In an age when companies are researching Facebook, Twitter and other potentially damaging repositories of personal information in order to suss out the merit of potential employees it was no short wonder that David Gallant was fired for creating a game that disparaged his working life. A local newspaper had profiled Gallant’s recent creation and had made it a point to speak to his then employee the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) to get their thoughts, which were apparent in both their quote in the article and the consequences that followed.
The product of Gallant’s frustration with daily life as a temporary worker at the CRA call centre was I Get This Call Every Day, a game developed in Flash for the PC featuring Gallant’s crude MS Paint drawings and voice acting. It put you in the hot seat as a call centre agent fielding a phone call from a particularly frustrating customer. It is styled as a point-and-click adventure game where your only options for interacting are fielding audio clips and then selecting from a small list of follow-up actions. Perhaps the person on the other end of the call made a smarmy remark and you would like to return the favour? Most options that deviate from the paragon path will end up in our immediate dismissal. The game ends when you’ve successfully completed your script, asked the right questions and (maybe) assisted the caller.
The most striking thing about I Get This Call Every Day is how almost every aspect about the game, artwork aside, is a completely accurate if funneled version of reality. The dialogue options are limited and there certainly isn’t anything exciting about the events that transpire no matter what route you take. You will end up either with the “good” ending and completely unsatisfied or the “bad” ending in which you are fired. And as much as you can hear the frustration and distress in the voice of Gallant himself during the entire conversation with the caller, it is only amplified when the boss steps in (via email) and informs him that he is no longer employed.
Humans are capable of both extruding false (and sometimes genuine) happiness at the most banal of complaints
For anyone that has worked in a customer service role, the dialogue tree you see in this game is what happens throughout every experience during your day. For every “Oh, I am so sorry, sir. I’ll call the grocery department to get a fresher milk carton” that is expressed by your cashier they are holding back five other options that often involve blank stares and rude gestures. Ultimately, your customer service representative will grin and bear it for exactly the same reason as you will in I Get This Call Every Day — because they would rather not get fired today. It’s not that the cashier at the liquor store thinks you are a particularly awful person, but it’s the third time today they have heard that “Doesn’t scan? Must be free!” joke and they can be forgiven for not cracking a smile.
In life, of course, the range of expression that one could deliver is much wider. Humans are capable of both extruding false (and sometimes genuine) happiness at the most banal of complaints, as well as growling at the complainant and chasing them around like an angry dog. This game reduces that down to a single interaction. The brief snapshot limits the true experience one gets in a service role. While the title hints at getting the call each day, it’s the author telling you how miserable that experience is rather than having you grasp it yourself. Ultimately that may be some level of kindness on the part of Gallant.
I Get This Call Every Day is exhausting by the end, even with only a few minutes of playtime. Playing it as a game to win would be frustratingly simple and absorbing the theme and author’s message leaves little more than a puzzled thought. A hearkening to Every Day The Same Dream (see Another Cast Episode 21 at 42:20) it is an outlet of the monotony of the daily grind, but taken from a brief moment in time instead of being wrapped in allegory of the entire working day experience.
The small scale, sarcasm-cum-humour and caricature that is used as the protagonist are ultimately the greatness weaknesses of the game — with the latter two not quite strong enough to deliver satisfaction for the snarky comments or offer the feel of a genuine human being on the other end of the call. For anyone who has dealt with customer service and just those who know how they would want to be treated the win criteria will be fairly obvious. The lack of real catharsis will likely leave the player feeling bad for the author and hoping for a greater diversity in their own experience. Still, it is in its simplicity and the choose-your-own-path style of gameplay that it does reflect the human mind so strongly. It is short, but it works in that space and uses the pieces that it has to deliver the story. Yes, sir. I’d be happy to help you. Let me just put you on hold for a moment.
This can’t be my life…