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It Is As If You Were Doing Work really is

I should’ve posted about an hour ago but, to be honest, I was too distracted by It Is As If You Were Doing Work [official site] to do actual work. Pippin Barr’s free browser-based game offers a virtual desktop with all the thrills, chills, and Windows alert trills of actual work – but purely for funsies! Mash your keyboard to fill out nonsense e-mails, click buttons, watch progress bars, and feel the real satisfaction of a job done well. Take your fake job seriously enough and you can even earn promotions. Ah, work!

Don’t worry if work sounds difficult: it works just how it looks in the holovids! When you have to write a long e-mail, simply mash your keyboard and the computer will pick all the words for you. Every e-mail is a winner, no muss no fuss. Sure, confusing popups will demand input but they do tell you the answer. And you’ll need to keep sending more and more e-mails but hey, I believe in you. You’ve got this. The occasional popups with motivational posters believe in you too.

Eventually break time comes and you can enjoy a few quiet moments of playing Breakout (and Pippin Barr knows a lot about Breakout, having made 36 variants), maybe starting some smooth MIDI music, or fiddling with changing your desktop background. And then huzzah, it’s back to work!

Barr explains that It Is As If You Were Doing Work is connected to a Speculative Play project “about creative interactive, playful media that speaks to alternate presents or near/distant futures”. He says:

“I positioned It is as if you were doing work in the context of the apparently near future of automated work (I read Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford recently in this vein). Thus the game poses as an application that humans who have been put out of work by robots and AI can play as a way to recapture the sense they once had of doing work and being productive. It’s a kind of semi-condescending service offered by this new world to those of us who can’t deal with it.”

I’m reminded somewhat of the fake companies in France which are run as real offices with real tasks — selling fake pet supplies, perfume, office furniture, and more — by unemployed people. As this New York Times report says:

“Julia Moreno, 45, a former nanny, works in the marketing and sales departments at Animal Kingdom, overseeing activities like deliveries and billing. She learned how to make PowerPoint presentations and to use data spreadsheets.

“On a recent day, she was leafing through invoices and consulting a spreadsheet about sales. ‘We believe in it,’ she said. ‘We organize ourselves as if we’re working in the real world. And you’re working so much and dealing with other colleagues, that you don’t even see the time pass.’”

Those are schemes offering workplace training for the unemployed, mind – a far cry from the futuristic comfort of this game. We’re still at the point where not working brings a different sort of awfulness for most people.

I was making a video for this post, demonstrating my winning business practices, but it got mussed up and lost. Real work is far more frustrating than It Is As If You Were Doing Work.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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