This Game Will Make You Rethink Your Soul-Sucking Office Job

Pippin Barr's 'it is as if you were doing work' hits maybe a little too close.
All images captured courtesy of Pippin Barr

I didn't understand just how thoroughly I've been conditioned to value a certain very specific ideal of productivity until I sat down with it is as if you were doing work, a free browser-based game by Pippin Barr.

I assumed the role of a perfectly unremarkable office worker, sitting at a computer and typing, typing, typing through a ceaseless string of petty tasks. What I typed doesn't matter all that much since the output is an automatic string of businesspeak and TEDtalky corporate platitudes. During the occasional break I could play a game or fuss with my desktop wallpaper. When I did enough "work," clicked through enough nonsensical prompts, I would be promoted. Very little changed when I was.

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I felt like I had seen all of what it is as if you were doing work had to offer within the first few minutes, but even though I thought of closing the tab more than once I didn't actually do it until I'd reached the top rank. I wasn't earning points towards a promotion at that point, but the game continued just the same as it had started. Typing, clicking, break time.

The fact that I found it so hard to turn away, to go do something else actually productive, is what interests me most about this game. I had things to do, but those things looked and almost felt less like "real" work than Barr's blue-sky nonsense mill. So I had just continued playing. Doing nothing, making nothing. And all the while I still felt pretty good about it.

But of course I did. I was trained to feel good doing these kinds of tasks, and I know I'm not unique in that.

I went to school for what, at the time, felt like a safe choice. A stable choice. A white-collar, spreadsheets and meetings choice. I worked on and off while attending school. I hoped to make my mother, who had spent her entire career at the same company, proud. I worked with her there one summer, shuffling through the same files and databases she did. I completely bought in to the idea that a person was what they did, and so far as I believed a successful person was a busy one. Cue a recession, cue a job market far removed from my expectations, cue a few years of unemployment and underemployment, cue a dramatic change of career and perspective.

Tying your self worth to the material value you produce for someone else is a bad way to live your life. But as much as I may consciously know that, as much as I may repeat it to myself… It still feels good to fill that document, to click that prompt, to send that email. To churn out those most recognizable work units. It still feels good, even when it means absolutely nothing.