The real cost of next-gen gaming
If youve recently read Justins What if Killzone Shadow Falls OWL was actually an owl feature, you may think weve gone slightly peculiar on GamesRadar. Im not going to deny that. Instead Ill just explain the bizarre concept of this feature. Throughout the years, weve lost a whole bunch of video game tropes. Through a mixture of improved game design and increasingly powerful technology, things like fogging, coloured keycards, and health packs have all but died out.
But what happens to the men and women who made those in-game features? The guy who operates the fog machine in Silent Hill? The men and women who scatter health packs through levels, or hide whole roast chickens in bins for hardy video game heroes to find? Ok, they never really existed. But if they did here are the video game jobs that would now be redundant.
The Health Pack Placement Technician
At one point, during the PS2 and Xbox era, the Health Pack Placement Technician was in high demand. He or she is the brave soul who would randomly scatter health packs inside a warzone, risking life and limb to randomly drop items that may (or may not) assist a hero who may (or may not) arrive to save the world. So many good men and women would have been lost forever were it not for their tireless work.
However, ever since Call of Duty 2 popularised the regenerating health system, the Health Pack Placement Technician has sadly seen a sharp decline in employment. No-one wants health packs now. They no longer stare nervously at the life bar in the bottom left of the screen as they scour otherwise uninteresting rooms for a glowing white bundle of life. They are invincible. Many Health Pack Technicians have retrained as Ammo Placement Technicians, and several have branched out into the popular field of Secret Item Hiding.
The Blurry Sign Artist
I think it says Welcome to the library, youd say to yourself as you squinted at your game in the days before HD. The blurry blob you were trying to read, which cleverly, artfully contains text thats slightly too fuzzy to read, was the work of a master Blurry Sign Artist. It takes real skill to create text so that you can definitely tell it is real words, but you can't actually read it. And before the days of HD, business was booming for this workforce.
Sadly, the 360 and PS3 made Blurry Sign Artistry an outdated career overnight. All of a sudden, signs could be crisp and sharp. They could give useful information and serve a purpose beyond making the game world a little more believable. Sadly, current-gen all but wiped out the entire Blurry sector, leaving 100s of workers to fight for contracts on PSP games and painfully cool modern demakes.
The Keycard Manufacturer
At one time there were entire factories dedicated to creating keycards of all colours. Blue, red, green--if you needed to make door-opening more tiresome than it really needed to be, there was a coloured keycard for you. Working in conjunction with Coloured Door Inc, keycard makers earned a fortune in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Sadly, coloured keycards simply feel out of fashion. They were a fad, like charity wristbands and tie-dye t-shirts, and now the manufacturing lines at the keycard factories are silent and dusty. Some keycard workers found new jobs in lockpick warehouses, while others found employment making steel soles for the boots worn by tough space-marine types who like to kick open doors instead of just using the handle.
The Fog Machine Operator
Back in the good old days when the Silent Hill series wasnt a parody of itself, and Tecmo Koei released a new Dynasty Warriors game every six minutes (I like to call it 2001), the Fog Machine Operator was in high demand. If you needed to mask the painfully short draw-distance in your game, or just wanted to add a little atmosphere to your horror adventure, this was the guy to call.
Sadly, the need for fog has drastically reduced over the past few years, leaving the Fog Machine Operator staring down the barrel of retirement. Sure, Konami still wants mist for Silent Hill--and a number of first-person shooter developers are demanding volumetric fog, and other fancy new things--but hes an old man now, and his fog machine just cant keep up with the demands of modern video games. His kids are talking about putting him into a home, he still cant quite believe the price of bread in supermarkets nowadays, and he wishes all those teenagers would wear proper clothes and stop messing with his bins
The Power-up Chef
Years ago, a quick rummage through any in-game bin would yield such wonderful items as a whole roast chicken or a massive ham on the bone. For the weary action adventure hero, tired from beating bad buys into a crimson mist, these items would be vital for restoring their health and helping them through to the later levels of the game.
So spare a thought for the Power-up Chefs, who used to lovingly cook these meals and conceal them in bins over in the less glamorous parts of town. These brave people who risked personal safety to fuel the violent, borderline sociopathic, antics of any passing hero with a penchant for rummaging through garbage. Power-up Chefs are all but extinct now, after developers realised that hiding health items in random bins is both clichd and utterly ridiculous.
The CEO of Elaborate Boss Contraptions Ltd
Young Joey Acme left school at 16 and--being something of an entrepreneur--he decided to start his own business, making spike-traps for middle-tier platforming games. From there his business grew and grew until, at its height, it was building the most elaborate contraptions for every end-of-level boss, ever. Life was good for Joey Acme.
Gradually, though, end-of-level bosses started to get more realistic. There just wasnt the demand for floating cars with massive wrecking-balls swinging beneath them, or robots shaped like crabs with lasers for eyes and missile-launchers for claws. Even spike-traps werent selling as well. Then end-of-level bosses themselves started disappearing, and--eventually--Joey Acmes business Elaborate Boss Contraptions Ltd went into administration. Unable to cope with bankruptcy, Joey ended his own life by locking himself into a deadly chamber of his own making, which contained moving saw-blades, intermittently-firing lasers, and rotating platforms. He will be missed.
The Unlimited Weapon Holster Craftsman
Remember the guy who used to make those wonderful weapon holsters that could hold an unlimited number of pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, RPGs and a top-secret mega-weapon or two--all without ruining the line of a space-marines suit? He worked magic with leather, and created comfortable yet stylish gun-holsters for the busy action hero on the go.
While he once had a bustling store in every major city on the planet, he now operates out of a small shop just off Wakefield high-street. You know, the store that used to be an Our Price, where you can still see the red logo on the wall and smell the tang of Tab Clear on the carpet. Demand for magical, bottomless weapon holsters has fallen off a cliff. Modern action heroes prefer to carry two--maybe three--weapons at a time, and have no room for excessive armaments. Even the guys who carry loads of weapons tend to fuss more about weight and inventory space (whatever that means). As such, the Unlimited Weapon Holster Craftsman is almost out of business.
The Personal Tutorial Facilitator
This used to be an important job. At the start of most games the hero--a well trained specialist with years of experience killing / driving / jumping over things--would inexplicably forget even the most basic skills, like how to walk forward or look at things with their head. Luckily, the Personal Tutorial Facilitator was always around to walk them through everything theyd forgotten before they stepped out into the game proper.
Nowadays our amnesiac heroes tend to remember their vast array of skills on the job. A gun appears at their feet and they suddenly remember how to shoot a bad guy. They reach a fallen tree, and they recall how to crouch or vault over it. No need to hang around in a sparsely furnished room with an insignificant support character like the Personal Tutorial Facilitator anymore. No, theyre straight into the action. Unemployed PTFs have since found plenty of work explaining--at length--how players can access DLC and microtransactions in Xbox One launch games
The Invisible Wall Construction Worker
Remember a time when you simply reached the edge of a level and couldnt go any further? There was seemingly nothing stopping you from running into the distance, but your character was stuck on something. Well, that something was an invisible wall, lovingly crafted by a bunch of construction workers, using only the finest invisible bricks. Their incredible feats defied the laws of architecture and brought tears of joy to all who could see them.
The invisible wall is very much a thing of the past now. In modern games piles of rubble or steep inclines block our progress and stop us bursting out of the confines of the game. The guys who made invisible walls, who would whistle and make sexist comments to any female non-player characters who strolled past, are gone. However, the most tragic part of this is that their finest works--the true marvels of invisible wall construction--will never be appreciated by anyone because, yknow, theyre invisible. Duh.
Everyone at 'Start Button Inc'
Ok, so Ive broken outside of the confines of the video game world here, but its my feature, so Ill do as I please. Youll notice that next-gen console controllers dont have Start buttons. Its all Options and Share now. So pity the poor workers in Start button factories all over the world, who now find themselves in the unemployment line.
Frankly, its unlikely that theyll be able to transfer their Start button making skills to the brave, new console world. These fancy new controllers with their touchpads and glowing blue lights are beyond the comprehension of simple, Start button folk. Its better that they just give up on life, drink booze from a bottle wrapped in a brown-paper bag, and live under a bridge instead.
Jobless, not hopeless
What cost the price of progress? While youre enjoying your fancy, new next-gen machine spare a thought for the thousands of jobs lost by those creating largely rubbish features in old-gen games. Have I missed any? I am awesome, so it seems hugely unlikely, but if you want to nit-pick please do so in the comments below.
Looking for more off-the-wall gaming features? Heres one on Solid Snake Doing Mundane Jobs. Aaaand, heres another on What Would Happen If Video Game Characters Applied For Real Jobs?