In brief: Amazon has long had a poor reputation when it comes to the working conditions within its warehouses. Not only is the job reported to be physically demanding, but it’s also monotonous and boring. To try and alleviate the drudgery and increase productivity, the company is letting employees gamify their workload using video games.
The Washington Post—owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos—reported on the program, which has been rolled out to five warehouses across the US and UK. It consists of retro-style games with names such as "MissionRacer," "PicksInSpace," "Dragon Duel," and "CastleCrafter," which are displayed on employees’ workstations.
The games are linked to the workers' scanning devices, thereby registering each task they carry out and progressing the gameplay. The titles are designed so individuals, teams, and even entire floors can compete against each other. While no monetary rewards or bonuses are given to the winners, there are virtual badges, bragging rights, and “swag bucks,” which can be used to buy Amazon-branded apparel and gear, on offer.
It might help with the boredom of the job, but for Amazon this is all about increasing efficiency among workers. The company says playing the games is optional, but as the speed at which employees perform their duties is constantly monitored, many may feel they have little choice but to participate, lest they start underperforming and risk losing their jobs.
Amazon repeatedly defends the working conditions in its warehouses, but last year saw employees in Europe go on strike to protest Prime Day. The company also uses Amazon FC ambassadors to respond to negative tweets with positive messages.