This article contends that gamification is a longstanding means of making knowledge, not just a twenty-first-century design technique. People have applied games to non-entertainment domains for millennia, especially to perform functions that we now associate with computational media, but their status as “epistemic mediators” comes to the fore in recent history. Stark examines two twentieth-century uses of games as models for systems that, contrasted, evidence distinct approaches to formalizing phenomena in the human sciences. First, Oskar Morgenstern and John von Neumann’s Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (1944) illustrates the propensity game models have to reduce complexity, mechanize judgment, and promote capitalist values. Then, Gregory Bateson’s cybernetic game models serve as counterexamples that, along with his critiques of game theory, the conclusion brings to bear on current debates about gamification.