Game Setup: Build Your Character

This process only took 24 years to complete in the menu area, called Iowa, where I grew up. I chose a devilishly-handsome, 6′ tall white male avatar of Irish/English decent for myself, and gave him an average build, sandy blonde hair and glasses. To personalize your character, you are alloted a random number of Opportunity points (which I was fortunate enough to score very highly on) which you can devote to any number of Special Skill areas. I chose, primarily, Aptitude, Wit, Charisma, Music, Writing, Performance, Luck and Optimism.

Level One: Learn the Controls

This level was spent mostly wandering the map and figuring out how to do basic things like laundry and grocery shopping. I also uncovered important locations like where to find good espresso, where the gym was, and discovered that almost everything else required many more Experience Points (XP) to access than I would have for a long, long time.

Because I was actually playing the game at this point, I made it my mission to press A and speak to as many random characters as I could. Though I felt almost every conversation at the time could be useful and important, it turns out that all of it so far has just been useless chatter.

Level Two: Job Search

The problem with this level is that I couldn’t find the instructions for it anywhere. But since I had to beat it to move on, I pressed ahead anyway in the most sensible way I could: dropping off my résumé at restaurants in the area and emailing it to job placement agencies. None of them got back to me.

On Day One, however, my roommate Sean noticed a job posting at Chipotle just down the street, and I ran over directly to fill out an application. They did get back to me, and that graduated me to…

Level Three: Chipotle

This level was new and exciting at first, but once I figured out how it worked I realized it was much less fun than previously thought. It was filled with tons of mini games like “Knife Skills,” “Cutting Peppers,” “Dicing Jalapeños,” “Marinating Chicken,” and the worst of all, “Washing Dishes.” Once you mastered a skill, it would be added to your compounding list of duties to keep track of, and you’d be expected to accomplish it within a timeframe that kept narrowing and narrowing as your skills advanced.

Colorful characters like Katherina, the saucy latina, Sebastian, the very friendly cook who speaks no English, Fabio, the helpful one who drops hints here and there, Guillermo, the harmless thug, and Zenen, the kind-of-douchey boss, filled my days with pleasant distractions. Since I was playing this level on difficult, most of my instruction was given only en Español. (Luckily, I had put many Opportunity points into that category in the character setup phase of the game earlier.)

Level Four: 44 & X

After 3 weeks stuck on level 3, Sean again granted me another opportunity: a job interview at a restaurant he used to work at. I whipped up a restaurant résumé (which I had forgotten to do in the character setup phase), and interviewed successfully. I had now acquired the minimum amount of Experience points to access this level.

Mini games for this level included “Memorize the Wine List,” “Memorize the Lunch Menu,” “Bus Tables,” and “Charm the Pants off of your Boss/Customers.” The stakes were a bit higher here, though the Experience payoff was also higher, as was the rate of gold coins it gave me each week. But the time cannot be paused in this game, and each month comes Rent, which in April will be skyrocketing. Can I save up enough coins to make it in time…?

Ongoing Missions

Aside from the successive levels, there are a variety of ongoing missions that I need to accomplish in order to win this game. These are selected in the pre-game setup. I’ve got several in progress, including, “Publish Play,” “Rewrite Novel,” “Publish Novel,” and “Write Dinner Theatre Musical.” That last one has a time limit, too; less than one year.

So far, I’ve really been enjoying this game, and what’s more: I think I’ve been doing pretty well at it. Progress is always automatically saved and nothing can ever be replayed or reversed. There is an ongoing plot, but the central story line is mostly customizable. It’s challenging, but incrementally so, and continued progress and accrued Experience points mean potential to unlock cooler items, bonus features, extra levels, secret content, and – my favorite – in-game videos.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m going to see what the computer has waiting for me when I get my character really, really drunk in Central Park.