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Amazon has been dabbling in video games for some time now, going as far as even purchasing video game developers to build new projects. Now, we’ve learned (via the Washington Post) the company has made a video game to keep their warehouse staff motivated.
The new game is basically like the iconic Tetris, but with shipping boxes. Workers can “play” the game while they fill customer orders – a system designed to help keep workers motivated and productive so their shipments can remain fast and efficient.
Here’s a description of the “game”, via the WaPo:
Developed by Amazon, the games are displayed on small screens at employees’ workstations. As robots wheel giant shelves up to each workstation, lights or screens indicate which item the worker needs to pluck to put into a bin. The games simultaneously register the completion of the task, which is tracked by scanning devices, and can pit individuals, teams or entire floors against one another to be fastest, simply by picking or stowing real Lego sets, cellphone cases or dish soap. Game-playing employees are rewarded with points, virtual badges and other goodies throughout a shift.
Think Tetris, but with real boxes.
Amazon has deployed the game in “five warehouses from suburban Seattle to near Manchester in Britain, after starting to offer them at a lone warehouse in late 2017.” The games naturally plant the seeds of competition in warehouses, where staff will inadvertently remain in peak efficiency while competing with each other – and meeting shipping quotas for Amazon proper.
Despite the expansion of the game’s deployment, playing the packing game isn’t mandatory – it’s voluntary. It’s worth pointing out the Washington Post is owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. Workers described the games on guarantee of anonymity.
No actual images for the game were revealed (Editor’s Note: the thumbnail is likely a mock up from WaPo), but the games are named things like “MissionRacer, PicksInSpace, Dragon Duel, and CastleCrafter”, and have “simple graphics akin to early Nintendo games like Super Mario Bros.”
This packaging game was designed after Amazon warehouses became increasingly reliant on robots for most of the movement of products – as such workers tend to be sitting in front of computers most of the time. The game only spurred employee competition and focus more, where shipping records were continually improved or even surpassed.
Previously, Amazon came under fire with things like a patent for a cage to ferry humans around robot-dominated warehouses, as well as reports that staff were expected to meet high quotas, and to avoid being reprimanded they began peeing in bottles to avoid spending time in the bathroom.
In recent Amazon news – the company is nearing a victory for ownership of the .amazon web domain, a legal battle they had been pursuing against several rainforest-bordering countries.
Amazon said they’re trying to create a more interactive and fun work environment, where workers can even play the games in an anonymous mode if they don’t want to show their name to others – as the stats will be posted to leaderboards.