'Yet Another Research Dog' - A furry game of workaholism
Back in the year 2000, a game broached shelves that became a social phenomenon. Maxis’s The Sims took the doll house that many, stereotypically girls, played with in their youth and put it onto the computer screen. In the shadow of popular “virtual pet” games like tamagotchi it took the idea of the animal pet and made them a bit more human. The result was not only a simulator where you could take your virtual human and help them climb the ladder of success, it was a game where the more creatively sadistic could torture the poor souls in ways that would make Edgar Allen Poe blush.
For those who are not into the whole torture thing, the game is pretty simple and addictive. You give your Sims stuff so that they can become more skilled so that they can acquire more stuff. There is a kind of cyclonic, capitalistic story behind it all, but the game does cut one thing out for the first iteration. The work part. While at home you need to keep your Sim’s bars full to keep them happy. Their sleepiness, hunger, bladder, hygiene, and such all have to be kept in check. However, the grungy and grindy part of the day, the effort done to make the money to improve the ever expanding home life, is cut out.
But this ain't The Sims
Yet Another Research Dog, which hilariously shortens into the abbreviation of YARD, focuses a little less on the home life part of the emulation, but instead the focus is placed on the protagonist’s work life. In essence it flips the concept of the Sims on its head. The foundation of trying to keep your character happy and sane remains. However their ability to grow more has to do with your ability at work to accomplish your tasks in spite of the near impossible slew of them thrown at you.
You see, The Sims is like the view of life that we had as kids, back in 2000 I was just in high school myself. Where YARD gives you the view of that same life from the perspective of an adult. Completing tasks that seem random and pointless and dealing with bosses that equally seem as random and pointless. However, being successful feels good so you keep moving forward and rising to the challenges thrown to your feet. Eventually the home life becomes a ultimately forgotten and minor prelude to each daily fight. The drive to and from work will treat you to inner monologue indicating the torment the protagonist puts himself just to achieve the dream he had in his youth.
In the End - Was it worth it? (Spoiler)
Like the dog in question I often find myself striving to push myself through and get through the day despite the difficulty. And just as the whole office is crumbling around you, you find yourself subject to the layoff. Similar to my situation of having to now move across the state for my current work there is a temptation to just let it go, despite how many hours you dumped into your tasks. However, what could only be called Stockholm Syndrome rears its head and pushes you to keep going. The dog can’t help but yearn for more when another opportunity to keep in the saddle when the opportunity comes up.
The game seems so short in the end, all the planning and character development you did ended up being being for not much in payoff. Despite it seeming like it was going to be a long and interesting career of choices and improvements. While I was going to critique the game for that and say that it should expand and have more levels and provide for more development, the truth is, in a narrative sense the game being cut short makes sense.
We all have well laid out plans, think we have the world by the palm and understand what is expected of us. But in a moment it can be cut out from under you by forces outside your control. Video games, particularly these days, typically will attempt to keep you engaged as long as possible and milk you with micro-transactions and DLC along the way. A smourgous board of never ending stories. Or if they are those rarer self contained experiences, it will have a narrative structure with a clean beginning, middle, and end.
Life is not truly that way. And despite the melancholy this game produced while playing it, in the end, it helped me understand that others go through the same. In fact, we all do. So we should take the time to acknowledge one another as we fight through this difficult and short life.
My full play-though can be found below.