“You just Earned 10 Points!”: Gaming and Grinding in Academia

Nick Butler*, Sverre Spoelstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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This short paper explores the gamification of an online academic conference. At the conference, digital gamification was meant to stimulate increased levels of participation among attendees. Instead, it resulted in a series of unintended consequences. Precisely because it was all too easy to score points and ascend the virtual leaderboard by means of machine-like grinding, the “Conference Challenge” posed a moral dilemma for its players: each participant had to determine for themselves where the border lay between playing the game and gaming the system. We use this case to raise questions about the ethics of game-playing in an academic context. In particular, we suggest that the Conference Challenge is a distorted reflection of what’s already happening in the broader “publication game” in the university.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: January 6, 2023.


  • Academic conference
  • Game-playing
  • Gamification
  • Publishing ethics

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