Gamification, Side Effects, and Praise and Blame for Outcomes

Minds and Machines 34 (1):1-21 (2024)
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Abstract“Gamification” refers to adding game-like elements to non-game activities so as to encourage participation. Gamification is used in various contexts: apps on phones motivating people to exercise, employers trying to encourage their employees to work harder, social media companies trying to stimulate user engagement, and so on and so forth. Here, I focus on gamification with this property: the game-designer (a company or other organization) creates a “game” in order to encourage the players (the users) to bring about certain outcomes as a side effect of playing the game. The side effect might be good for the user (e.g., improving her health) and/or good for the company or organization behind the game (e.g., advertising their products, increasing their profits, etc.). The “players” of the game may or may not be aware of creating these side effects; and they may or may not approve of/endorse the creation of those side effects. The organizations behind the games, in contrast, are typically directly aiming to create games that have the side effects in question. These aspects of gamification are puzzling and interesting from the point of view of philosophical analyses of agency and responsibility for outcomes. In this paper, I relate these just-mentioned aspects of gamification to some philosophical discussions of responsibility gaps, the ethics of side effects (including the Knobe effect and the doctrine of double effect), and ideas about the relations among different parties’ agency.



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Sven Nyholm
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München

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Moral dimensions: permissibility, meaning, blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Games and the art of agency.C. Thi Nguyen - 2019 - Philosophical Review 128 (4):423-462.
Person as scientist, person as moralist.Joshua Knobe - 2010 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (4):315.
Group Agency and Artificial Intelligence.Christian List - 2021 - Philosophy and Technology (4):1-30.

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