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Monday, January 7, 2013

I'd be a terrible game programmer

I think I'd make a terrible game programmer. I guess it's a good thing that I've never really tried to make one. Some people seem to be able to come up with concepts and just crank them out, but it doesn't seem to work that way for me. Just give me some aspect of utility work which needs plumbing and I can hook you up, but introduce game theory, points and competition and suddenly it all goes fuzzy.

Once in a great while I will come up with a totally bizarre idea which might be stretched out into some form of quasi-amusement program somehow. I hesitate to call any of these things "games".

One of these ideas came to me over the new year holiday: virtual support monkey. You get to live the life of someone who's working in tech support at a web hosting company. Everything which used to happen to me shows up in the simulation, and you have to navigate through it to get through a day.

You'd have to unlock your workstation, log into the ticketing system, log into your e-mail, and then log into the phones. That's when stuff starts happening. You have e-mails to answer, tickets to field, calls to answer, and more. Sometimes you get something nasty which takes a really long time to figure out. That's when things are working normally.

Other times, you'd get to suffer through localized problems. Maybe someone has a misconfigured machine on the support VLAN which is blasting out rogue RSTs and is nuking your workstation's outgoing connections -- don't laugh, I saw it happen once. Your workstation might decide to demonstrate how lovely recycled hardware can be and then keel over mid-shift. IT might unplug your network port. Whatever.

Monday nights at 5 PM would teach you a new hatred for phone ringers. If you set yourself "AuxWork" or "AfterCall" too often, your boss will wander by with a clipboard, looking disapprovingly at you. Then he or she will make a very close pass by your desk to look at your phone to see what status you are in, as if they didn't believe their own status screen. Yes, they can see what you're doing.

Coworkers might need your assistance. You can help them or ignore them. Both choices have consequences: some good, some bad. Likewise, you can try to power through a problem yourself or ask for help. You might get a guru level answer or a totally useless bit from the book of cargo cult sysadmins.

I suppose something like this could be turned into a system where you get points and battle others for domination of the leaderboard. It might also be meaningful as a portal into a strange workplace, sort of like you might have a museum exhibit years after something goes out of fashion.

My question is whether it's worth the effort to develop such a thing. Who would willingly enter this sort of world on a regular basis as a mere amusement? Would people honestly sit down with a simulation for hours on end in order to grind their way through tickets and phone calls?

I mean, sure, people do it with things like WOW, but would they do it with "Web Hosting Support Monkey"? Somehow, I don't see how that would work.