Tech Support: Error Unknown by Dragon Slumber
Tech Support: Error Unknown is an all-too-accurate simulation of low-level customer support.
While it interweaves plot threads ranging from domestic family tragedies to a shadowy hacker organization’s war against an all-too-powerful technology company, the bulk of this game is devoted to simulating entry-level customer service drudgery.
To wit: you’ll be using a menu of automated responses to help people deal with their cell phone problems.
No, Really, Try Turning it Off and Then Back On Again
As you progress by handling your service tickets correctly, you’ll get promoted to more complicated cases. You’ll also have to keep track of more things, like what repair services are covered by which warranties.
Some customers have “VIP” warranties that cover just about everything, for example, but if you forget to confirm their two-factor authentication code and accidentally give away a free phone to an impostor, you’ll get penalized.
And because Tech Support: Error Unknown is in part a critique on corporate capitalism, you can also upsell customers, sometimes even convincing them to pay fees for services that are already covered by their warranties.
I found the whole process oddly addictive, especially as cases got more complicated, requiring things like remotely accessing people’s phones to download their GPS data. I only hope this doesn’t mean I end up working at a call center if we end up in a future dystopia where my career gets assigned by a sentient AI.
Corporations Can Be Evil, You Say?
Between – and at times, during – the low-grade daily hassle of managing repair tickets, Tech Support: Error Unknown reveals interweaving subplots.
The most intriguing of these involves your employer’s unethical and possibly illegal surveillance of its customers and a cabal of hackers attempting to expose it. It’s a bit like Papers, Please or Orwell but from a subtler private sector angle instead of being a more explicit critique of government surveillance.
Like those games, it offers you the choice to subvert your employers’ rules and policies – or to aid them in evading police investigation.
The plot points reveal themselves in such tiny dribs and drabs between the repetitive customer service interactions, though, that it takes a lot of patience to really get at what’s going on.
It’s Technology. It Just Happens!
It’s also worth noting that it some players have reported major glitches and errors, like being praised for incorrectly handling support tickets (or criticized despite doing everything according to company policy).
I haven’t experienced too much of that, but one glitch I did come across was more than enough to detract from any emotional experience the game was intending to provoke.
One of the subplots involve your character’s communications – by means of both email and the customer service software – with an estranged brother about your mother, who has taken ill. You’re offered the opportunity to provide cash to help with her care or to ignore the situation, provoking your brother’s wrath.
In any case, several days after receiving an e-mail from my brother that she had died, I received a follow-up letting me know that she was heading to surgery but feeling optimistic and in good spirits.
A day later: a second death announcement. Anticlimactic, to say the least.
You Can Change That in the Settings Menu
Tech Support: Error Unknown didn’t entirely grab me with its story or its commentary on corporate surveillance. It felt a bit like The IT Crowd crossed with Mr. Robot, but lacking the comedy of the former or the suspense of the latter, and too balanced toward the minutiae of the job simulation to be as thought-provoking as I’d hoped.
Where it does succeed, though, is in that job simulation. Much like Her Story, its interface is modeled after an obsolete operating system – in this case, it feels like Windows Vista – complete with widgets, e-mail, wallpapers and proprietary software, like the adorably named TutoriOwl customer service tutorial.
And if the more narrative elements don’t entirely succeed, the simulation of tech support certainly does, right down to its repetitive nature. As repetitive as it is, though, the customer chat responses are logical and consistent to a fault – indicating either a fairly sophisticated code-based AI or a story flow management program like Articy (which Orwell also employs).
At the very least, Tech Support: Error Unknown will make you feel like a customer service tech, should you be lucky enough never have had to do that for your actual job.
Tech Support: Error Unknown is available via Steam.
Watch the official trailer for Tech Support: Error Unknown below: