Amazon tests video games for bored warehouse workers

Amazon is attempting to make warehouse work'fun' via the launch of video games for employees. The games are described as an experiment tied to each worker's performance, rewarding them with points and/or progress whenever they retrieve a product and fulfill an order. The games are optional for warehouse workers, and are currently only available in 'a handful' of facilities.

Details on the warehouse game experiment come from The Washington Post, which reports that Amazon developed the games itself to be displayed on small employee workstation displays. Workers opt-in to play the games, one of which is described as being like 'Tetris, but with real boxes.'

The game works by rewarding players with points whenever they pick up a real-world box and put it into a bin. Each action is registered by the game, which enables players to compete against each other, as well as facilitating competitions between entire floors and teams. Players may receive badges and various 'goodies' in addition to points for participating.

The experiment represents the 'gamification' of work, referring to a platform that gives users a mission and reward for completing real-world tasks. Similar methods have been used to encourage physical activity among children and reward individuals for achieving their personal goals. The system may prove useful for addressing boredom that results from tedious, repetitive warehouse work, too.

Questions remain over how enjoyable employees may find these games — and, even if they are fun at first, how long the workers will persist with using them before they, too, become just another boring element of the typical work day.

Critics have likewise questioned whether the games will be used to prod warehouse workers into completing a greater number of tasks at a faster pace, potentially opening the door for burnout. Players who compete with co-worker may feel stress if they see those individuals achieving more points.

However, some employees speaking anonymously to WaPo claim the games have helped them deal with boredom on the job. It's unclear whether Amazon has immediate plans to bring the games to additional facilities.