Unemployment Simulator 2018, 2023
Video game and installation
Unemployment Simulator 2018 is a self developed video game depicting an
uneventful period of the artist’s life in the year 2018. The game works as
an endless loop where the objective is to survive as long as possible in
the mind numbing limbo of the Finnish unemployment system. To progress
through each day you must complete mundane tasks while dealing with
loneliness, anxiety, and staying distracted and dopamine filled to avoid
death by boredom.
In addition to being an ironic self portrait, the work depicts themes of
modern masculinity and male loneliness, giving an empathetic and relatable
view on the so-called “Hikikomori” phenomenon, of young men confined to
their apartments and living as shut-ins from the rest of the world. This is
done through the Finnish context, painting an alternative view of the
welfare state, where the generous benefit system can work to enable
vulnerable individuals to further isolate themselves from society and
The work was shown at the TASE 2023 graduation show at Tallinn Art Hall in
1 – 17.6.2023, where I presented a playable version of the game as part of
an art installation, recreating the game environment in a physical space.
The work was awarded the Estonian Academy of Arts young artist award 2023.
The award jury stated the following: “Unemployment Simulator 2018” reflects
complex and topical themes with humorous lightness. The artist makes witty
and self-ironic use of both ethnic and gender stereotypes. A compelling
spatial design and an engaging computer game touch deeply on the various
nuances of human existence in today’s world.
In the game you progress through each day by completing a number of
randomized objectives related to home maintenance, self-care, or job
searching. Meanwhile you have to be mindful of your anxiety and fatigue
levels, you will not be able to perform tasks if your anxiety is too high
or if you are too tired.
The most critical metric is your dopamine level, which is constantly
decreasing, the daily tasks will drain it even faster. If boredom reaches
critical levels you will start losing health and eventually die of boredom,
failing the game and having to start over. Certain activities to keep
entertained through the day such as watching porn, or playing the guitar or
video games can increase your dopamine levels and lower anxiety, but any
single activity will have diminishing effects the more it is repeated
during the day. You can also gain significant boosts from consuming
different substances or checking your phone, but these actions can have
negative effects in other areas.
The game gets progressively more difficult, and as you progress you can
encounter numerous hidden events, such as melancholic days when crying
becomes a game mechanic to reduce anxiety, different dream levels, or
surreal events like a sudden worm hole appearing on the apartment wall to
speed up the passage of time.