Border control simulation Papers, Please may have launched a whole mini-genre of games where emotional conflict and narrative emerges from your repetition of detail-intensive bureaucratic tasks. S.O.R.S (it stands for "Spatially Offset Raman Spectography") takes this inspiration and creates a weird but unique sci-fi world around diagnostic equipment.
If you love medical simulation games (and I have since I was a kid!) you'll find some of the basics appealing: Learn to watch for symptoms, interact with patients, and access a toolset of diagnostic tools that gets ever more elaborate as you succeed as a doctor. But the narrative wrapper around the game is interesting: "the earth's population has grown to the point where mankind has expanded upwards, living in ever-growing skyscrapers, and criminals are sent to live on floating solar-powered ships in the sky." Each work day you get new and sometimes puzzling instructions, and occasionally, mysterious emails from people who warn that things are not all that they seem at your job.
S.O.R.S. has been Greenlit on Steam, but you can still play a free demo for Windows or Mac here.
Games excel at teaching systems and at getting people to perform repetitive labor—like when you 'grind' for points and money, or when you repeat a puzzle in Alphabear so you can level up your bears. That's why these subversive storytelling techniques can be lots of fun, prompting us to question all the things we do just because we're told, and to think about what kinds of authorities we trust in (Portal became an instant classic because of this, obviously, and The Stanley Parable is another popular example).
“Coca-Cola: Blade Roller,” directed by David Fincher in 1993. (via ObscureMedia)
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