Andrzej Marczewski Doing Ethics In Gamification | Episode 161

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Andrzej Marczweski is a Gamification Solution Designer and Consultant at Motivait. He is a recognized expert in gamification, especially on the topic of gamification mechanics and user types. In 2015 he published Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play. In his spare time, Andrzej enjoys spending time with his family, playing guitar and video games.

This is a follow-up to our Ethics in Game-Based Solutions and Gamification where, along with Nir Eyal‘s perspective and strategy, we discussed some ideas around ethics for game-based solutions and gamification from this weeks repeat guest Andrzej Marczewski.


Guest Links and Info

  • Twitter @daverage
  • Website
  • If its business his email is andrzej.marzewski [at] motivait [dot] net


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Full episode transcription

Rob (5s):
Welcome to Professor Game Podcast, where we interview successful practitioners of games, gamification and game thinking, who bring us the best of their experiences to can ideas, insights, and inspiration that help us in the process of getting the students to learn what we teach. And I’m Rob Alvarez. I teach and work at IE Business School in Madrid, where we create interactive and engaging learning materials. Want to know more? Go to, start on our email list and ask me anything! Welcome back Engagers. Once again, we today have a very special repeat guest. I’m happy to report and to say, at least on my side, that this is a friend that we have today here with us.

Rob (50s):
It’s Andrzej, but before we get started Andrzej are you prepared to engage?

Andrzej (55s):

Rob (56s):
Andrej is always ready because he is a gamification solution designer and consultant at Motivait he, as you know, and you’ve, you’ve heard, probably heard before. He is a recognized expert in gamification, especially on the topic of gamification mechanics and user types. I actually referenced him quite a lot in my classes as well. And in 2015, he published even ninjas like Mo in Ninja monkeys, like the play, which has also been updated a couple of times, very exciting things going on there. I don’t know why my tongue got stuck on that one. I’ve said it so many times, but also in his spare time, as we know, he enjoys the time, of course, with his family, playing guitar, which is a pretty strong passion.

Rob (1m 36s):
You’ll see him on YouTube, probably quite a bit in that sense and on Instagram as well, I think. And of course, playing video games is definitely still a passion for Andrzej. So Andrzej, is there anything else that we, we should as well mention here?

Andrzej (1m 48s):
No, I think, I think you’ve covered me in a nutshell. I like games, guitar and my family that’s pretty much me. I think

Rob (1m 59s):
I was hoping to hit that last one for sure.

Andrzej (2m 1s):
We got a new dog since we last spoke as well. So I like that. I liked the dog as well.

Rob (2m 5s):
Oh, that’s nice. What kind of dog you have?

Andrzej (2m 7s):
We have a miniature schnauzer who is coming up to one-year-old.

Rob (2m 11s):
Nice. That’s so, so nice. I always enjoy the company of pets in general. My mum has, has always well for quite a while had cats and I am not a cat or a dog person. I just enjoy that in general. I would say I really like dogs. I really like cats. I’ve, you know, all sorts of things. But anyway, today we are, we are sort of piggying back on something that happened a few weeks ago, which was the episode on ethics. And that’s probably a good point to start ethics in gamification. That was an episode. Many of you gave some feedback on. It seems like many of the engagements were excited by the topic. And of course, one of the two main people that we mentioned there, and it’s definitely an expert in that sense.

Rob (2m 55s):
And the world of gamification especially is Andrzej. So I thought, why not bring him back? It’s been a while since we were together and Andrzej, what do you understand by, by ethics? And gamification why do you think it is important?

Andrzej (3m 7s):
I think ethics and everything is important. We all need some kind of moral compass to work towards. And I think with gamification, it happened so quickly and it can be so effective that I think a lot of people just didn’t really consider the ramifications of what they were doing with it. And so you, you ended up with a lot of stuff where people were a little bit concerned that maybe gamification was taking advantage of them. My big example, I went to Toys R Us when it still existed and they were getting kids to the treasure hunts around Toys R Us.

Andrzej (3m 47s):
And although it seems like a really interesting game. I felt actually that there was a slight ethical issue with it because it was using the children to get the parents to buy stuff they wouldn’t necessarily have looked at if they hadn’t had the treasure hunt and really obscure thought. But as I’ve thought about that more, I thought, actually, this isn’t uncommon. There are lots of things that I see with gamification, where people are just trying to get you to do something they want you to do without considering what you might want or what you might need. And I felt, I felt that that was morally incorrect and probably ethically not right as well.

Rob (4m 17s):
Yeah. It’s the kind of thing that, that puts you in that position to think. Well, you know, there’s a lot of power here and of course, we’ve, we hear many times the phrase of Spiderman, you know, great power comes great responsibility. And of course in a world like ours, where we’re talking about these things and many people in the gamification world probably enjoy comics and comic books, whatever Marvel or DC is your, your favorite, but you, I mean, it is definitely important to consider ethics in, in, in many places. I, myself, I’m teaching supply chain right now, one of the sessions is dedicated basically to ethics and sustainability in the supply chain. It is definitely a big topic in many, many places. And I would say that everywhere. However, as you mentioned in gamification, there are many traps that we can fall into without realizing.

Rob (5m 3s):
And when we think about our objectives, what we’re designing for that is very, very important. And we always start with the objectives, start with understanding who the people were going to be there. That’s super, super important, but there is that point. And that’s one of the points I try to get across in that episode is how do you actually consider the other person, you know, there is somebody on the other end, who’s going to be that player you’re analyzing. How do you consider the needs their wants, you know, how do you consider that? Because you, you mentioned the consideration that Toys R Us example, but how do you get to that point where you really think and can take it, take into account those needs of, you know, the other party?

Rob (5m 46s):
How do you, how do you get there? How would you, how do you, you know, like you’re doing this every day, how do you handle that in an everyday situation?

Andrzej (5m 53s):
It seems like a really flippant and simple answer. You speak to them. That sounds stupid when you say it out loud, but I think in your user research and in kind of your continuing analytics and evolution of solutions, you need to always be talking to the people at the other end because it’s really easy when you’re designing any solution, not just gamification to completely forget the user because you have business objectives from the client, you have your own objectives, things you want to try and do that you want, you know, we all put little things in there that are just for us. I think we all do that. We’ve all, we’ve all created something where you just put something in because you found it interesting or you want it to test it out.

Andrzej (6m 35s):
So you got your business objectives, your own objectives, your own business’ objectives. So the end-user can almost get forgotten in that, especially when you’re continuing to develop a solution after it’s been released. So you may have done all the user research at the very beginning, and you may have them in mind when you design it, but a year down the line when you’re updating it, or however many months down the line, when you’re doing updates and adding new content or whatever it may be, did you go back to the users and talk to them about it? Did you look at the analytics and understand their behaviors and what may or may not be happening? So I think, yeah, simply put, talk to the end-user and talk to them constantly. It should be an open conversation with them.

Andrzej (7m 15s):
There shouldn’t be any kind of behind closed doors, or what we need to do is we need more people to do the great, great example. If you’ve got a system which relies on repeated activities and you want people to do more and more and more, one of the kinds of the things that you can think to yourself is, Oh, well, if I add say we have two games and that really occupies a lot at that time, if we add in three more games, we’ll get into to do lots of activity, but unless you actually speak to them and say, is this right for you? Do you really feel you need to do three more activities? All you’re doing is trying to put in three activities, cause that’s what you want to happen, but does it really benefit them? So it’s constantly looking at does what I’m doing, benefit the end-user in some way, as well as just the stakeholders outside of that,

Rob (7m 59s):
It’s a central consideration. And you brought up a very important point, which is data. Here, because I’ve heard this, especially in the world of, of, of mobile games and even click baits and these kinds of things where, you know, you, you very strictly look at the data and say, well, we found here that if you put a, I dunno, a gem here, people click on it more. Fantastic that arrives you to, to reach that. However, is the user or the player feeling more satisfied as are they’re achieving whatever it is that they, they, they set themselves out to achieve when they went into this world that you are creating that. I think that is a very big question. And the only way as you were saying is to find out with them because you, you, you look at the data and you say, well, there were 150 gazillion data points.

Rob (8m 44s):
How can I talk to all those points? Well, maybe you don’t have to talk to all of them, right? There’s like two things first, like, as you said, think and say, well, is the user getting something of this? And in the good sense as any business, I mean, businesses don’t make sense unless they’re, you’re serving some sort of customer or consumer, right. And here it’s the same thing. I mean, you’re somebody who’s going to be consuming this, are you serving them in one way or another? And of course, once you start implementing things, using data and saying, well, you know, we figured out that putting points, badges and leaderboards, maybe more people are just clicking in, is that serving something or someone, and for two things, one is in the medium and longterm, even you, is it even serving you because if you’re paying a disservice to your user in the end, are they going to still be, there is gamification going to continue working for them?

Rob (9m 36s):
Is your solution going to be useful for them? And, and that’s the other point I wanted to just sort of introduce. I think, and of course, this is not just for, gamification ethics in general, they work for the long-term as well. They work for you because you typically a business wants to be there. Not just this month, not this, this year, probably in the medium and the long run as well. Do you think, again, going back to just thinking about you, your business and your objectives, does it still make sense to consider ethics as well?

Andrzej (10m 4s):
Of course, it does. Because if you want a long-term business with people, they need to be able to trust you and they need to feel that you, you respect them or that you’re honest with them, that you’re transparent with them and that you have some kind of integrity. And if for whatever reason they feel that that isn’t true, they feel that they’ve been duped into something or tricked, or they feel that you use techniques that are there purely for your benefit. Then they’re going to, they’re going to realize it very quickly. The consumers, these days are incredibly intelligent and very savvy towards things like gamification. And I think as soon as you get to a point where they stop trusting you all, they’ve got fatigued because all you’re doing is trying to rinse them for everything that they’ve got, they switch off.

Andrzej (10m 47s):
And that’s the end of it. You’ve lost them forever. There’s no going back from that kind of loss. I don’t think

Rob (10m 52s):
Absolutely absolutely. That’s one of the things I was trying to get on, because again, typically gamification is about engaging people once. And again, it’s probably not a solution just for getting people through the door once. Typically, at least. I mean, there, there are, there are all sorts of things, but if you want people to be repeat customers, you need to build that trust. And if your ethics are not sound and transparent, I mean, in this day and age, all information is out there at some point, I don’t know as I remember like here in Madrid, they started these bike rentals that was started by the government. And I don’t know exactly what the technical problem was, but apparently, you know, you could access sort of the database through a very simple solution.

Rob (11m 33s):
That happened in hours. Like literally they launched that and somebody figured it out and went and saw like the information of hundreds of thousands of people. They had to shut it down immediately. Why? Because the information was out there. I mean, I don’t know, 50, 60 years ago something similar would have happened. And between the time you launched the product, you put it out there, the time realizes, and you brought it back, there could be a long time and you still had sort of the excuse. At this point? You know, it’s going to come out. You’re not going to have enough, you know, time to trick people for long enough. So to speak. So thinking of your own business and in your own interest as a gamification designer, as a business owner, you always have to think of your user.

Rob (12m 14s):
They’re there. The reason you are there if you don’t have users, if you don’t have consumers and customers, there is no reason for your business to exist. Again, whether those be intermediaries or the final consumer, whatever that looks like, you always need to have them there. And again, from a very practical standpoint Andrzej, when you’re, when you’re going to, again, you’re, you’re, we’re thinking of talking to our consumers or players. We’re thinking about, you know, handling the ethics. Let’s say, you jump into a project which you’re probably doing pretty frequently right now. How do you incorporate ethics? Like, do you have a conversation with the team? Do you have a conversation with the client? Do you have any, may be an example that, of course, you can anonymize as, as, as needed that you can share with us of a difficult situation, we sort of want to be around and see what it looks like for you.

Andrzej (13m 3s):
It’s quite a difficult question because it’s so embedded in what we do because Motivait is a small company. And I think all of us bring particular skills and particular kinds of ideas to the team, but we all come from a very similar standpoint when it comes to ethics and how we work with stuff. So I can’t think of any positions where it’s been sort of, it’s been an awkward position with, with ethics because it’s…

Rob (13m 28s):
That’s nice.

Andrzej (13m 29s):
Exactly. It is. It is very nice. It’s designed like that, from the beginning. So the first thing we do once we understand what we’re trying to achieve and what the client wants is talk to the users and, and speak to them about what we’re doing, what their needs are, what we’re trying to achieve with it. So, from the very, very beginning, it’s built-in almost by default. And then when you sort of consider data and that kind of stuff, we don’t really have much choice around that anymore because GDPR means that data is really difficult to use.

Rob (14m 4s):

Andrzej (14m 5s):
So I think, yeah, I’m in that nice position where the people that I work with within the company that I’m in, there’s no ulterior motive to the, to what we’re doing. It’s always, we have a business objective from the client and we have the objectives of the people who are involved. So if you take the look at a loyalty scheme, we know what the end-user wants. The majority of the time, the end-user is looking for a way of saving money. Essentially. That’s, that’s what loyalty schemes are there for is to save people money from the end user’s perspective. So you actually start from that and you speak to them about how that works and what kind of data is needed to be collected to make that happen. And then you’re very transparent about what happens with that data.

Andrzej (14m 48s):
And again, the GDPR has helped with this immensely because you have to do it like that. You have to be transparent, you have to anonymize data. So there can’t be any silliness around knowing what an individual has done for instance. So again, it sounds like a bit of a flake out answer. I’ve not had any issues like that, where ethics have caused me a problem professionally, because I’ve never designed anything or been asked to design, not have that actually rephrase that I’ve never had. So within Motivait, I’ve never been asked to design anything, which I felt had an ethical issue because they were always been done for, for loyalty, working with customers to do something.

Andrzej (15m 28s):
The customers really were benefiting from it. And employee engagement, where again, it was being designed. Things are being designed to help the employee, not the company specifically. So it wasn’t trying to get the company to do more of something. I have had positions where I’ve been looking at things and wondering what we’re building benefit and not Motivait actually, but what’s being built would benefit the end-user. So that over this, where there’s ethical, or just kind of almost practical about what it’s going to do. So it’s more about designing to get people to do more of something within an organization. And when you actually start looking at it, you’re going well, from an ethical perspective. There’s no suppose there’s no issue because we’re not doing anything.

Andrzej (16m 11s):
We’re not selling them with, we’re going to do, but you all sat there going, but how does it help them? What does it, what do they get out of this? When you start to analyze, I remember doing this a couple of years before I started in Motivait, and I was looking into a particular project going, I don’t see what the end-user gets from it. So I suppose it was morals rather than ethics for me. I couldn’t do anything with this project because all that was going to happen was employees would be made to work harder and do more. And they didn’t get any benefit from it. And that for me went against everything I believed in to do with gamification. It’s gotta be a two-way street. There has to be something in it for the person at the other end of the game. So whether that was ethics or morals, I don’t know. There’s just, this there’s, this there’s a gray area in between where it’s personal, my moral compass said, there’s no benefit to the end-user.

Andrzej (16m 59s):
So there’s no point doing this project, I suppose, ethically, you’re looking at the integrity of what you do, because if I was to do what I knew I could do, I suppose there is an ethical issue because I knew I could do things that were, essentially… Tricking is the wrong word but it would get people to do more of what the company wanted for quite a while, without the employees necessarily realizing that there was no benefit to them. I think Points, badges and leaderboard systems do this all the time when they’re just thrown in as a kind of, we want people to be more productive. That’s the word you get given. We need more productivity. Okay. That’s great. I can, I can get them to do more of something, but whilst that might check the box of they’re doing more, is there any quality to what they’re doing or are we just looking for quantity?

Andrzej (17m 48s):
And quite a lot of the time, especially when I was first, starting out, companies were interested in quantity, not quality. So you could put systems in that would make them do more of something. It’s like the whole idea of, well, it could make you click like a hundred times, but after the hundred and first time, you’re not going to be that interested. And the companies will be saying like, we need those hundred clicks,

Rob (18m 7s):
Watch out for the, for the cow clicker

Andrzej (18m 10s):
And don’t start me on Bogost’s cow clicker. Then, the failed experiment was more than just clicking on something. And it becomes one of the biggest games ever online. Oh, maybe they don’t. But yeah, I think the ethics of it for me was that there was no benefit to the end-user of that and for me to design what was necessary, I think would be essentially it would, it would damage my integrity. Cause it’d be tricking people into doing something that they had. There were no benefits to them in the long run. So yeah, I suppose that’s a, that’s a difficult situation, but I said, I haven’t had that in many, many years, thankfully. And that was early on when I was starting out. I was a bit more naive about what people wanted out of the kind of gamification world at that point.

Rob (18m 55s):
Absolutely. And, and quick question, or maybe not so quick, like of course, without, without details that I have is I know it’s a very uncomfortable situation, but how did you manage to get out of it? Or did you get out of it? Like how did you manage, to go through that situation yourself? Because this is a struggle, I’m sure it’s not only you’ve gone through many, have gone through, or will go through in the future. So I think it’s, it’s a very neat place to, to get some, some recommendations and how you did or what you didn’t do that you would do now.

Andrzej (19m 24s):
So that said early on, that situation occurred twice. The second time I walked away from it because there was no… Having spoken to the client about what should be done and what the benefits were. And in fact, actually, the gamification wasn’t their actual solution. They were, it was more about communication in their instance. I just walked away. There was no point being involved in it because I just didn’t feel right doing it. The first time when it happened, I was able to convince them that it wasn’t a great way of doing it essentially as they, once they understood my concerns about it.

Andrzej (20m 4s):
And I gave them an alternative that wasn’t just about productivity. It was about encouraging quality and people getting more involved rather than it just being, you know, right here for say the example of writing comments on a forum, as a good analogy where you wanted, if you want people to write comments on a forum and you say to them, for every, every comment you get one pound or one Euro or whatever. So what you end up with is you get lots of one-word comments because they’re only doing it to get the Euro. This doesn’t have to do anything. If you say to them, what we want is really good content, that’s gonna help other people. And there might be a random reward in it somewhere, some kind of incentive, but it will be peer-reviewed.

Andrzej (20m 46s):
You’ll be reviewing people’s, there’ll be reviewing yours. Then the question of quality is less of a problem because there’s no reward just for saying, there’s no turning up for an award. You can’t, you don’t just turn up and get the money. You actually have to do something that’s worth having, and actually looking towards getting people to create good content because they want to understand you’re to engage fewer people, but get something better out of it. So it was a very similar situation to that around knowledge management. So it was just, it was explaining to the client what was going to be more beneficial to them. It wasn’t going to be 200 people writing one word. It was going to be two people writing 200 words would be much more beneficial to them.

Andrzej (21m 29s):
So it was just changing the way the client thought about it.

Rob (21m 32s):
I love that example because not only did you, were, were you able to sort of get around it, but it also shows like sometimes because when we talk about ethics and morals and so on, like sometimes we get the feeling that it’s because there is a third party who is like, evil. Do you know what I mean? It’s like the devil is on the other side and we have to run away from the devil or kick it in, you know, in the face and, and run away or, you know, trick it to getting better. You know, pretty often there’s another human being and the other side of the table who doesn’t necessarily mean evil. Do you know what I mean? Like sometimes they just don’t realize what they’re doing. I mean, and I’m sure we have done those things.

Rob (22m 13s):
Well, not necessarily those things in particular, but we’ve done things that then if you think about them more deeply, you realize, Hey, I probably wouldn’t have done that. And that not only because we did something stupid, but because probably we put ourselves in the, in an ethical conflict. So I love about that story the fact that you sat down and said, look, this is what’s happening here. These are my concerns. I mean, maybe you have different concerns. Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t, but these are my concerns. And not only from an ethical standpoint but also from the, the quality of what you’re going to get, it’s not just about getting, as you were saying, more comments in the chat, it’s about getting quality comments. And I sort of bring that back. For example, to my classes, of course, there is a sort of a, an external incentive of getting a good grade, which is kind of there as well.

Rob (22m 58s):
But when you’re considering participation in the classroom, you don’t want people to raise their hands and say their names. That is pointless, that is making you and everybody lose their time. You want quality comments. So you’re, even though there’s that external validation of the grade where you’re expecting of those students when they participate is a quality comment, something that moves forward, the discussion, which is kind of related to that, that, that chatbox as well.

Andrzej (23m 25s):
It’s actually, it’s funny something that I’ve come across in business quite a lot is, and it’s slightly off the off track. But interesting from that perspective, is that I think as we grow up into business, there’s this kind of perception that you need to be heard. And I’ve been in so many meetings over the last 20 years, or whatever, people are just spoken because they feel like they haven’t spoken for a while. And if they don’t, they’re going to get in trouble or something, because, and so you get into this situation where you almost end up with kind of a, let’s say like a business Tourette’s so I want to do something go. And actually, I have to agree with that and then sit back down again and you think, well, great.

Andrzej (24m 5s):
Okay. Thanks. It’s, it is, I think, and it’s, it’s the way we’re kind of we’re brought up is to make sure people know that you’re paying attention is by interrupting. It’s not active listening, so yeah, so totally aside, but I just, yeah, it’s not just, not just students who do that businesses do that all the time.

Rob (24m 27s):
We’re inside an incentive system that pushes us to do that. For sure. For sure.

Andrzej (24m 34s):
Actually, I go going back to, sorry, sorry. Back on the ethics thing, actually going back, something you said a minute ago about evil. I always used to, I used to cringe when you had that thing with Google do no evil because it always, I always thought about it as evil is really a point of perspective. Sometimes I may perceive something that somebody has done as evil, but they don’t and society may perceive it as evil, but the person doing it might well have had the absolute best of intentions. They just had a slightly warped perspective on how it was, how to do it. So before we came on to this, we were talking a little bit about politics. I’m sure there are some politicians who genuinely believe the things they are doing it for the greater good, and it won’t be until history writes about it.

Andrzej (25m 21s):
And somebody looks back at it and goes, do you know what? It may have been terrible for the people involved, but that one person actually truly thought what they’ll do and was great. And they may well have been evil by every definition of it, but in their own head, they weren’t. So one of the things that I find really helpful when doing anything around ethics and design is putting yourself in the position of the people who are involved. So a lot of role-playing a lot of user analysis, empathy, kind of doing that design thinking thing of putting yourself in that person’s position or the position of lots of different characters to try and understand how it would look to them.

Andrzej (26m 0s):
So if me standing there with a baseball bat while they’re typing for me may seem like a really good idea because it might incentivize them to do more typing because they’re afraid of the baseball bat. If I then put myself in the position of the person, looking at the guy with a baseball bat. Maybe it doesn’t feel so good. You know, a really bad example, but you know what I mean?

Rob (26m 20s):
Absolutely. Absolutely. It actually makes sense. And again, as you were saying, reigns is back into the topic into something very practical as well. Like, as you were saying, I don’t think that people do evil and they laugh. You know, like the guy, the mini-me guy and say, ah, yeah, I’m so evil. I’m doing this because I am evil. I don’t think we’re sort of programmed that way because we, I don’t, I don’t know if we enjoy being evil. There, there might be people with disease disorders and things that, you know, all sorts of different things, but nobody’s doing it out of the thought that I’m doing this because I’m going to enjoy somebody else, not being better off, you know what I mean? Like there’s Schadenfreude and all that,

Andrzej (26m 60s):
but not in this or the wider real world.

Rob (27m 3s):
Exactly, exactly. That’s what I mean, of course, again, there, there are disorders then there are people who have problems, so to speak, but in general terms, it is very important to keep in mind that the person in front of you and this applies to each and every one of us, I can, I can tell you like a job right now. I’ve had arguments with people, like, why are you doing that? Like, this doesn’t make any sense. You’re, you’re just hurting everybody in the process. But then if you like, sort of sit back and think like, why would this person be doing this? There’s probably a reason. I’m not saying you’re going to find out. I’m not even going to say you agree with it, but there is a reason there and understanding those reasons there and helping the other person. There’s another person, always in an argument, there’s you, and there’s the other person helping that other people understand your perspective and you yourself trying to understand their perspective is what, as, as Andrzej was saying, putting yourself in their shoes, then trying to get them into yours is where you actually are able to reach a better understanding.

Rob (27m 58s):
I would argue in general, of course, again, this is generalizing. If you get a group of people to agree on something and that this is ethical, and this seems to be for the greater good, it’s easier than you just sitting alone in your cave and saying, Oh, I think this is the, for the, for the best of everyone, I’m sure quite a few evil characters did that. And it didn’t end up well.

Andrzej (28m 18s):
I mean, if you ever want to sort of really think about ethics and morals, one of the easiest ways, and one of the things that I’ve found really helpful is watching or, or getting involved with children’s games on phones, because I have never, ever in my life seen any series of systems. So aimed at manipulating children into doing things. So there was a milkshake game that one of my children had and you had to make the milkshake for the customer ordered. So the first level was really easy. The milkshake was simple to make you have all the ingredients. On the second level, you needed an orange straw.

Andrzej (29m 1s):
The only way you could get an orange straw is by buying the add-on pack. However, if you bought that add on pack to complete level two on level three, you needed a blue straw. And the blue straw was in the second Add-on pack. And I worked it out. Now, something like about 50 pounds worth of packs, you have to buy to be able to complete this game. And you’ve got distraught children at my ankles, screaming, please can I have just 50 P to get the add on? And just 50 more P, 50 more, and you think, Oh my God. And you look up now

Rob (29m 35s):
And then you get a hundred levels.

Andrzej (29m 38s):
And if you, if you look at, if you look at so many of the games now is how they, this is how they work, they’re free, which is great for most games. And if there are loads and loads of good examples where the games are designed so that you can play it quite happily without ever paying. But if you want to have a special costume. So, I mean, Fortnite’s a great example. You don’t need to pay to make Fortnite a fun game to play, but if you’re interested in getting the clothes and the outfits and the, you know, the skins for your gun, then there are optional packs you can pay for. But then you look at something I see from a battlefront two on the Star Wars games from EA, you know, you have to keep buying things to make the game playable.

Andrzej (30m 20s):
And for me, that’s where ethics become a real problem because there is absolutely no reason to introduce that kind of mechanic into the system with the loot boxes other than to make money off people. And I know we all need to make money, but you paid for the game probably about 40 or 50 pounds for that particular game. And then to enjoy it, you don’t have to continually buy more stuff. To me that feels like a real sort of misstep in ethics, as I said, lots of children’s games. And the number of times my kids come up to me asking me for Robla Robux for their roadblocks games, just saying, Oh, you know, I just, can I just have 10 pounds worth of Robux? I think, well, no, because what are you going to do with it?

Andrzej (31m 1s):
Oh, this outfit that I really want that’ll make me the best princess in the game. No, no, no, please. No.

Rob (31m 9s):
And it’s not just about the money for sure. You’re also teaching them a lesson then.

Andrzej (31m 14s):
I mean, we’ve, we’ve, we’ve used, we’ve used kind of online currency to teach the eldest, especially about the value of money. Watching her kind of waste loads of in-game currency on one thing, and regretting it horribly getting conned by other people with in-game currency. You know she’s, she’s been, she can have by a couple of people where they promised one thing and done the other. So there’ve been lots of interesting life lessons for them using this kind of stuff. But I think it’s a, it’s a really easy way to understand where ethics can get ignored for profit in this instance because you know, looking at big data, which you mentioned earlier, know, Farmville used to do this, where people wouldn’t be able to get past a certain point and they’ll know about it instantly almost because the data they had and now be the perfect opportunity to throw in.

Andrzej (32m 1s):
Oh, if you, if you pay for an extra 50 coins, obviously you can get past this level. So they’ll instantly put advertising on that for, Oh, are you struggling here? Here’s a pack you could buy. So again, it’s not really helping the end-user. It’s just trying to keep them. It’s keeping them hooked for as long as humanly possible to rinse as much money out of them until eventually they get so fatigued by it, they give up. It’s that kind of that real short term mentality of we’ll just keep making them pay until we can’t get any more out of them.

Rob (32m 31s):
And they leave the game.

Andrzej (32m 33s):
Because I can’t really set it now, but it might have been Ian Bogost. Actually, if you have to bribe me to play your game, your game’s no good. And I think that that’s something which we went through a real phase of that on Facebook with games that came out on Facebook. That actually wasn’t very good, but people just got hooked on it because they kept investing in it. And as you all know, you know, the more is it sunk cost fallacy where the more you throw into it, the more you then go, Oh, well, I’m not stupid. So obviously I’m going to, I’ll keep playing because why would I put money in something that wasn’t worth putting money into? Because otherwise that’d be, make me really silly if I did that.

Andrzej (33m 14s):
So you just keep doing it and then eventually you’ll go. No, no, I really am being stupid here and have to admit to yourself and people know this, they’ve got psychology, Ty, you know, some of these games companies employ quite a lot of psychologists just to understand how to make players do more of what the games companies want. So you kind of look at some of this stuff and think, nah, this is not right. You’re doing it for the wrong reasons, not for there not for the benefit of others. So that’s where I started. This is, this is kind of why I started this whole ethics thing because I got so fed up with this idea of just doing stuff because it makes you money. I think actually on the, on the ethics website that I started, you know, that I’ve got up here, you know, the core, the core code of this ethic, that the core of this ethic is to not do any harm to others, not to cause harm to the end-user.

Rob (34m 3s):
Don’t do evil

Andrzej (34m 6s):
sort of yeah. But taking into context what evil might be. But my, my example is this gamification being used to manipulate users in a way that does not benefit them and put their needs at the core, for instance, gamified health that may use nudges to encourage users to exercise more, that’s actually in their best interest. And the app was installed and used voluntarily. However, an app that uses gamification techniques to manipulate children into buying add-ons or in-app currency has no benefit to the user. It should be strongly discouraged. And I think that’s kind of the real core for me is this manipulation itself. Isn’t, isn’t a bad thing. Manipulation just has a really bad kind of rap, I think because we’re being manipulated all the time.

Andrzej (34m 47s):
It’s the, it’s the reason for the manipulation. Fitness apps manipulate you into doing more exercise. Is that a bad thing? No, there’s no evil intent in that you installed the app to get fit. So the app is doing what it can to make you get fit. So, you know, it’s similar, it’s like the two sides of the same coin in one app is telling me to buy more stuff because I want to play the game more. The other app is telling me to exercise more. So I want to get fit. They’re both using the same techniques, but which one is evil. It’s not the technique that’s evil. It’s the intent of the technique that’s evil in that instance.

Rob (35m 21s):
Absolutely. Absolutely. I think we’re, we’re mostly kind of running out of time. I think we’ve had a very productive conversation, but, but I just wanted to sort of rein back things to too, because you mentioned as well. I also like the example of Fortnite and, and I like it, especially because again, they’re giving you these add-ons, which you can pay for it or not pay for, but it’s one of the most successful games in the game history. I mean, these are not the guys pushing you to pay for the sake of paying. So again, we sort of made it full circle. You’re seeing how these strategies and these ways of doing things. Actually, I mean, I’m not saying everybody is going to make it to Fortnite just because you don’t do it, you don’t do evil.

Rob (36m 2s):
Right. But there is a very broad space. There is a good place for doing things right. And being very profitable that is not a contradiction, not trying to extract every single cent you can from every single user you have that does not lead you even to more profit necessarily. Actually, I would argue it does not even lead you to more profit in any case,

Andrzej (36m 24s):
Because it short-sighted because it’s such a short-term strategy.

Rob (36m 28s):
Yeah. It’s the short term. And again, you’re, you’re, if you’re thinking about your returns, I, and typically if you’re, if you’re thinking about it a bit further than your current need today, you think about it a little bit more. You want to be able to feed your family today, but also tomorrow, next week, next month. And for the next few years, right? You don’t just want to extract as much as you can, maybe tomorrow be hungry, right. That’s not what you want if you think about it well. And there, I think we’ve, we’ve splurged with Andrzej with quite a few strategies, ideas, practices, examples. This has been, I, I enjoyed the episode very, very much. I hope you, you do too. You did too, as well. Andrzej and the Engagers for sure.

Andrzej (37m 8s):
Absolutely. It’s been great fun. One last, very quick thing. The reason Fortnite successful is because it’s fun.

Rob (37m 15s):
Absolutely. Absolutely. I completely agree. I don’t, I don’t know about the Star Wars one that you were mentioning. I don’t know if it’s fun or not. I haven’t played, I have played Fortnite quite a bit lately as well. And it is, it is definitely fun. There’s still,

Andrzej (37m 29s):
There’s meant to be a Minecraft copy originally.

Rob (37m 31s):
Are you serious?

Andrzej (37m 32s):
That was the whole idea they want. Cause Fortnite was its own little thing. And then they go, we’re trying to create a, kind of a, a, an idea based around Minecraft, which is why all the building stuff was there and why the original weapon’s the pickaxe.

Rob (37m 45s):
Huh. Interesting. I did not know that.

Andrzej (37m 47s):
I’m pretty sure I didn’t make that up. Someone will Google it and tell you

Rob (37m 52s):
They, they’ll let us know if that’s that is incorrect. For sure. So Andrzej, thank you very much again, for being with us today. I think this conversation was very fruitful. I think there’s many things to take from it. I think many recommendation’s many things to think about because it’s not just about a specific technique or procedure that we do for, for all these things. I think there’s a big picture that we have to get, from this episode. And, and it’s the importance of ethics, how to use them many examples of things. But of course, in the end, in the last minute, it is going to be you making those decisions, convincing that client convincing yourself or other stakeholders of how to do things. How do you consider ethics in whatever it is that you’re doing?

Rob (38m 35s):
Which Andrzej, I hope you agree with me is a key, a central point to any of these designs.

Andrzej (38m 41s):
Absolutely essential. Yes.

Rob (38m 43s):
So once again, thank you Andrzej for being with us today, however, at least for now and for today, it is time to say that it’s game over. Thank you for listening to Professor Game podcast. And I’d like to know if you enjoyed this interview with the amazing guest Andrzej Marczewski, this different interview, please let me know, just go to, start in our email list and reply to the first email you get. And let me know, what do you think about this? This very focused, very topic-driven interview of today. And that way we can also be in contact. I’ll let you know of any opportunities that Professor Game might have.

Rob (39m 23s):
That is interesting for you. And before you go onto your next mission, please go ahead and subscribe using your favorite podcast app and listen to the next episode of Professor Game. See you there.

End of transcription

2 Replies to “Andrzej Marczewski Doing Ethics In Gamification | Episode 161”

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