Pippin Barr, Assistant Professor in the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia University in Montréal, has released a game that I’m sure you’re all going to enjoy. It’s called It is as if you were doing work and it simulates the day-to-day activities of the average knowledge worker. Need to write a document? Close a bunch of notifications first. Finished with one task? Handle another that is equally cryptic. I couldn’t get very far without getting absolutely frustrated and I doubt you’ll make it very far either.
It is as if you were doing work had been around for a long time before I really managed to start working on it properly. I actually documented the original moment that sparked that game in a blog post titled Close analysis of having a game idea – basically I was watching Rilla resizing an image while working on a project and suddenly felt like it would be amazing to have a game entirely premised on totally conventional operations with traditional user-interfaces. From there it became the idea of a WarioWare-esque game where you would complete simple interface operations under time pressure (I will likely return to this) with various ideas for layering on some kind of meta-narrative, or AI-twist, or something to make it more ‘spectacular’.
After a couple of months with it on the back-burner, I came back to the game thinking mostly in terms of technologies. Specifically, I was teaching a web development course at university and started thinking it would be interesting to build a game using a kind of standard-issue user-interface library like jQuery as opposed to building it with a game engine. It felt like there was something appropriate about using tools that actually fit in with the nature of the game as interface-oriented. So at that point I started nailing down what I’d actually be able to implement with jQuery UI’s tools (e.g. checkboxes, radio buttons, buttons, progress bars, etc.).
The game is best played on a desktop, just like a traditional cubicle warrior would, so put down your phone for a minute and remind yourself that this is just a game and your entire livelihood and, for some, societal and health protections are based on the need to reproduce these actions for equally baffling reasons in the real world.