Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he's making copies, organizing files, solving mysteries, and trying to find love among the mystical law-practicing creatures of Montreal.
In Love & Order , a relationship and office simulation, I'm playing the role of Dana Larose, a newly hired legal assistant in a Montreal law firm staffed with a collection of androgynous French-Canadian business elves. Now, I suspect you'll be disappointed to learn that the yanking referred to in the image above is not a crude sexual reference but simply an instruction (and a poor one at that) on how to clear paper from a jammed printer, so allow me to comfort you by repeating the phrase "androgynous French-Canadian business elves," which I think we can all agree is the best thing I've ever written.
On to the game itself! This simulation requires me to balance the demands of my four elven superiors (okay, I don't actually know if they're elves or not, but they look like elves) with my stress level, which rises every time I do the work I'm given. I'm also trying to increase the disposition of the elf lawyers (or are they lawyer elves?) I work for in hopes of achieving a little romance with one of them. On top of all that, I'm also supposed to be investigating a mysterious note I find in my desk related to a long-forgotten legal case. Naturally, this being a simulation, there are only so many hours in the day to get all my work done, find time to relieve stress, solve the mystery of the case file, and try to seduce one of my bosses.
Prioritizing is the name of the game, so I focus on what's most important: deciding which elf I'd like to knock pointy boots with. Ross, my boss, is right out, because the only work he has for me is to organize all the offices in the building, a task I seem to repeatedly fail, even in the case of a conference room that a) only contains chairs, and b) appears to be pretty organized already.
Another boss, Jonathan, irritates me because he immediately hits on me and then proceeds to call me "Sweetheart" every time we talk. Dude. No . Look, I'm not a woman (except in video games sometimes) and I don't want to speak for women, but here's my personal list of who should be allowed to call a woman "Sweetheart." You can tell me if you disagree:
- A parent or grandparent
- A middle-aged diner waitress named Dottie or Muriel
- Humphrey Bogart (deceased)
- A brash, ruggedly handsome outlaw spaceship captain who hides his true feelings behind cocky swagger and sarcasm until eventually revealing he really does love you
- Your actual sweetheart
I eventually settle on a lawyer named Pierre, because he seems nice, and if you like pointy chins and giant eyeballs you simply won't find a pointier, eyeballier face than his. Most importantly, I haven't screwed up any of his tasks yet. Once I've filled his Like-Me Meter with Fondness Blood (or whatever the hell the red stuff is that fills video game disposition meters), I ask him out and we meet for a drink at the pub. The game immediately scolds me for showing up in my work clothes (I guess I'm supposed to sex myself up), but otherwise, the date goes well, and he quickly asks me out again.
That's great, though I can't help but notice he doesn't exactly give me a chance to turn him down.
Meanwhile, the office simulation portion of the game is, like, actually pretty darn difficult. I routinely have multiple tasks to complete for multiple people in a tight time-frame. Most of these tasks are one-click affairs, like making copies or proofreading documents. But whenever my stress level rises to about 20%, I seem prone to screw-ups and failures. Lowering my stress level requires free time to enjoy activities such as going to the movies or eating out, but having free time means leaving work at a reasonable hour, which means having less time to get work done as well as earning less money since working late pays overtime, meaning I earn less money to spend on stress-relieving activities. It's a genuinely pretty tricky thing to keep everything in balance, and I wind up getting fired several times and having to reload.
And, while a few work screw-ups are not fatal, the way my character deals with them is immensely irritating. When Dana screws something up, she almost never tries to fix it. At one point I have to schedule a meeting over the phone, and the game tells me the phone isn't working. After Dana cusses and complains for a bit, the game gives me an option for this phone call assignment, and that option is "Forget it." And that's it! Dana, stymied by a non-working phone, just fails the task forever. There's no way to go into another office and use someone else's phone, or send an email in place of the call, or do anything but completely suck at my job.
Weeks pass as I manage to keep afloat, and I get a bit better at managing my time. My romance with Pierre continues as well, though I honestly feel nothing for him. He says nice things, but they're also boring things, and Dana's reactions are all of the "Tee-hee! I'm blushing!" variety. Maybe I should have dated that condescending jerk instead, just for some fireworks? Maybe I shouldn't be dating my employers at all? Maybe I'm just not attracted to a guy who looks like my taller, malnourished sister?
Eventually, I fully investigate the mystery file as well, which requires a seemingly unending series of phone calls, database searches, and mail deliveries as I uncover more and more information about something that, having just completed the game a few hours ago, I can't entirely remember. But I'm pretty sure it was shocking because I wrote in my notes "Shocking." The lack of an exclamation point, however, might be a sign of insincerity.
Conclusion : The management is tough enough to make this sim a pretty engaging challenge, but I sort of don't care for Dana herself. On the one hand, she's resourceful and tenacious enough to dig deep into a buried legal mystery that rocks the very foundations of the law firm of Elf, Elf & Elf, but on the other hand, she's a bit of a clod, unable to fix paper jams or organize chairs without freaking out, and constantly getting flustered over fey anorexic goblins.