The Most Interesting Games of PSX 2015: Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives
At this year's PlayStation Experience, Sony and other game companies showed off tons of upcoming games for the PlayStation 4, the PlayStation VR controller, and even the Vita. But as we all know, not all games are created equal. Here's a hands-on preview of one of the five games that I found most interesting.
The promise of virtual reality games is that they'll not only let us do things we could never do — y'know, like every other video game — but that it will make us feel like we're really doing those things. We won't just be racing cars like we do in Forza Motorsport 6 or Need For Speed, but we'll really feel like we're in the driver's seat.
And then there are such VR games as Owlchemy Lab's Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives, which will make you feel like you're in the same kind of cubicle where you spend every weekday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Well, sort off. As I learned from playing this game at the PlayStation Experience, they're using that word "Simulator" rather loosely.
Get to work
"The premise of Job Simulator," explains Owlchemy Lab's CEO and janitor Alex Schwartz, "is that it's the year 2050, and the robots have automated all the jobs. But just so humans don't forget what jobs were like, this job simulator was built so people could relive what it was like to have a job. In fact, the starting point is a museum.
"The problem is that the robots did a very bad job with their research," Schwartz continues. "A quick look at Wikipedia, a couple movies, that's how they learned what jobs were like." Which explains why, while playing it, a robot-looking boss came over and told me yeah, he's going to need me to come in on Saturday. "Yeah, the robots are huge fans of Office Space," chuckles Schwartz.
To play Job Simulator, you'll have to dig out those ice cream cone-looking PlayStation Move controllers you probably forgot you own. Prior to dealing with what I hereby dub The Lumberghtron 5000, for instance, I was told that office workers start their days with a cup of coffee and a donut, then turn on their computers. So I used the Move controller in my real-world right hand to move my in-game right hand over a mug, pressed the trigger to pick it up, and then repeated these action to move the mug under the spigot of a coffee maker, press a button to dispense some coffee into it, and then lift it up to my mouth, and so on.
"Using the Move controllers instead of a regular controller is essential," Schwartz says, "because the core of the game is all about having good hand interaction. You can't really do that with a controller."
The flipside of having a robot tell you what to do is that you don't actually have to do any of it. "There is a structure of tasks being given to the player," Schwartz explains. "Like, I noticed that, as you played it, you were very tasked oriented and did what the robot told you what to do. But some people say, 'F*** the robot, f*** this place,' and they start throwing stuff all over the place. And the game will react to it. If you throw a staple and hit your coworker, they'll react to you.
"People even try to make their own games within the game," he continues. "We've seen people stack up all eight donuts and then try to eat them all at once, or they'll double-first staplers and start shooting them around the office." Best of all, if don't follow the robot's commands, the robots don't get mad and kill you. They just wait. Patiently. "It's kind of like Grand Theft Auto in its progression," Schwartz admits. "In Grand Theft Auto, you can drive around for an infinite amount of time, running people over, doing whatever you want, but it isn't until you do the next mission that things progress. So in our game, until you eat the donut, you don't move on and ultimately get to the end of the simulation."
Though Schwartz also notes that if, like me, you continue to do what you're told, the tasks become increasingly bizarre and un-job-like. That's because while he and his coworkers are trying to make Job Simulator fun, they're also trying to make it funny, a parody of modern life.
Grounded in reality
Consider this: "We have five jobs in the game," Schwartz says. "Along with office worker, there's also a convenience store clerk, where you're basically Apu from The Simpsons, as well as a gourmet chef. But the robots think the pinnacle of human cooking was the microwave, and that to make a cake, you have to throw eggs, a flower — because they've incorrectly interpreted 'flour' as 'flower' — and raw meat straight into a microwave, and out comes a fully-formed cake. That kind of humor permeates the entire game."
In fact, he admits, they actually omitted a potential job because it lacked parody potential. "We tried to make one of the jobs be a space station repairman," he recalls. "We thought it would fun to play with zero gravity physics. But, as it turns out, it didn't lend itself to parody. Everyone's been in a kitchen like a chef, everyone knows what should happen in an office. So there's jokes to be made."
All of which makes me think that when Job Simulator comes out at the launch of the PlayStation VR, it's going to be a lot more fun than people might expect from a game that sticks you into a simulator of the cubicle you just spent the last eight hours trying to escape from.
Especially if, as I suspect, a certain someone does the voice of the Lumberghtron 5000. "Why yes," Schwartz says with a smile, "we do have some unannounced voice actors."
Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives will be a launch title for the PlayStation VR.