The New Deal

The New Deal
Playing Like It's My Job

Roger Taylor | 8 Sep 2009 08:06
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I've started to wonder if the games we choose when unemployed say something about our work aspirations, like a careerist Rorschach test or that old high school guidance counselor question about what you'd do with your time if you had a million dollars. Under that principle, my Civ-obsessed brother should have sought a career in conquering. (There being little money in that these days, he settled for law.) Maybe for Phil and the millions of other MMORPG clickers, assembly line jobs are in order, ones where they perform repetitive tasks and get plaques after 20 years congratulating them on their millionth widget and apologizing for the carpal tunnel syndrome. (The plaques, ideally, would be shaped like level 99 battle axes.)

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As for me, does my attraction in troubled times to statistical minutia reveal a secret inclination toward government bureaucracy? Might my earlier Lemmings infatuation signal a bright future in corporate management?

I knew the positive feelings I garnered from Baseball Mogul were false and illusory. But as long as I was playing the game, I was too engaged to think about it. Whenever I finished a marathon session, I tried to reassure myself that at least I wasn't wasting my time with even more useless pursuits like vigorous pornography appreciation or philately. Mogul, I reasoned, kept my mind sharp, and maybe even helped prepare me for future work by offering substantive challenges with which to hone my problem-solving skills. Of course, I cheated relentlessly at the game, restarting from previous save points any time one of my players was injured for what I felt was an unreasonable length of time. So I'm not sure I learned anything, apart from how to manipulate an environment to my advantage. The program, for its part, rewarded my ingenuity by marking an asterisk next to each of my various virtual careers in the "Mogul Hall of Fame." I was as tainted as Barry Bonds, except in my case, no one knew or cared.

Eventually, my savings ran dangerously low and I was forced to get a bit more serious about finding a job. The break I finally did receive came not from any effort on my part, but from a friend's referral. Soon I was back at work, Baseball Mogul was uninstalled from my hard drive and I was left only with memories of what had been my most satisfying job ever in all respects except for salary.

Roger Taylor once deduced from several weeks of playing Shenmue that he might like to drive a forklift for a living. He has settled instead for freelance writing and odd jobs.

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