In the year 2020, to say that life in the United States has been upended by a global pandemic is a bit of an understatement. Everyone has dealt with challenges in their own way. Living in the middle of a crisis, news and events get blurred together. As a game studio, we wanted to use this opportunity to look at the life of a low wage worker in tandem with the timeline of the pandemic.
To do this, we repurposed our game Unsavory, originally released in 2013. In the original game, you played as an employee of a fictitious fast food restaurant during the H1N1 outbreak, trying to survive a month on a budget suggested to workers at McDonalds’ from a consulting group at Visa. For the new release, we included letters from 4 sources that provide a timeline of where the country was at in terms of dealing with the pandemic of 2020. The first source is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The second source is news from media outlets. The third source is tweets from the President of the United States. The last source is from the employer, Rocket Taco. The last source is completely fictitious but tries to capture the mood of a business dealing with uncertainty and trying to survive.
We left the monthly billing system in place, but the game jumps from February to October in order to play through the pandemic. We are working on allowing the billing to be more functional to give an idea of how tight finances can be for low wage workers.
This is a game, with serious content. It’s an exploration and documentation of a great time of uncertainty. We hope that players will find this to be an experience that can provide a point of reflection. Both for our own unique circumstances and challenges, but also an opportunity to build compassion for fellow human beings with a different set of circumstances and challenges.
So go forth and make tacos for minimum wage. When you get sick, try to hide it so that you can keep your job as long as possible to make ends meet.