Robot Takeover of Jobs Turns Into Amusingly Satirical VR Game
If you’ve seen the Hollywood film series The Matrix then you’d know that virtual reality and the robot apocalypse go together like peaches and cream. What better way is there, then, to while away your few remaining years as a battery human than by plugging into an alternative digital universe where everything is just like the good old analogue days?
Virtual reality headsets have only been on the market since 2015, but games developers have already started to prepare us for our inevitable future of subjugation by all-powerful machines.
Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives
The creator of Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives, Owlchemy Labs, makes the rational assumption that, within 35 years, all forms of human employment will have become automated. Apparently, in an attempt to pacify the human race, Job Simulator is a sort of digital museum that recreates what laboring for a living used to be like.
This all results in an amusing and chaotic satire on both the daily grind and the pervasive fear of artificial intelligence today. It’s not even that the game’s developers are not worried about robots, as it was inspired by Elon Musk, the technologist, and Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder, “talking about how robots and sentient AI will destroy us all,” Owlchemy founder Alex Schwartz cheerfully declares. (“Elon Musk is our hero,” he adds, adding that he has pre-ordered a Tesla Model 3 and would “go to Mars in a second” with SpaceX.)
Job Simulator contains a number of soon to be obsolete occupations to try, including office drudge, fast food chef, and shopkeeper. “There’s never a dull day in the old cubicle farm,” declares a floating, green-screened bot as you enter. “The computer is the most important facet of the office, with humans and safety being a close second and third.”
The game gives you nominal tasks to complete, such as reading robots’ resumes to decide who to hire to replace you. “That was very business,” Bossbot congratulates you after making a successful presentation.
The real fun, however, is being able to play around with anything on hand, from staplers and phones to photocopiers and coffee machines, and generally cause chaos.
Job Simulator lets you move your hands in an almost-realistic fashion inside the game by taking advantage of the motion controllers that come with the HTC Vive VR headset, and soon the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR, to, rather than just using a traditional gamepad or joystick.
Schwartz says the first thing he did when he was trying out a Vive developer kit was stack basic cubes and knock them over. “I felt like a two-year-old, sitting on the ground in my basement,” he says. “There is something magical about physics in VR and using your hands. We needed to have the most amount of interactive things directly around you.”
VR’s extra pair of hands
As it turns out, many people have exactly the same response to picking up an object for the first time in virtual reality: they throw it across the room or over their shoulder. “VR brings out people’s inner child more than any other medium I’ve experienced,” says Schwartz. “If you’re not allowing for silliness in the game, you would have to prevent it — because now that people have their hands, they can do whatever they want.”
Although it is never made clear what happened between now and 2050, there are hints that all has not gone well for the human race.
“Human and robot relations are on the mend!” a nervous radio announcer in the garage declares, as you replace wheels with doughnuts and stick bananas up the exhaust. “There’s certainly nothing out of the ordinary happening right now in the world between humans and robots. Humans are perfectly fine and being treated with respect by the far superior robot people.”