Will Our Jobs Become Games?

Danielle Beurteaux

You spend your days at the office making coffee and shooting staples across your desk. Or you’re a chef whose main ingredient is sriracha hot sauce. At your convenience store gig, you shake up large size bottles of soda because… why not? You’re not actually working.

This is the future, 2050 to be exact, and no one has jobs anymore because robots. To get the true employee experience, you rely on a virtual reality game called Job Simulator.

This is a new product from Owlchemy Labs, a game design studio based in Austin, Texas. It’s definitely meant to be fun and more than a little tongue-in-cheek. If this is what jobs are like, sign me up. I can sriracha with the best of them.

But can we look forward to a future when our jobs are games?

Some people are already making a living from games. Game streaming host Twitch has enabled some players to go full time as video-game players. They make money from tips and subscriptions. While this sounds kind of fun, there are downsides: the lack of consistent income, long days (and nights) during which players must be available and interacting with other gamers. Two gamers profiled in a Popular Science piece also do in-person appearances and the like, for which they get paid. Amazon purchased Twitch in 2014 for almost $1 billion – for a then-three year-old company. Obviously, they knew something with potential.

There’s research showing that video games can be an effective job training tool. One study found that employees trained via video games have better skills and do their job better than their non-video-game trained cohort. Another study reported that an hour a day of game playing helped improve some cognitive abilities (basically mirroring the ones used for the game). And yet another claims that an hour of playing can improve the brain’s executive functioning. (For all that, there are plenty that claim the opposite.)

There are job training games already in use designed to complement how our minds naturally function with the aim of improving information retention and employee performance.

In other environments, video games are being used to assess job candidates, with the aim of offering opportunities to those who’ve had trouble getting hired via more conventional methods. Some companies see this as a way to improve employee diversity – by removing the human factor, they can also remove the biases, unconscious or otherwise, that occur during the selection process.

So until we’ve achieved the moment of minimum guaranteed income or the Singularity or something, hone up on your game playing skills. Your next job interview might include a round of Wasabi Waiter.

For more on creating great workplaces, see Forget Foosball: You Can’t Rely on Games and Gimmicks to Create a Collaborative Workplace.

Danielle Beurteaux

About Danielle Beurteaux

Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.