You’ve Been Played

Adrian Hon

How games are being harnessed as instruments of exploitation – and what we can do about it

Warehouse workers pack boxes while a virtual dragon races across their screen. If they beat their colleagues, they get an award. If not, they can be fired. Uber presents exhausted drivers with challenges to keep them driving. China scores its citizens so they behave well, and games with in-app purchases use achievements to empty your wallet.

Points, badges and leaderboards are creeping into every aspect of modern life. In You’ve Been Played, game designer Adrian Hon delivers a blistering takedown of how corporations, schools and governments use games and gamification as tools for profit and coercion. These are games that we often have no choice but to play, where losing has heavy penalties. You’ve Been Played is a scathing indictment of a tech-driven world that wants to convince us that misery is fun, and a call to arms for anyone who hopes to preserve their dignity and autonomy.


ISBN: 9781800751972

Published: September 15, 2022


ISBN: 9781800751996

Published: September 21, 2023


ISBN: 9781800751989

Published: September 15, 2022


Reviews for You’ve Been Played

You’ve Been Played manages to be as addictive, infuriating, and strangely gratifying as the games (and gamification) Hon writes about. Honestly, reading this book felt like switching on a light: I’ll never be able to look at the apps on my phone, or the screen of my Peloton, or even my Delta Skymiles Account the same way again’ – Anne Helen Petersen, author of Can’t Even

‘[E]xcellent … [Hon] has intelligent suggestions about curbing the worst excesses of gamification – correctly conscious that the challenge is formidable, and getting more so with each passing month’ – Matt d’Ancona, Tortoise Media

‘This expansive, fascinating study, equal parts dismal and dizzying in its implications, is a valuable testament to the era we’re in, and an aid for unravelling the spirit of competition that runs through our culture, and which we are so often sold as self-worth’ – Roisin Kiberd, Irish Independent

‘Hon raises important questions, that need to be asked’ – Irish Tech News

Thought-provoking … Hon observes, games are a lot less enjoyable if you have no choice over whether to take part’ – The Economist

‘You’ve Been Played is the urgent wake-up call we need to the dangers of the gamification run amok, where manipulation masquerades as fun and politics and profit are the only real winners. Essential reading for lovers of games, human freedom, and anyone who still believes that playing should be fun’ – David Sax, bestselling author of The Revenge of Analog

‘[Hon] warns in this convincing survey that gamification … has “become the twenty-first century’s most advanced form of behavioural control” … This passionate survey is a wake-up call for workers and political leaders alike’ – Publishers Weekly

You’ve Been Played is a must-read examination of the rise of gamification and how technologies that subtly interface directly with our minds are being deployed in ways that are exploitative and dehumanizing’ – Martin Ford, bestselling author of Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future


Adrian Hon

Adrian Hon is the CEO and Founder of independent games developer Six to Start. He is the co-creator of Zombies, Run, an immersive running game which has had 5 million downloads in the United States alone. Adrian previously studied neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, and the University of California at San Diego. He is the author of A History of the Future in 100 Objects and has written about technology for The Telegraph. He lives in Edinburgh, UK.