Consider the success of TaskRabbit, a company founded in 2008 under the auspices of the “collaborative consumption” movement. TaskRabbit prides itself on turning the precarity of the temporary contract into a game.
Tasks are posted on an app; taskers, as they’re called, wait by their phones for the beep of a job, race to click first, then dissolve into blue GPS dots zipping through the streets, algorithmically sent to their next job site to build IKEA furniture, wait in line for new iPhones, read The Stranger out loud to spoiled children, or do any other type of short-term work someone might pay for.
These precarious workers can play the game of employment over and over again, sometimes up to five times a day. There is no compensation for the time spent “playing” — that is, searching, refreshing, applying. As long as the work is temporary, the game never ends. Likewise for SimCity’s populace: they simulate this labor for us so that we can play.
But even the free time we spend playing the game looks something like work. Prosumerism, the slippery ramp between production and consumption, participation and exploitation, is a hallmark of the flexible production schedule of today’s creative industries — the gaming industry included.
Devoted players are often tacitly recruited into being unpaid testers for the industry’s beta releases and contributors to its mod (modification) scene.