It is quite rare for video games to take place in the office, so it is perhaps not altogether surprising that one of the few recent examples came to us via the Experimental Gameplay Project.
Experimental Gameplay, originally a project at Carnegie Mellon University, is an indie video games creator collective that every month creates small games according to a set theme. Games must have been created in one week, by one person.
Players are allowed to discover for themselves the gameplay, discovering what interactions they can have thanks to their space bar (calling a lift, getting dressed, switching a TV on or off). The game however is set around a cycle encompassing everything from bed to cubicle, which automatically restarts once it ends. Unsurprisingly then, the game is centered around players’ efforts to break this cycle, by creating new actions thanks to unexpected interactions, at the same time freeing themselves from the game, and its oppressing and alienating workplace.
As the creator says : “Every day the same dream is a slightly existential riff on the theme of alienation and refusal of labor. The idea was to charge the cyclic nature of most video games with some kind of meaning (i.e. the ‘play again’ is not a game over). Yes, there is an end state, you can ‘beat’ the game.”
The world depicted, although stereotypical, will surely echo some peoples experiences, and the inability of breaking the cycle is a good representation of the modern worker’s feelings of alienation and impotence in a unified and anonymised workplace, but the game, more so than the studio’s previous creations, is also a thorough reflection on the nature of video games, and the meaning of its codes and symbolism.