It’s a game exploring the high cost of cheap fashion…
A free strategy game about money, fashion, and
Wait, what? Who designed this game?
Actually, the game was commissioned by
Channel 4 in Westminster, London
Channel 4 is the UK's only publicly-owned,
commercially-funded public service broadcaster.
The game design itself was developed by
Little Loud in Brighton, UK.
Little Loud describes itself as developing ideas that
engage, entertain and occasionally provoke, all
glued together by innovative storytelling.
What were Channel 4 and Little Loud attempting
when they made Sweatshop?
They are raising awareness by showing us how
shoes and clothes get to here…
From their beginnings here.
Who is the target audience for this game?
The game is geared for college students, young
adults in their 20s, and perhaps the rebellious
Because the language would never make it into a
high school classroom…
And the humor with heavy sexual innuendo is
not really appropriate for any age group…
But on a more positive note,
the game is set up to appeal
to the college aged crowd by
sharing among friends on
Facebook and many other
social networking sites.
And there is a designated page on the main menu
for downloading backgrounds and IM icons.
So what is the story being told by Sweatshop?
Well, the previous factory manager quit, so you’ve
been hired to run the factory floor.
All the workers left with the former manager. All
but one small child worker. One small child who
asks difficult questions, and frames the goal of the
game for you.
Oh, and your boss is still around.
A simple strategy game, but with many layers of
The game has 30 levels, which take 2-3 hours to
play through quickly (not worrying about score).
Game play continues to be interesting
through increasing complexity at each level
Conveyor belt shapes become more
complex, production orders more varied.
Besides hiring workers, you can increase
production by providing training, refreshment,
and increased profits. The boss gives you hints at
key moments to scaffold your learning.
But even though he gives you hints, production is
still the bottom line. Too many mistakes, and you
After each level you are given feedback in terms of
quality, time, and cash.
The game employs Multiple Intelligences learning
theory, offering many instances of both direct and
Direct learning occurs on the summary page at the end
of every level. Under the “For Real” heading, the game
designers list the facts of sweatshops in the real world.
30 levels, and 30 opportunities for the reality of
sweatshops to sink in.
At the end of the game, your total stats are listed,
giving you a fairly direct view of the consequences
of your decisions throughout the game.
A particularly helpful feature of the final scorecard is
your final Boss rank. This is very helpful feedback on
how you are balancing your principles and your profits.
The game also offers many opportunities for
indirect learning, another way of using Multiple
Intelligences learning theory and also bringing in
You can choose to employ children in your
factory, or not. You experience many costs
and benefits to the decision either way.
Through your choices about child workers, you begin
to realize some of the less obvious side effects.
You begin to see the many layers of exploitation
operating in a sweatshop. There is hierarchy even
here, among desperate workers.
Foreign workers with a language barrier are at an
even greater disadvantage.
Exploitation comes not only in terms of pay, but
through stripping away basic human rights and
And exploitation manifests in some truly horrific
forms. In case these indirect/constructivist lessons
weren’t quite getting through to you.
By being in the role of factory manager, you begin
to realize the cruel math that starts to make sense
in a twisted sort of way.
Profits? Or principles?
You also see the math work the other way, to
benefit workers. Higher principles can lead to
The game gives you opportunity to see the
complexity of the issue, without putting a solution
in a pretty package.
All these are examples of in-game consequences rather
than having to feel first-hand in the real world, like in
the game Re-Mission (Tate 2009; week 5).
So is playing Sweatshop worth your time?
In addition to the many direct and indirect lessons
It’s helpful to note that Sweatshop is actually a
GAME, not merely gamification/exploitationware
(Bogost 2011; week 10).
Sweatshop does a wonderful job combining the
contradictory elements of a serious game: the trivial
and the powerful.
Sweatshop offers addictive gameplay and an
And the game does not overemphasize points, badges,
trophies, etc. (Bogost 2011).
The game employs thoughtfully chosen design
elements for effective dissemination of information
(Atkin 1994; week 10).
Target audience: college-aged young adults
Target response: Atkin notes that an explicit
recommendation is best, something that offers
SWEATSTOP (under the “PLAY GAME” button on the main page)
Many of the clothes available in our high street shops have been manufactured in
sweatshops, factories that routinely pay their workers less than the minimum wage,
and prevent the formation of unions to campaign for better working conditions.
Sweatshop is a light-hearted game, but it’s based upon very present realities that
many workers around the world contend with each day. Littleloud and Channel 4
worked with experts on sweatshops to integrate some of these realities into the game
design. In addition, there are numerous facts and figures spread throughout the
game, highlighting the plight of the workers who may well have made the clothes you
are wearing today. Read on for more information about the truths behind Sweatshop
(with the relevant sources). Visit sites such as Labour Behind the Label, War On
Want, Fairtade and No Sweat if you’d like to get involved in campaigns to improve the
plight of workers around the globe.
Multiple incentives: Real world principles (such as
basic human compassion), score summary after every
stage, final scorecard, final boss rank, and the ability
to earn trophies (Atkin 1994).
Credibility: Trustworthiness and familiarity of
Channel 4 as the sponsor. Reliability of over 20
sources of data for the facts listed at the end of each
level (Atkin 1994).
Style of presentation: Purposefully cartoonish,
humorous, satirical. Able to smoothly mix fun and
seriousness (Atkin 1994).
Personally involving and relevant: Addictive
gameplay and immersive narrative keep your
attention. Any player of the game wears shirts and
shoes, so the gameplay connects close to home (Atkin
Clarity: The theme line is concise, “a game exploring
the high cost of cheap fashion,” but could stand to be
featured more prominently throughout the game
The game also employs many Behavior Change Techniques from Abraham and Michie (2008; week 10).
Behavior Change Techniques
Provide information about behaviorhealth link
Provide information on others’
Provide information on consequences
Behavior Change Techniques
Provide contingent rewards
Agree on behavioral contract
Prompt intention formation
Prompt barrier identification
Use follow-up prompts
Provide opportunities for social
Provide general encouragement
Set graded tasks
Prompt specific goal setting
Prompt review of behavioral goals
Provide feedback on performance
Prompt identification as a role model
Prompt self-monitoring of behavior
Plan social support or social change
Model or demonstrate the behavior
Teach to use prompts or cues
Most of the Behavior Change Techniques used in the
game are to help one become a principled factory
manager, so some translation will be required to help
the player become an activist in their own setting
(Abraham & Michie 2008).
The game also employed many of the Persuasive Technology Design Principles described by Oinas-Kukkonen
and Harjumaa (1994; week 10).
Persuasive Technology Design
Persuasive Technology Design
Similarity (like Proteus Effect)
Remember that the Persuasive Technology Design
Principles are grouped into four categories: primary
task support, dialogue support, system credibility
support, and social support (Oinas-Kukkonen &
Sweatshop is particularly strong in dialogue support
and system credibility support (Oinas-Kukkonen &
With additional funding and time for development,
the game could be improved in several ways.
If players were able to customize an avatar, the game
would take advantage of identification (the Proteus
Effect described by Lieberman in week 6; and the
personalization and similarity principles described by
Oinas-Kukkonen & Harjumaa).
If an online multiplayer feature were added, the game
would take advantage of the principles of social
learning, social comparison, social facilitation, and
cooperation (Oinas-Kukkonen & Harjumaa).
Adding a few ways to begin participating in sweatshop
activism would be as easy including additional links
to external websites, and would contribute toward the
primary task support through the rehearsal principle
(Oinas-Kukkonen & Harjumaa).
Finally, adding a few prominent 3rd-party
endorsements would increase the system credibility
support (Oinas-Kukkonen & Harjumaa).
My final recommendation:
Play this game! http://www.playsweatshop.com
You could build in a social component for yourself
by talking to some friends as you go, reading
further on your own, and finding a mentor.
So, give this game a chance to persuade you to get
involved in the real world.
BONUS Sweatshop Video Game: Fear Factory
featured on The Daily Show, airing January 16, 2012
(start around the 6:00 minute mark for the Serious Game portion)