Developer Owlchemy Labs is taking the old saying, "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," and turning it on its head. The company’s new game, Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives, places players into a scenario where they pretend to work.
With coffee, doughnuts and endless amounts of forms to fill out, the game doesn't exactly sound like a barrel of laughs. But a closer look at the Oculus Touch game reveals there’s more than meets the eye.
Once the game started, I immediately noticed there wasn't another human in sight. Instead, my boss was a robot, and it was there to make sure I didn't slack off, which I immediately did.
With the Oculus Touch controllers in hand, I reached for a rather filthy coffee mug, and got a cup of Joe from the coffeemaker that was conveniently in my cubicle. After adding some creamer and grabbing a chocolate doughnut from a nearby box, I ate and drank, of which my boss took note.
He explained that this is what humans used to do to start their day at work. Used to? Okay then.
Owlchemy's Chief Scientist Alex Schwartz and Chief Technology Owl (sic) Devin Reimer told me that in Job Simulator, the computers have taken all of humanity's jobs. The game is meant to be a simulator for the humans of 2050. who are presumably curious about the work environments of their ancestors.
Set in some sort of museum, Job Simulator gives human visitors a choice among five jobs they can act out, such as working as a meaningless drone in a cubicle, or as a chef making soup. Schwartz and Reimer didn't say what the humans of the future were doing sans jobs, but intimated that there are subtle hints sprinkled throughout the game.
Once I had my virtual morning snack, the next order of business was turning on my virtual computer. I deftly plugged in my monitor and desktop with quick flick of the wrist and squeeze of the trigger, and commenced to print out pictures of robots and cats. Next, I deleted all 99,999 of my emails and started going through my files and stamping them with a "fired" or "hired" stamp as my robot boss looked on approvingly. From there, I chucked paper airplanes around the office until 5 p.m., when a burst of confetti fell from the ceiling.
Despite the game's mundane setting, you can't help but appreciate the dark humor. Owlchemy is taking workplace tropes and turning them on their heads. The cubicle demo has a very "Office Space" feel, and the seemingly meaningless work you're doing has no real reward, other than the clock finally hitting 5 p.m. Is this what the robots think work was like for humanity?
Outside of the philosophical questions Job Simulator dredged up, I appreciated the simplicity of the game's control scheme. Using the Oculus Touch controllers was effortless, letting me make and drink my morning coffee with no difficulty. This simplicity is by design, as Schwartz said that one of the game's first test subjects was his grandmother.
Although Schwartz's grandmother could probably grasp the mechanics of games like Super Mario Bros, virtual reality made Job Simulator was almost second nature. Such accessibility is exactly what a launch title needs to be successful. The other part of Owlchemy Labs' formula relies on a social aspect -- unlike other VR titles, you can view Job Simulator on a separate monitor while someone else uses the headset, which creates a sort of party atmosphere.
Owlchemy Labs has yet to announce pricing for Job Simulator. Reimer and Schwartz weren't shy in expressing, however, that they're looking toward a premium price instead of the free-to-play model rampant in other gaming platforms. And while Job Simulator has been demoed on the HTC Vive, it's highly unlikely that fans of the Gear VR will see it anytime soon. The Gear VR lacks positional tracking and touch controllers, two things Job Simulator needs in order to function.
Overall, Job Simulator is a darkly funny game that's surprisingly fun, despite its seemingly mundane premise. I'm looking forward to exploring more occupations when the game launches in the first quarter of 2016.