Episode

1/19 The “Gamifying” of Society; Hochul’s Power Grab Tanks w/ Adrian Hon & Alex Sammon

January 19, 2023

Emma hosts Adrian Hon, game designer and CEO of Six to Start, to discuss his recent book You’ve Been Played: How Corporations, Governments, and Schools Use Games to Control Us All. Then, she is joined by Alex Sammon, politics writer at Slate, to discuss the recent controversy surrounding New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s nomination of Judge Hector LaSalle to New York’s highest court.  Emma begins by running through updates on the debt ceiling’s summer showdown, election deniers overtaking the house oversight committee, and Hochul’s Chief Judgeship nomination failing to make it through the state senate judiciary committee, before diving into Joe Manchin’s recent appearance at the Davos economic forum as he calls out the debt ceiling while completely ignoring the biggest counterweight to government spending (taxes). Adrian Hon then joins as he dives into what “gamification” entails, with the application of game design in non-game circumstances, be it in education, fitness, labor, or whatever, creating a hyper-monitored system of achievements and failure. Parsing through the impact of the “gamification” of the world of labor, Adrian and Emma walk through the major changes we’ve seen alongside it, including an increased level of surveillance and performance feedback coming in the form of intra-workplace competition, and how this allows employers to set up unachievable “goals” for employees to push their labor while avoiding appropriate compensation. After a brief conversation on the relationship between the “gamification” of labor and the gig economy, Hon walks through the evolution of apps in the 2000s and early 2010s that opened up society so fully to gamification, emphasizing arbitrary achievements as proof of value in a perversion of the already corrupt meritocracy we supposedly live it. They wrap up the interview by focusing on a specific realm of “gamified” labor in the trucking industry, as they analyze how gamification and decades of dwindling labor leverage reinforced the increasing insecurity and decreasing solidarity in the workplace, and explore why these arbitrary systems of tracking achievement don’t serve to increase the effectiveness of the institution it’s serving. Alex Sammon and Emma then dive deep into the story behind Gov. Kathy Hochul’s floundering nomination for Chief Judge of the NY Court of Appeals, walking through how he came to be her first choice, why there was immediate pushback to such a selection, and how Hochul could possibly have seen this as an important fight when it undermines not only her constituents but her own party, before wrapping up with an assessment of Hakeem Jeffries hopping on Hochul’s bandwagon despite this court being the very reason his party lost control of the House.

And in the Fun Half: Emma is joined by Brandon Sutton and Matt Binder as they tackle the release of a gritty retake of our favorite perceptive posse in “Velma,” and Binder gives his absurd take on the rankings of animation houses. They also tackle the issues with AI algorithms (and where they could actually help), discuss Tucker’s newest guest of MLK’s extended family, and talk with Alex from NY. Candace Owens shares her feelings on therapy (interesting, no facts involved), for some reason the crew discusses NFTs in 2023, and Kowalski calls in with his fun-half takes. They also run through updates on George Santos’ absurdly villainous origin story, plus, your calls and IMs!

Check out Adrian’s book here: https://www.basicbooks.com/titles/adrian-hon/youve-been-played/9781541600195/

Check out Alex’s work at Slate here: https://slate.com/author/alexander-sammon

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