Plenty of video games turn the horrors of real life into entertaining couch-bound challenges—say, the life-or-death realities of war, or the trauma of when the neighborhood cats don’t love you as much as you love them—but few are quite as bleak as the Korean mobile game Don’t Get Fired.
Designed to highlight the harsh realities of the Korean workplace, the game, as The New Yorker puts it, “captures the deadened hamster-wheel ambience of office life.” Even more so, it captures exactly how stressful a shaky job market can be. You go to interviews, become an unpaid intern, and hustle around the office as notifications pop up alerting you about more work to be done. All the while, you try to keep your “health” bar high enough to keep working, because if you work too hard, you’ll burn out and end up getting fired anyway.
Tellingly, when my avatar shows up at his first interview, he’s engulfed in flames for reasons the game does not explain. He goes through nine different interviews, ending up in tears each time, before he finally lands an intern gig.
Screenshot via Don't Get Fired
There are plenty of ways to get canned in the game, some more reasonable than others. You can get caught working two jobs, or be missing when your boss comes looking for you. If you make a single mistake—“oops, I put an extra 0 in the document!”—you’re gone. Plenty of the fireable offenses are random and uncontrollable, such as your company going bankrupt. Sometimes the company runs out of work for you to do, because you worked too hard. You can get too sick to work—no sick leave here! Sometimes, you simply don’t make it past the interview stage at a company. (Fans have compiled a handy list all 29 different offenses, if you’re interested.)
Each time you go to interview at a new job, you get a little “tip,” from the creators, most of which are despondent commentaries on the game’s too-real themes. “Don’t recommend this game to your mom,” one recommends. “She’ll be sad.”
The game alternates between drudgery—spending a lot of time just waiting for a task to come up—and intense scrambling to complete all the work at hand. In short, just don’t work too hard, or your health will fail and you won't be able to work. But don’t work too little, or you’ll get fired anyway. Simple, right?
[h/t The New Yorker]
Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.