Internet masterminds realized you can get people to do almost anything (like, say, share their banal restaurant visits with friends) if you make it a pseudo-game. Now Google's piling on! Reading news will let you collect badges and level up.

Google News' new badge system will ostensibly let you organize your browsing habits better, but I think it's safe to say that this is mostly about tapping into our perhaps primordial life-drive to rack up arbitrary points. To use Google's own example, frequent reading of basketball articles will earn you a 'Basketball' badge, which you can then level up with repeated reading.

There are more than 500 badges to unlock—presumably for extremely niche topics like sexy knitting and the Micronesian legislature—so you better get readin' if you want to visually dominate your friends in current events consumption. One caveat: you need Web History switched on, so privacy pros might not want to stitch these badges on. [Google Blog]