Game Analytics. will be The Game Analytics company also stands out with the ability to collect and analyze data from more than 850 million active players in 70,000 games. With such data, players can be categorized based on their services, how they play, where they live, and their demographics. But receiving data from gamers to infer new information about them dates back a long time. As long as there are winners and losers, players can be ranked based on their skill in winning.

Achievement notifications are not something that game developers have personally programmed for players, but are required by the platforms themselves. The game runs on it. Microsoft's Xbox development kit, for example, defines "achievement" as: "a system mechanism that continually rewards players' actions within the games they play." In other words, they don't look at it as something unique to a particular game, but as something on a more general scale, common to all games. Therefore, game makers should develop their game with the same logic.

All mainstream platforms define achievements in a similar way, whether it is PlayStation, Steam, Xbox, or other platforms based on cloud services such as Google and Amazon. and Nvidia. This implementation and ubiquity of "achievements"recorded data of player behavior and skill that is not unique to a particular gameindicates how games themselves have become "game-like": achievements and rewards contribute to the heterogeneous experience of different players of different games. A universal currency would reduce this, allowing platforms to collect this data and compare it to other games running on their platform. This data can be used for purposes unrelated to the games themselvesreminiscent of what Shoshanna Zuboff calls "behavioral surplus" in The Rise of Surveillance Capitalism.

Categories of gamers based on the data that It is achieved through games, itself a multi-million dollar industry known as Game Analytics. The Game Analytics company also stands out with the ability to collect and analyze data from more than 850 million active players in 70,000 games. With such data, players can be categorized based on their services, how they play, where they live, and their demographics. But receiving data from gamers to infer new information about them dates back a long time. As long as there are winners and losers, players can be ranked based on their ability to win.

BingMag.com When games steal data and turn us into machine algorithms

The first video game to publicly rank players on something like a leaderboard was Space Invaders in 1978. This mechanism quickly became popular and became a feature of arcade games. Alexander Stakhanov, co-founder of the Soviet Arcade Museum, says the public rating of video games was essentially a Western feature and, in a more general sense, a capitalist one.

Another such rating algorithm the rating ELO Invented in the 1960s to rank chess players. By weighting a player's wins and losses compared to their opponent's skill, this algorithm can measure a player's relative skill. With this system, each chess match becomes a subset, no longer confined to the chessboard, but a benchmark in other places and times against which players can be compared to those they have never played, and of course They make the competitive atmosphere more lively. This method is not limited to chess. In one scandal, Mark Zuckerberg also "gamed" his classmates at Howard, using the algorithm to rank photos of his female classmates that he took illegally.

The first video game to publicly engage players in something like Topping the leaderboard was Space Invaders in 1978. This mechanism quickly became popular and became a feature of arcade games. In 1979, Star Fire and Asteroids were the first games to allow players to mark their scores with a three-letter combination [so they could later tell if they had beaten their record]. As Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost show in their book Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System, this mechanism was able to shape a competitive culture among arcade game players. The goal of the game was no longer entertainment or winning: "highest score" now took precedence over the act of playing itself, and "achievement" involved a "zero-sum" type of competition [that is, each player's achievement equals the player's loss. his rival]. To put that in perspective, in this 2007 Wired article, Alexander Stakhanov, co-founder of the Soviet Arcade Museum, argues that public rating of video games was essentially a Westernand, more generally, capitalistproperty. In the arcade games of the Soviet Union, public leaderboards did not exist at all. Instead, as Stakhanov says, "If you got enough points, you could play again for free, but there was no record breaking in the Western sense."

The capitalist model of gaming won out. , and ranking also became a fundamental part of game analysis. But the variety and volume of data collected through digital games has greatly increased since the release of Space Invaders. Microsoft's ranking algorithm, TrueSkill2, uses several parameters, such as "player experience, squad membership, number of kills/kills per player, willingness to quit, and skill in other modes." With these, it relatively ranks each player on their platform. In fact, every gaming platform is now designed to receive all kinds of data, and their privacy policies are proof of that. This data includes account information, payment information, user content, messages, numbers, device identifiers, network identifiers, location, achievements, points, ratings, error reports, and hours of product use. They also have the right to sell or share this data to third parties. Not only the information itself, but also the way and how to receive this data; Among them: KPIs such as acquisition, retention, active users, revenue per user, and other game-specific data such as inputs per user and the number of hours spent solving different stages which, according to this analysis According to IBM, it includes "time to solve stages, individual versus collective behaviors [e.g., online], avatar choice, other indicators of player interaction, avatar gender, behavioral variables of player strategy, game-related tweets, social media activity, Language and... PlayStation's player privacy policy states that Sony can "record what you do in the game or app (for example, what obstacles you pass or what stages you reach)." Microsoft has similarly stated that "the information we share about you with others includes... data about each time you use the game or app, including the achievements you open, the time you spend in the game or app, your presence, statistics and Your ratings". These "choose your own narrative and go ahead" games, which can be seen in many games, are not just a storytelling tool, nor are they just chosen based on personal taste: this is another method of measuring and recording user data.

BingMag.com When games steal data and turn us into machine algorithms

The principles of gamification assume that humans, In response to the rewards they receive, they are no different than a handful of algorithms. Just like machine learning algorithms, humans in spaces surrounded by algorithms can be engineered and programmed into better habits. Rather than talking about turning life into a gamified experience, gamification is more about predicting and managing human behavior, which is motivated by feedback and not much data to record.

Of course. Many devices, different virtual network platforms and apps already collect a lot of data from their users, and much more than the users themselves might think. But games can also be designed to create a controlled platform and collect data from players. As the analyst working at IBM explains, collecting a range of data from players is "no different than other methods of applying advanced analytics to attract customers and audiences", but on the "new spectrum of data" and "the volume and intensity that is generated."

Due to the variety and volume of collected data, games can be a means to reveal a lot of information about players' values and habits. A number of academic studies show that they have been able to find statistically significant correlations between players' in-game behavior and their personalities outside of the game. Some of these researches concluded that "how the player interacts with the game can reveal the personal characteristics of the player to a good extent." Other similar research and data extracted from multiplayer games such as Fortnite concluded that "results were obtained as fluently as if done in a controlled laboratory setting." Another study suggests that "in lieu of commercial video games, we can usefully experiment on a person's mental states."

The data obtained can also be fed back to the platform that caused it. In-game decisions can be adjusted to detect a player's latent talents, measuring their obsessiveness, sociability, and psychic abilities, for example. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was able to profile the player's mental state as an essential part of its narrative, and the game used techniques such as the Myers-Briggs test to determine the player's personality type. Just as Tik Tok monitors the behavior of its users so that the program's algorithms are adjusted based on their desires [and the chances of encountering things they like increase], the aforementioned game could also evaluate the player's decisions and behavior (what room they entered, how much They were checking photos and...) to deliberately change the game so that the game becomes the player's own nightmare.

In general, as we have already seen in the scoreboard that Google recorded, the combination of decisions, achievements, the amount of game hours and purchase history are all important to advertising companies. Since video games are often designed to keep the user on their feet for hours, the data gained from them is especially critical for marketers looking to capture the attention of customers. Games can be a field for advertising, a reservoir of various techniques for monitoring and controlling behavior, and a field for player experimentation. Its market share is billion dollars. Games do not only have virtual billboards, and other in-game items and products can be adjusted to be more in line with the user's tastes. Users can even be forced to view ads through interstitials. Another way to use in-game data is to measure a user's "lifetime value" or LTVthe monetary value a user is expected to provide to the game developerand thus tailor the game to those players who are the most engaged. They provide monetary value for them to never get enough, and encourage them to buy in-game tokens, character models, virtual materials and other items. These in-app payments not only milk the player, but also indicate what mundane virtual tasks are valued by players and what other tasks they are willing to pay to skip. Those who research intellectual property rights say that in-app payments can be used to measure the intertemporal discount factor: a measure in finance that essentially measures how much an investor wants a small but immediate reward. , or prefers a late but lasting reward over another. So if we see in the data that a player is willing to spend money for a quick and fleeting pleasure, we can sell this data to advertising companies, and especially in combination with other data received from other platforms, it can be very useful information to invent a method. Become new in advertising. In-app payments, therefore, are more than mere payments: they are data sitting on top of a mountain of money.

Furthermore, there are games specifically designed to gauge one's willingness to enter a particular profession. Even before employers showed goodwill toward "game-based prospective employee evaluation," the US military funded the online game America's Army and viewed it as a means of recruiting prospective soldiers. In an interview between Colonel Wardynski and Gabe Zichermann, who describes himself as "the oldest expert and public speaker on gamification," Wardynski confirms that the goal of America's Army was to recruit, but indirectly: "Our goal was To understand the priorities of a person's decision to enter a profession. If the military is not one of your options, then don't worry about recruiting. But how can I make your child think about this option?"

Of course, their ability is not limited to influencing the players. Gamified games have become an important platform for artificial intelligence. They have attracted AI developers because the free and dynamic world of games has already become something distinct and measurable. In gamified games, medals, scores, and leaderboards were originally created to monitor, control, and motivate the player; And now engineers can use them again to monitor, control and stimulate machine learning algorithms. Free world games are well integrated with these monitoring and controls, and the seemingly endless possibilities that these games provide provide equally endless possibilities for data collection.

BingMag.com When games steal data and turn us into machine algorithms

Given the high potential of games to collect this valuable information, it is not surprising that Google and Amazon are also developing cloud platforms. They are for games. What is surprising is that the discourse of "cloud-based games" focuses more on the user experience instead of asking who the end users of such a platform are supposed to be. Google Stadia was rejected by gamers, but only because it was expensive, not because of its data mining. But games based on the cloud service, like the other services it offers, are just an excuse for Google's core business to collect data and sell it to advertising companies. Games are used to develop artificial intelligence that can play complex open world games. Artificial intelligences, in game time, have so far been able to beat the most professional players in classic games like Go and video games like Dota 2. Malmo, a Microsoft project, is an attempt to use open worlds like Minecraft to build intelligent bots for navigation, trading, and collaboration. The purpose of this research is not just a theoretical thing. Optima was able to win $1 million in an auction from DARPA because they were able to create intelligent bots that played alongside their Minecraft players (because they were already modeled after how humans play). By training the AI to see using data collected from real Minecraft players, DARPA hopes to eventually build an AI that can monitor soldiers on the battlefield. Navigating the game world, mining Minecraft digital diamonds, or planning a railway network for railways in Minecraft; This is something that different teams are competing to create algorithms that can do these things, and companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft are sponsoring these competitions. As tested on real gamers, winning teams in these competitions are also awarded points, medals and rankings on Alcrowd's competitive platform. This platform gamifies the development of artificial intelligence and pushes the engineering itself to a few

These efforts all imply that the principles of gamification assume that humans respond to the rewards they receive. , they are no different from a handful of algorithms. Just like machine learning algorithms, humans in spaces surrounded by algorithms can be engineered and programmed into better habits. Rather than talking about making life a gamified experience, gamification is more about predicting and managing human behavior, which is motivated by feedback and not much data to record.

With Considering the high potential of games to collect this valuable information, it is not surprising that Google and Amazon are also developing cloud platforms for games. What is surprising is that the discourse of "cloud-based games" focuses more on the user experience instead of asking who the end users of such a platform are supposed to be. Google Stadia was rejected by gamers, but only because it was expensive, not because of its data mining. But games based on cloud services, like other services it offers, are just an excuse for Google's main business to collect data and sell it to advertising companies. Amazon and Google's foray into cloud-based gaming means merging the empire of previously recorded data with the incredible power of games as tools for data collection. Games play an important role here because for those advertising retailers it has everything they want in terms of monitoring, control and player addiction to the product. Reality is a highly controlled environment that monitors all one's decisions. Just like the two-sided platforms (one side for using products and the other side for providing services) from Amazon and Google, these digital spaces can be made to record the player's behavior in a predetermined way, engineering or recording his data. Combining this data with what they already learned about his mental states and his values, ideals, and fantasies (things that users would never frankly express in their questionnaires, emails, and shopping habits, except in the world of games), made games for Google. and Amazon become valuable information supplements. As so-called "hardcore" games become more and more defined by their open worlds, achievements, and trophies, we can expect that promised freedom and seamless cloud experience to come with more censoring and in-app-like things. be defined If we accept the clich that "games are just for making a series of interesting decisions", now is the time to ask: true, but for whom exactly?

About the author: Ulysses Pascal, PhD student at UCLA and Department of Research Information, where they research the global financial information infrastructure and political economy of various platforms. They are currently working on an updated version of the Monopoly board game.

BingMag.com When games steal data and turn us into machine algorithms

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