Eight Jobs You Can Try with Video Games

Video games provide us with escapism, for the most part. Through playing games I’ve been a king, a soldier, an assassin, a racing driver, a wizard, a pirate, a pilot, a space explorer and many other things that I could never hope to achieve in my daily life. I suppose I could have been a soldier, a racing driver or a pilot, but my natural cowardice put paid to those ideas, and I’ve heard that to become a pirate you need at least a PhD in Buccaneering and three years’ experience in shivering timbers.

Most games offer a different experience from that which you may get on a regular day, otherwise there’d be little point in playing them. You might as well get up and go outside (I’ve heard the graphics are really good out there). The notable exception is The Sims, but that offers a different sort of escapism where you can create normal people and get them to do whatever you want, which could be as boring as going to work and then reading a book in the evening, or it could be creating a robot wife and painting pictures until you work yourself to death and then haunting a local park. It’s realistic in some ways, but not exactly an accurate simulation of life.

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There have also been other games that provide a somewhat familiar experience or job, such as the classic Paperboy. I’m not saying that every paperboy (or girl) has had to deal with breakdancers, rogue radio controlled cars and tornados, but the need to deliver papers on a morning filled with hassle will be familiar to some of my readers, I’m sure. Likewise, a classic Commodore 64 game entitled Interview recreated the experience of running late for an interview and rushing to get there before time runs out, which I’m sure some of you will have experienced first-hand.


There exists a fine line between mundane simulation and total escapism, and it’s that line that we’re going to explore today: a sub-category of games in which you get to try out jobs that you’d (probably) never experience otherwise. All of these are real jobs, but you get a chance to see what they’re like without going through years of training, or quitting your current day job.

Some of these simulations are more realistic than others, of course.


Though Surgeon Simulator sounds as though it would be a reasonable recreation of the difficulties and pressures of surgery, it’s not. It is, in fact, completely bonkers and impossible to control, which just adds to the fun when you can’t retrieve your scalpel from inside the patient’s head because your wristwatch is in the way. Games in the Trauma Center series, however, take things at least slightly more seriously.

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Launching on the Nintendo DS in 2005, the first Trauma Center game was stressful and difficult, just like being a real surgeon. The fact that you could slow down time with your super healing powers was less realistic, but you still had to work with forceps, scalpel, sutures, bandages and the like, giving you a taste of real surgery work. Later games in the series also introduced defibrillators and endoscopes.

Although the plot is a bit bonkers (with man-made diseases being released by terrorists), controlling blood loss and heart rate while working against the clock mean that you genuinely do feel like a surgeon. Touched for the very first time. Like a suu-uu-uu-uurgeon…

Realism Factor: 7/10

Taxi Driver

Many of the Grand Theft Auto games have featured taxi driving minigames as a way to break up the monotony of shooting civilians, jumping motorbikes off tall buildings and stealing zeppelins, but there’s only one true taxi driving game.

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Having been released on practically everything since the original arcade version, Crazy Taxi is pretty much ubiquitous on gaming devices. It’s not exactly what you’d call a simulation, however; the game requires you to drive maniacally across San Francisco picking up passengers and transporting them to their destinations. Smashing through obstacles is mandatory, and jumping off/over/through things is pretty much a necessity to keep the strict timer from running out.

I’ve never driven a taxi, but I’ve been in plenty, and I can honestly say that if I were subjected to a ride like the ones in this game, I’d probably be in therapy for the rest of my life. I also suspect that it would take less than twenty minutes of driving like this to get arrested and banned from driving for life, so I really can’t recommend Crazy Taxi as a way to experience real taxi driving. As a game, however, it’s a blast.

Realism Factor: 2/10

Game Developer

Sometimes art gets self-referential. Magritte’s painting “The Treachery of Images” (“Ceci n’est pas une pipe”) questions the relationship between imagery and reality, and this raises all sorts of epistemological questions about whether existence is something that exists separately from ourselves or inherently tied to the observer’s consciousness. Maybe this was all at the forefront of the developers of Game Dev Story minds, when they decided to make a game about making games. Or maybe they just couldn’t think of any better subject matter.

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Game Dev Story (and its clone, Game Dev Tycoon) charge the player with starting up and running a successful game development studio, following a parallel history of the video games industry and attempting to make top quality games. You have to hire staff, predict the popularity of certain game genres, match your game style with your audience’s preferences, and take into account all sorts of factors that will baffle anyone unfamiliar with the history of game development.

Although there have been tons of management games along these lines, Game Dev Story stands out for a) being a lot of fun and b) getting the perfect marriage between audience and content, which in a self-referential way is what you’re trying to do in the game. My head hurts a bit now.

Realism Factor: 6/10


There has been a plethora of “X Simulator” games in the past few years, including such delights as Airport Simulator, Transport Simulator and Farming Simulator, and leading to such in-joke titles as Goat Simulator and Tree Simulator. For the most part they’re boring and not even as realistic as they’d like to be, and so instead we’re going to talk about Harvest Moon.

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There are now more Harvest Moon games than any one person can count, even that guy who memorised pi to 67,890 digits. We do know that the first game came out in 1996 on the SNES, and we also know that every single Harvest Moon game can best be described as “whimsical”. The primary objective is always that of taking a dilapidated old farm and transforming it into a successful one, and while this is sometimes accomplished by hugging livestock, usually it’s reasonably realistic and requires you to plant crops, water them and harvest them to make money, which you then repeat over the course of several years.

Though the games are made with a younger audience in mind, and therefore don’t really convey the intricacies of running a farm, they do a very good job of demonstrating how much hard work is required to look after crops and livestock, and how automation and hired help are practically essential.

Realism Factor: 5/10


Not many games give you the opportunity to drive a huge articulated lorry, but there have been a few. One that instantly springs to mind is 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker, which came out in arcades in 2000. Although you drive a truck, it’s a racing game at its core, and not a very accurate example of how it feels to actually get behind the wheel. For that, we need to look elsewhere.


As mentioned above, there has been a virtual landslide of “Simulator” games in the last few years, and Euro Truck Simulator 2 stands out as one of the better examples. You can probably guess the premise of the game from its name: drive a truck around Europe, delivering cargo. Where the game really shines is in the detail, offering detailed models of the trucks, simulations of thousands of miles of road around Europe, and even the option to stream European internet radio while playing, simulating those awful radio stations you get in Poland, Austria and the like.

You might think it sounds pretty boring. To be honest, even I thought it sounded boring. Euro Truck Simulator 2 has proven unexpectedly compelling, however, and sold thousands of copies after receiving positive reviews. There’s apparently something quite relaxing and satisfying about driving a truck from Manchester to Prague when you don’t have the real-world problems of officious border police and unreasonable time constraints, and even the realistic problems that do exist in the game such as getting lost or running out of money for your business give the game a fun challenge, rather than giving you sleepless nights because you’re about to lose your trucking job.

Realism Factor: 8/10

Prison Warden

Management games have been around for as long as video games, pretty much. The most famous of them include Theme Park (where you run a theme park, obviously), Theme Hospital (where you run a hospital and the word “theme” is largely irrelevant) and Railroad Tycoon (honestly, do you need me to explain all of these games’ titles to you?), but in recent years the genre has stagnated a little. Enter a new challenger:

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Although still in development at the time of writing, Prison Architect is very much playable already and simulates the day-to-day running of a prison, along with management of its construction and maintenance. You have to provide cells, canteens, laundry and showers, hire enough staff and guards to ensure that prisoners don’t just start rioting and murder each other, and try to generate a healthy income at the same time (work them hard enough and prisoners can make a lot of car license plates).

Although it’s somewhat unrealistic to continue building a prison when it’s already occupied by prisoners, the game does simulate quite a few realistic mechanics such as drug addiction, rioting, rehab and education programs, and visitation (which carries the risk of contraband being smuggled into the prison). The game has a cartoony aesthetic which gives it an absurd sort of feel, but the complex underlying systems mean that within an hour or two you can be struggling with the alcohol problems of a few hundred high-security inmates who refuse to attend rehab sessions, trying to save enough money to afford a new shower room because the inmates won’t stop fighting over showers, and calling in riot police with shotguns when it all gets out of hand and everyone’s trying to beat the poor psychologist to death in his office. Just like a real prison warden, I imagine.

Realism Factor: 7/10


Some of you reading this may already be lawyers, but I won’t hold that against you. One series of games has made me question whether it might be a fun and rewarding career, rather than a chance to suck the lifeblood out of unfortunate wealthy people:

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney sees you take on the role of a newly-qualified defence lawyer with absurdly spiky hair, trying to secure justice for your clients. You have to pick holes in witness testimony, present evidence that supports your case, and shout “objection!” at your Nintendo DS, which is always the most fun bit.

A significant amount of the game involves picking through crime scenes and collecting evidence that the incompetent police have failed to find, which I don’t think is usually covered by a lawyer’s job description, but we make allowances for games like this. There’s some realism in the way that you need to pay attention to witness testimony and point out inconsistencies that prove they’re lying about your client, but the game doesn’t really simulate the mountains of paperwork, hours of reading case studies and legal precedents, or late nights drinking whisky and smoking cigars (I get my knowledge of the legal profession from Boston Legal).

Realism Factor: 3/10

Football Manager

As the late Bill Shankly once said, “some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”. Frankly, to me those sound like the ravings of a man suffering from terminal stupidity, but there’s no denying the importance of football to many people, and if you were to add up all the swear words that have been yelled at football managers for their incompetence in the last hundred years, you’d almost have enough for an episode of a cookery show starring Gordon Ramsay.

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Offering gamers the chance to do better than their real-world counterparts has been a staple of gaming for at least the last 30 years, but has finally reached a point of near-realism in the last few with the Football Manager series (known for its quality gameplay, not its imaginative name). The game attempts to simulate everything from picking your squad and hiring staff to train the players to choosing formations, setting up friendlies and talking to the press, giving you the complete experience of managing a team. There’s even the option to throw in lines such as “I’m as sick as a parrot” when your team loses, and to shout at players during half-time talks.

There aren’t many games that simulate something so complex as football management with such attention to detail, and in fact at least one real-world job has been earned through playing the game. Vugar Guloglan oglu Huseynzade, a 21 year-old fan of the game, managed to get the job of managing Azerbaijani club Baku purely on the strength of his experience on Football Manager, despite never having held a managerial job before. That’s held up as a testament to the accuracy of the simulation, though it’s perhaps just a comment on the availability of good managerial staff in Azerbaijan.

Realism Factor: 10/10

So, before you hand in your notice at your current job and apply for any of the careers above, try some of the games I’ve mentioned instead. They might just convince you to start that law degree (or put you off ever getting in a taxi again). Before you do that, though, I want to hear from you! Has your job been immortalised in a video game? Did you get your job based on your skills at an arcade game? Did Snacks ’n’ Jaxson convince you to become a professional sneezing clown? Let me know!

You can get in touch with me through the comments below, via Facebook, Twitter, Google +, or email [email protected].

Written by: Dave Morgan

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