I am sitting at a desk, though it is not my own. Countless others have occupied this black throne of ergonomic functionality before me, adjusted its height for the long day to come, repositioned its arms to support their own. I bring a back rest. Some brave their shift without.
We drink coffee from styrofoam goblets and we wear our headsets like hard, plastic crowns, though kings and queens we are not.
I watch the clock. Three minutes. The wire from my earpiece hangs limp from my head and dangles in the space between desk and phone, a graceless knot. Two minutes.
I scan my surroundings, though there is not much I can see beyond the drab encasement of my cubicle. The generic Dell monitor. Standard office peripherals. The off-colored everything.
No. No, I’ve just only clocked in. Where did my preparation time go? I need to pull up some programs first. But wait. There is a light blinking on my phone. Oh god, not yet. In my head, the gut wrenching ding of an incoming call. This can’t be. I just quit my job. I can’t be here again, I cant, I -
Hello, general inquiries, my name is David. How can I help you today?
I Get This Call Every Day by David S. Gallant is the most awful game I’ve played all year. With soul-crushing banality, a cringe-worthy art style and a horrifying dose of realism, the game offers players a glimpse into what it is like to work in one of the most suffocating and mundane office spaces out there – a customer service call center.
And I highly, highly recommend it. (The game, not the job!)
Thank You For Calling
I worked as a seasonal employee at a call center, and coincidentally enough, this game came out on my last day there. I was able to have a go at this frustration-simulator a day before its release, and it filled me with such a feeling of dread that I had to kick myself to get up and face the work day. At a call center, when you’re not actually taking a call, you’re waiting in stark anticipation for the next sir or ma’am to ring in and unwittingly make the next couple minutes of your life a teeth-gritting, hair-pulling apology party.
Gallant does such a good job capturing the experience of being a low-level cubicled office drone, and he does so in a way that is (believe it or not) unfiltered and unexaggerated.
I’m so sorry to hear that – oh, yes, I’d be happy to help – I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused – ma’am, I’m doing the best I can – yes, ma’am – ma’am, we have a separate department for that, would you like me to transf – no, I don’t have that information in my system – no, I don’t have access to that – I’m sorry – ma’am, that just isn’t something I’m able to do – no, the system just won’t allow me to do that – trust me, if I could help you, I would be more than happy, I just – no ma’am, I can’t – ma’am please – okay – well thank you for calling, I hope you have a wonderful day. CLICK.
When you work in a call center, you get this call every day. When you work in a call center, everything is your fault, even when it’s not. And anyone who has ever had a job like that understands the bureaucratic tedium, and humanity’s startling lack of common sense, that can make customer service interactions so damned frustrating. Gallant knows this feeling all too well, and he spares the player no mercy in its depiction.
How May I Help You?
There is no way to win in I Get This Call Every Day. Treat the customer with hostility, and get fired. Play irresponsibly and ignorant of confidentiality policies, and get fired. Play as a well-mannered, eager to assist employee, reciting the standard customer service greeting, explaining protocol to the uncooperative caller, displaying patience and empathy, and you still can’t help the customer.
I’ve been playing this game again and again, navigating the many branches of its dialogue tree, playing and replaying each scenario, and it just gets to me every time. Gallant does such a good job capturing the experience of being a low-level cubicled office drone, and he does so in a way that is (believe it or not) unfiltered and unexaggerated.
Even the ugly aesthetic serves its purpose. Just look at this image for a second. This screen is the whole game. Nothing changes. You can’t get up. You can’t look around. Your gaze is frozen within the claustrophobic, MS Paint-style perspective of a call center employee. Meanwhile, an image hangs in the corner of one Billy J. Swarth, the young man gracing your phoneline with his whimpering and clueless inquiries.
There is something so depressing about that image being there. Of course, call center employees don’t have an image of the caller that pops up right when they phone in, but there is definitely a picture of the person on the other line that forms in your head when you speak to them long enough. In this case, it’s some little shit with a bad haircut, a smug and vacant-eyed grimace, and an iPhone. And then there’s the contrast between the pretty blue sky and palm trees behind him, and the dingy grey of your surroundings.
Oh god. I’m getting flashbacks.
Have A Nice Day
The only part of this game that can be defined as fun were the cathartic final words I spoke to the customer at the end of my first playthrough.
Oh, the number of times I’ve wanted to say that.
Please go play I Get This Call Every Day. It’s available now on Mr. Gallant’s website.
If you’re like me, and want to see more games (in this case, an interactive “fiction”) striving to capture raw human experience, even ones as mundane and specific as this one, I’m sure you’ll find it worth more than just the $2 minimum. It’s a brief experience, yes, and it isn’t very exciting. But for once, it’s something real.