Amazon boosts productivity by gamifying warehouse workers’ tedium

amazon is letting its warehouse staff play video games while they work fulfillment center
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Amazon is clearly edging ever closer to the day when it can replace its warehouse workers with robots, but until then it needs to make sure those workers operate as efficiently as possible so that it can streamline its operation and ensure its online shoppers receive their orders in a timely fashion.

One way Amazon is doing this is by allowing its warehouse staff to play games while they work. The games have been specially designed to increase productivity by encouraging competition among workers.

According to a Washington Post report this week, hundreds of pickers and packers at Amazon warehouses “spend hours a day playing video games,” with some competing “by racing virtual dragons or sports cars around a track, while others collaborate to build castles piece by piece.” The offerings include Amazon-made titles such as MissionRacer, PicksInSpace, and Dragon Duel.

The games, whose graphics and gameplay are described as being a bit on the clunky side, are currently offered at five Amazon warehouses, including in its home city of Seattle, Washington, and Manchester, England.

Employees can choose whether or not to play the games, which are displayed on screens attached to workstations. Single-player modes are available, though team games are also possible.

The Post describes how flashing lights direct workers to grab an ordered item that then has to be put into a bin, with the speed of their actions transformed into a game on a screen. The so-called “gamification” of tedious and repetitive tasks is designed to make a job more entertaining, while at the same time encouraging staff to complete their work more quickly.

Those who play the games are rewarded with “points, virtual badges, and other goodies,” though in one warehouse some high-scoring workers have reportedly persuaded managers to let them exchange their rewards for so-called “swag bucks,” an in-house currency that staff can use for buying a range of items.

For sure, Amazon doesn’t get the best press when it comes to the treatment of its warehouse-based workforce, though the company always insists it fully supports its staff. With its gaming initiative, some Amazon employees told the Post it’d helped to inject some fun into otherwise monotonous tasks.

With recent promises of one-day delivery for all Prime members, Amazon is under pressure to find ways to improve productivity levels among not only its workforce, but throughout all stages of its massive logistical operation.

Technological advances are certainly helping the company to speed up much of its work, an increasingly important factor that allowed Amazon to make fewer temporary hires than usual during the last holiday season.

Indeed, game or no game, when Amazon finally develops the perfect warehouse robot capable of performing all the necessary tasks in the blink of an eye, there’ll only be one winner.

Gaming

E3 2019: Microsoft’s hasty, brave Project xCloud demo can’t handle the pressure

Microsoft brought Project xCloud, its cloud gaming service, to E3 2019. I played Halo 5 and Hellblade: Senua's Sacrafice on a smartphone powered by an xCloud server hundreds of miles away. It worked, but it wasn't magic.
Mobile

Put down the controller and pick up the best phones for gaming on the go

Which phones are the best if all you want to do is play some mobile games? We've done the hard work and put together a list of the best gaming phones on Android and iOS, so you can keep playing and winning.
Gaming

E3 2019: All the games we expected to see, and some we didn’t

E3 2019 is the biggest gaming event of the year. It will be loaded with new game announcements and details. These are the games we expect to see at E3 2019, and the games we won't see.
Mobile

Get your gaming on the go with the 25 best Android games

The Google Play Store is loaded with both terrific and terrible gaming titles. We vetted the store to bring you some of the best Android games available, whether you're into puzzles, shooters, racing games, or something else entirely.
Deals

Walmart drops a big $200 price cut on the Dell XPS 8930 PC

If you're looking for an affordable gaming PC, you'll want to check out this Dell XPS 8930 Gaming Desktop Computer (8th Gen), which is $200 off from Walmart. Normally $1,400, a cool 14% discount brings the price down to $1,200.
Gaming

From Nintendo to Capcom, here are the best booths we saw at E3 2019

Every year, publishers and developers gather in Los Angeles to show off their games at E3. Booths are a major part of the excitement and this year didn't let us down. From Nintendo to Capcom, here are the best booths of E3 2019.
Gaming

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is endearing and wonderfully weird

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is as magically weird as I remembered. The super cute art style fits Koholint Island so well, and Nintendo improved multiple, critical mechanics.
Computing

Don’t call it retro. Atari’s VCS is a modern console for PC gamers

You might think the Atari VCS is another retro console like the Nintendo SNES Classic or Sega Genesis Mini. You'd be wrong. Atari's VCS is actually a modern console that runs PC hardware. Yes, it can play Atari games, but it does much more.
Gaming

Call of Duty: Mobile is the best shooter I’ve played on a smartphone

Call of Duty: Mobile attempts to put the franchise's tight gameplay in the palm of your hand. It's largely successful, thanks to precise controls and attractive graphics. The game arrives on iOS and Android later this year.
Gaming

The PlayStation Network is back up. Here’s the latest on the PSN outage

Sony's PlayStation Network is back online after going down for several hours on Thursday afternoon, annoying legions of gamers right in the middle of E3. Here's the latest on the outage
Cars

Tesla screens may support YouTube with next software update

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced today at E3 that the infotainment screens will support YouTube video streaming very soon. This most likely lines up with the latest software update that is expected later this year.
Deals

The best Nintendo Switch deals and bundles for June 2019

Looking to score Nintendo's latest console? We've smoked out the best Nintendo Switch deals, including discounts on bundles that feature must-have games like Super Mario Odyssey, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Florida’s autonomous vehicle law, E3 updates, and more

On this episode of DT Live, we take a look at the biggest trending stories in tech, including Florida allowing fully autonomous vehicles on the road, Atari’s new gaming system, E3 updates, high-speed rail, and more.
Gaming

Niantic Labs sues hackers who help players cheat in Pokémon Go

Niantic Labs has filed a lawsuit against Global++, who is said to be behind the hacked versions of Pokémon Go and Ingress. The legal action comes as the developer is preparing to launch Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.