January is, in a word, odd. As the last festive firework fades into oblivion, New Year’s day is the best time of year to wander the empty streets and pretend there’s been a nuclear apocalypse that’s destroyed everything except Tesco express. A hush descends. Across the UK, a hangover epidemic pins residents to their sofas with nothing but their TVs and the feeling they should be buying cut-price oak furniture somewhere.
And then the 2nd January arrives.
Suddenly the once-peaceful streets are flooded with lycra clad fitness vigilantes that will superglue a two litre Evian bottle to their hands and puff to anyone who’ll listen about their “New Year exercise regime”. Where days before your greatest achievement was balancing a Terry’s Chocolate Orange perfectly on the bulge of your turkey stuffed stomach, now “self-improvement” requires a life-changing revelation, like shedding half your body weight or donating 10% of your monthly income to the homeless.
Many people take the New Year as a perfect opportunity to embark on a new career path, to try something completely different and shed their old life for a new one. Well, have you really thought this through? Or is this one of those resolutions you made as the clocks struck midnight on the morning of January 1st, standing on a table with your skirt round your waist, singing old lang syne through a whisky bottle microphone?
Thankfully, video games provide an excellent opportunity for savvy careerists to try out a new employment track before making the leap in real life. With some games clocking in 100+ hour completion times, this is a medium where you can spend days investigating a potential career by stepping into the shoes of your chosen character and experiencing their day-to-day virtual existence.
So please, step this way into our video game career centre. Oh, don’t mind the bloodstains, they’re just from when Isaac Clarke was conducting his ship systems engineer workshop. The necromorphs tend to get a bit rowdy. Please, sit down, and I’ll fetch my folder. Are you sitting comfortably? Right, here are your new life options:
1: Call of Duty: Army Soldier
A perfectly respectable career path, this is one track that offers scope for endless promotion. The hours you spend carefully crafting a multiplayer class from the range of guns so pretty they should have their own perfume lines are ample opportunity to explore every nuance of a soldier’s life.
Pick off your foes from afar as a sniper or barrel into them as a heavy gunner. Learn the tricks of the trade as an engineer or become a demolitions expert in the field. The opportunities are endless and give you a wealth of experience to draw on when you make it to real-life boot camp. Plus learning to deal with the endless drones of a nine year old pre-pubescent piping Justin Beiber down their microphone teaches an excellent life skill: patience.
Maybe forget a few of those lessons though; teabagging an opponent when you knock them down may earn you a few funny looks at Sandhurst.
2: Papers, Please: Border Control Official
I’m sensing a few raised eyebrows – perhaps you’d prefer a career with less risk of brutal dismemberment. How about Papers, Please? This indie game employs you as an immigration inspector charged with manning the border of fictional Arstotzka. Your task is to prevent any of the smugglers, terrorists, spies and generally unpleasant riff raff from coming into your country and blowing it up or, you know, stealing all the jobs and that.
Honestly, if you want a properly realistic experience of employment in the virtual realm, you don’t get much better than stamping reams of pixelated paper for hours on end. Sadly.
3: GTA: Criminal
But you’re probably thinking that that sounds like hell, and you’d be right. So most career centres wouldn’t have “Life of Crime” as a genuine career path, but hey, here at Video Game Jobs Inc. we like to keep your options open. Enter GTA, the controversial series that revolutionised the open world genre and gave anxious parents the world over minor aneurysms.
In most games nowadays there seems to be only one rule: you just need to blend (this applies for when you’re sneaking through a room full of enemies or applying foundation). Dishonoured, Thief, Assassin’s Creed, the list of games that test your stealth is endless. But let’s face it, in real life, spending your time leaping from lamppost to lamppost is going to get you nowhere fast, except a jail cell.
Learning how to “repossess” high end sports cars, on the other hand, could serve as a very transferable skill. Think about it, by honing your ability to speed down a highway at 105mph you’ll never be late for work again.
4: LA Noire: Detective
On the other hand, you could take the complete opposite track and devote yourself to fighting crime. LA Noire is an excellent place to start; the game is completely devoted to backing an unsuspecting NPC into a corner and suspecting them of everything. As their virtual eyes fly back and forth in a panic, you have to scan every pixel of their expressions for even a hint of dishonesty – one false accusation and the killer could get away scot free… or worse you could finish the mission with a two star rating.
At the very least this is a virtual career that will teach you attention to detail. As Cole painstakingly inspects every coke can, cigarette packet and scrap of paper littered around a darkened alley, you will realise that there is more to detective work than the ability to coldly assess the body of a naked sliced up prostitute without projectile vomiting – though it’s a good place to start.
First published on GameGrin 28/01/2014