The idea of having a job doing customer-facing tech support is something of a nightmare, and yet it’s a starting point in a career for numerous people. It’s also the starting and end point in this intriguing game from Dragon Slumber.
The game opens with you getting a new job doing tech support. You’re given software that helps to automate the process such as asking users what the problem might be and if anything happened. Prepare to hear about a lot of cracked screens or garbled messes, which are solved with automated solutions like replacing the screen or turning the phone off and on.
Of course, doing tech support wouldn’t be a game on its own. Instead, you’ll have to balance offering the tech support with everything else that comes up at work. You know, like those issues with a sick mother and a sibling requesting money. Or the fact that there’s a conspiracy at your corporation or terrorists are plotting to blow up your building. Plus, there’s a Nigerian stereotype who promises you millions if you’ll just send some cash and banking details.
That’s what kept me coming back to play more Tech Support: Error Unknown. I wanted to know if I could save my mother, if I could unlock all the upgrades, if I could buy a house in the country, and what exactly would happen if I helped the terrorists. I was intrigued by the emergent storytelling, as frustrating as it was to talk with a sibling using only the usual tech support prompts like “what’s the problem”, “what happened” and yes or no responses.
Unfortunately, the actual tickets and support desk stories aren’t as charming or emotive as those from Papers, Please. I didn’t feel compelled to break the corporate rules about who got a new phone or who to blackmail based on their backstories or interactions. There weren’t meaningful conversations with people seeking support, nor were there recurring customers who might ask to speak with me because of how great my support was in the past.
That core gameplay ended up being purely a matter of getting through the problem solving sequence as quickly as possible to get money so that I could afford to throw cash at the secondary stories. There are achievements for resolving a certain number of tickets in record time with 5-star ratings, but much of that feels beyond your control, particularly when customers seem to take forever to try turning a phone off and on or you get penalized by your boss for not asking enough questions about the problem.
It also ended up feeling like I had a very short window of opportunity to respond to offers, get involved in plots, or save the day. If an email came in asking for money, I had to come up with the cash within a day or two, or the option would go away, no matter how many email responses I might send. Plus, the fact that the terrorists were looking for my help overthrowing the corporation when I was a brand new hire either speaks to a lack of pacing in the game, or the developer’s assumption that everyone wants to see the evil corporate overlord get what’s coming.
I wanted this game to feel like Papers, Please, and in many ways, it did. It had a similar form of basic core gameplay with a well-crafted difficulty curve, adding additional elements like warranties, VIP customers, and options to upsell clients. The storytelling is done in an emergent way that makes it feel like you’re experiencing or discovering something unique.
However, the charm of Papers, Please came from the different layers of emotions. From worrying about your family while trying to earn enough to also having the chance to truly help others. The stakes in Tech Support: Error Unknown aren’t high enough, the overall charm and amusement is lacking, and the game ends up feeling a bit too much like the real monotony of automated office work. That said, I still ended up hooked into the feedback loop enough that I snagged three different endings and would jump in again to maybe try to save my mother and get that Nigerian’s money this time.
If you’ve been desperate for a follow up game to Papers, Please, you could do far worse than Tech Support: Error Unknown. It has a solid premise, and with each 30-day play through lasting about four to five hours, it can be a decent time sink. Don’t expect as many impressive stories to tell, or as much of an emotional response, but it’s still a fun, entertaining, and worthwhile game to play. Plus, for $10 on Steam, it’s a cheap enough game to enjoy until the game play wears thin.
Last Updated: March 12, 2019