Quick Look – The Invisible Hand (#JustOnePercent 33/100)

Developer: Power Struggle Games
Release Date: May 7, 2021
MSRP: $12.99

Usually, I am drawn to simulation style games because they can be the ultimate kind of chill experiences, and I prefer a relaxing game to a stressful one almost all of the time. However, over the past several years, we’ve started seeing more dystopian job simulators showing up in the indie games space, and although I haven’t played too many of them, the only one that came close to the level of pressure I felt playing The Invisible Hand was when I briefly checked out Papers, Please.

Of course, I don’t think too many people think about professional stock trading as a relaxing job to have. The Invisible Hand has, at least for me, the most anxiety-inducing introductory cut scene of anything I’ve ever played. You’ve got the trade screen in front of you, text boxes are popping up all over your screen, all the stocks are falling fast, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

I was actually relieved when my onboarding session for a new job at Ferios Capital consisted of one of those multiple choice quizzes morality quizzes. The right answers were even pre-selected for you (and I still managed to botch it before I realized that). All the while, your new boss is telling you how much the job is not really about following any of these rules; rather, expect to do whatever you can get away with that makes you the most money. I particularly appreciated the difficulty option that lets the game choose your difficulty and not tell you. As soon as I clicked confirm on that, I realized I was all in for Daytrader Anxiety Simulator.

In reality, the game does a pretty decent job of introducing you to various stock market concepts one at a time. I’ve never been in a financial position to play around in the stock market, and in truth, I was never really all that interested in it. I cannot imagine doing this as a career. I absolutely understood the entire time that I was only playing a game, but man, watching things I spent virtual money on not go the way I was hoping and trying to decide if I should wait it out or cut my losses actually had my heartbeat going a little fast.

As you progress through your career, the game repeatedly pits you against other employees, with a profit target you must meet before your competition or be fired. And someone gets fired most days. Cutthroat isn’t a strong enough word for FERIOUS Capital. Still, in case you haven’t realized that this is NOT a happy place to work, you’re reprimanded by your boss for keeping a personal photo on your desk. It’s all about the money, honey, and everything else is just a distraction.

I’ve probably said it a hundred times on this blog, but I don’t particularly enjoy hard games. I managed to work my way through two promotions, but I can’t say at any point I was having fun. I couldn’t even let myself root for the playable character (who you know almost nothing about) because everything about the job and the company and even your friend who got your foot in the door felt profoundly icky. Which I think was the point, so good on you Power Struggle Games. I may not have liked anything I was feeling while playing, but The Invisible Hand definitely made me feel things. I’m not sure what draws people into dystopian job sims when so many people are living dystopian job realities, but any time that playing a game really affects you, that game has succeeded.

SteamDB estimates that The Invisible Hand has sold somewhere between 5,700 and a 15,700 copies on Steam. Reviews are Very Positive overall, and it is ranked 2451 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

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