Game review: capturing the repetition at the heart of office work
When his bosses discovered David Gallant was making a game satirising the frustrations of his call centre job, they fired him – but the end result is a surprisingly touching call for empathy in our interactions
I Get This Call Every Day
The mind-numbing, soul-crushing life of a desk jockey cannot be overstated – just ask my fiancée, who finally left her government job after seven gruelling years this month. For all that her bank account was swelled with her cushy salary, she spent much of her time operating within maddening bureaucracy, and this took its toll.
How could you make a game out of that, though? How could you virtually frame equal parts exhaustion, stoicism and frustration? I Get This Call Every Day might not look like much – its interface is minimal and crude – but it’s a minor masterpiece, a game that transports players into the Sisyphean, numbed existence of a call-centre employee.
It’s in the game’s simplicity that it succeeds, as players do nothing more than answer the same phone call over and over from a person requesting a change of address. On the surface, that demand should take a mere minute, but the madness of the caller’s method means that security questions are routinely forgotten, addresses are incorrect, dates of birth are mistakenly entered and in some extreme cases, anger erupts.
The goal here? Not to win or lose – that’s impossible – but to maintain a sense of “professionalism” throughout, which is another way of saying that one must remove all humanity from the interaction. Anything else – an argument say, or an attempt to actually ease the process for the caller – and you’re fired. Yes it’s ridiculous, not to mention incredibly unfair, but such is life. Even if he didn’t mean to create such a testament to the tenacity of human will, developer David Gallant has succeeded far more than any big-budget game could have.
Gallant is a self-taught developer who built I Get This Call Every Day while holding down the very same job he mocks. His bosses never played it, never even saw it, but as soon as they found out about it, he was fired – a hilarious development that only amplified the game’s hype.
I Get This Call Every Day captures the customer service life perfectly – the boredom, the bureaucracy, the bland environments – but possibly more than all that, it makes a strong statement for the need for human empathy in our everyday existence.