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.


  1. Premium User Badge

    johannsebastianbach says:

    I’m sitting in my office without work to do today, so I gave it a try and it was a blast. Quite satisfying! 10/10 would pretend to work again

  2. Scurra says:

    Keith Waterhouse wrote a novel in the 70s based on the idea of the company that doesn’t actually do anything but keeps folk busy because that’s what (most of us) need to do.
    I guess this is a good modern version of that.

    • April March says:

      That description’s also a pretty good fit for Company, by Max Barry But Not The One You’re Probably Thinking Of.

  3. Sleepery says:

    So…it’s a horror game?

  4. Little_Crow says:

    I started reading the linked ‘Fake Job’ article feeling like I’d had a blow to the head at how mad the setup was.

    At some point in the article it all made absolute sense to me. Being able to retrain staff who have never worked in an office before seems like a sensible way of getting people into jobs and then keeping them.

    Don’t think any such setup exists in the UK, but it sounds genius to me.

    • MrBehemoth says:

      Model offices are quite common in colleges and business schools. It’s basically the same thing, but with a qualification at the end of it, and often free.

  5. Quite So says:

    Marcuse argues that most “real” work that’s not directly tied to production is actually made up work, the goal of which is to keep a technological society from achieving its logical outcome – the cessation of work.

    That the lack of “real” fake work has dire consequences in a highly technological society that is fully capable of supporting its citizens is proof of that society’s insanity…

    • lyralamperouge says:

      Or maybe Marcuse was a moron, and anyway I don’t want to feed you unless you serve me.

  6. MrBehemoth says:

    It’s scary how “addictive” this was. I played it for like 20 min before I realised I had hit a ceiling and wasn’t getting promoted any more. It’s frighteningly like real jobs I’ve had in the past.

  7. MrBehemoth says:

    Oh oh, and then you start to resent break time… This is cutting into my productivity, people! And when the breakout game glitches, and I firmly believe that Mr Barr programmed it that way on purpose, it’s like, I could be getting my work done, but instead I’m playing broke-out while dialogue boxes are piling up back there, tripple-exclamation-mark!!!

    I’ll stop posting now. I need to do some Jungian shadow work to figure out why this game got me so bad…

  8. MajorLag says:

    David Graeber’s famous essay On the Phenomenon of B******* Jobs seems an appropriate thing to link for any who have not read it: link to

    As for the game, contrary to others I did not find it engaging at all. Maybe it’s too much like my job, or not nearly complicated enough to be a mockery of my job, I don’t know. It just didn’t keep my attention for more than about 15 seconds.