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New York Times applies gamification to article on gamification

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

In a wholly meta example of the wonders of web publishing, the New York Times gamified an article about gamification, the video-game-inspired practice of rewarding people with typically meaningless markers of achievement in order to encourage them to keep up with a particular activity.

You'll get a badge called "The Game Begins" just for loading the piece in your web browser and reading the first paragraph; others include "Zen Master," awarded for spending a whopping 90 seconds on the page, and "Scroll King," for making it all the way down to the end. The page offers 10 badges in all, with a few that are tougher to suss out from their names alone.

The article itself focuses on services such as Foursquare and Fitocracy, which gamify the acts of "checking in" at locations around the world and staying fit, respectively, and compares the digital phenomenon to its analog forebears, like handing out gold stars to students for high marks. Organizations cited as employing gamification to motivate staff and build engagement with customers and fans include the Israel Defense Forces, which drew criticism for doing so during the nation's military conflict with Hamas over the summer, as well as publishing company and information provider Reed Elsevier.

"At a time when games are becoming ever more realistic, reality is becoming more gamelike," says The Times.

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