‘Fifteen Million Merits’, Gamification and Online Identity

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The first time I watched Black Mirror: Fifteen Million Merits, I was left shaking and speechless for a few minutes. So bleak and so brutal!

I watched it again last night for my blogging unit, ALC708, at Deakin and it hasn’t lost any of its impact. I’ve seen all the other episodes of Black Mirror, but this one probably affected me the most because it’s just so plausible. I can definitely see society being complacent enough to let that type of world become reality.

I think Fifteen Million Merits raises some interesting and ominous ideas about the possible consequences of some aspects of digital technology that I have recently started to explore for ALC708. These are the gamification of life and online identities.

FMM depicts an extreme version of gamification gone-wrong and a society where online identities have eclipsed our analogue selves. In this society, all of your waking time is spent in front of screens. You earn “merits” as you cycle to power the world and the screens around you and you spend these “merits” on non-tangible items for your avatar while watching asinine, obnoxious and rapey reality shows. You are forced to watch adverts, charged “merits” for skipping them and tortured with an increasingly piercing squeal for closing or covering your eyes.

The gamification of life in FMM has gone too far. It has been twisted, used to enslave and pitted everyone against each other.  Where the emerging concept of gamification can be an effective tool for motivation and productivity, in FMM it has become a diversion and a distraction from the monotony of cycling nowhere and watching crap.

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Scene from Black Mirror: Fifteen Million Merits , 2011. Author’s Screenshot.

The same can be said about the expression of online identity in FMM. The near-total replacement of analogue self-expression with not-even-very-good-avatars called Dopples has seemingly left this world’s inhabitants devoid of meaningful relationships. Any that do form are swiftly crushed by FMM’s reality. In FMM online identities have nearly taken over completely, to the detriment of humanity.

Anyway, in regard to the gamification of life, I’ve started using this app called Habitica. It’s basically a fun to-do list that gamifies your life by offering rewards and punishments for completing or not completing tasks, maintaining good habits and achieving set goals. You earn experience points as well as diamonds and gold and silver coins which can be used to purchase weapons and armour for your avatar. You can also unlock quests but I have no idea about these as I’m not that far along yet. I guess we’ll see whether I cultivate more productive habits or (spoiler alert!) wind up holding a shard of glass to my throat and dropping truth bombs.

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Habitica Avatar and Profile Bar, HabitRPG, Inc., 2015. Author’s Screenshot.

References:

‘Fifteen Million Merits’ Black Mirror, season 1, episode 2, Channel 4, 11 December, 2011. Informit EduTV, http://ezproxy.deakin.edu.au/login?qurl=http://edutv.informit.com.au/watch-screen.php?videoID=462340.

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2 thoughts on “‘Fifteen Million Merits’, Gamification and Online Identity

  1. Love your work Bart! Some great reflections on the episode and I’m super-impressed you’re using Habitica off your own bat… I think I’ve already tweeted you about it (unless I’m corrupting more people than I thought with gamification!), but be sure to let me know if you’re keen to join our DigitalDeakinite Habitica party – it adds an extra layer to the motivational quality of the app… Keep up the great effort!

    Liked by 1 person

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