High Score, Low Pay

High Score, Low Pay

Why the Gig Economy Loves Gamification

The Guardian, 2018

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Insider's Take


Sarah Mason, a Lyft driver and sociologist, forensically examines management controls in the ride app industry. Based on her personal experience, she shows how companies like Lyft use gamification to motivate drivers. Your driver is actually playing a game – and may be hooked.


Before labor rights and a social welfare system protected workers, economic necessity ensured that people worked hard. But once these safeguards were in place, people didn’t start slacking. According to sociologist Michael Burawoy, gamification replaced coercion. Managers framed production, for example, as a set of challenges that motivated workers to overcome obstacles and reach targets. Burawoy observed that gamification also meant that dissatisfied workers no longer felt disgruntled about employers – but rather directed their anger at the colleague who slowed them down.

Today’s ride-sharing companies also use gamification as a management tool. They offer their employees freedom...

About the Author

Sarah Mason is a Lyft driver and a graduate student studying platform-mediated labor at the University of California.

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