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How Making a Video Game About Your Life Can Get You Fired

Designer David Gallant knew creating a game about his experience working at call centers might cost him his job, and then it actually happened.

“This game is a work of fiction. It is inspired by real events. Similarities to real and actual events are intentional.”

When Canadian game designer David Gallant created the purposely mundane I Get This Call Every Day, based on his employment experience at various call centers, he knew it could get him into trouble. But it’s easy to think in hypotheticals. On Tuesday, however, the worst case scenario actually happened.

I Get This Call Every Day was originally conceived during a mini-Ludum Dare game jam from last September with the theme “Not Game.”

Gallant's job at the Canada Revenue Agency was not the first time he'd worked in a call center.

“That’s where I kind of got the idea of a call center simulation where there’s no good outcomes,” he told me on Wednesday. “There’s no real way to win the game.”

Development continued for several weeks after the jam, and it was finally published on his personal website on December 21. Gallant followed the popular pay-what-you-want model with a minimum of $2. On launch day, Kotaku ran a story on it, which drove a little bit of attention his way, but nothing notable in terms of sales. Gallant was just happy to have someone pay attention to his game.

The game itself falls into a similar category as Cart Life. I Get This Call Every Day has less to do with fun and more to do with imparting empathy through interactivity. Games are in a unique position to convey an activity, even one as dull as talking to taxpayers on the phone. I Get This Call Every Day has players sitting at a desk, waiting for a green button to flash, and choosing how to respond. Both characters are voiced by Gallant, and the whole experience--interface, visuals, art--is humorously crude.

It’s also, ironically, very easy to get fired yourself in I Get This Call Every Day.

Gallant published the game on Desura and Indievania, and made a move for approval on Steam's Greenlight service. It hasn’t gone well, with users responding negatively to the MS Paintish aesthetic.

“Things were, for the past week, really quiet,” he said.

Then, a reporter for the Toronto Star contacted Gallant. The Toronto Star is a big, notable newspaper in Canada, so if the Toronto Star comes a-knockin’, you answer. The reporter wanted to discuss I Get This Call Every Day, and revealed a key bit of information about Gallant’s life: the reporter knew he worked at Canada Revenue Agency.

I contacted the reporter in question, Valerie Hauch, to learn more about how she found out about the game, but Hauch did not return my request for comment, as of this writing.

His co-workers were aware of his hobby, and he regularly passed out business cards to promote the part-time business. Either nobody went to the website prominently featuring I Get This Call Every Day, or nobody cared. He didn’t actively discuss and showcase I Get This Call Every Day, though, knowing it might solicit unwanted attention.

“I got the idea that my fellow coworkers really wouldn’t be the audience for this game because it is an experience that they already have to deal with,” he said.

Nonetheless, Gallant’s not-quite-secret secret was about to become very, very public.

“To this point, I had never disclosed who I worked for deliberately,” he said. “The game doesn’t mention what employer it is.”

Gallant was told this detail would be included in the reporter’s piece, which appeared in a story on Tuesday titled “Tax department employee creates online game to vent his frustration with taxpayers.” Furthermore, the reporter contacted the government to get an official response.

“I knew that was always a possibility,” said Gallant. “This game could, in a way, be linked back to my employer, it could be something they take offense to, and I always knew there was a risk that I could lose my job because of that.”

He knew the risk, and the reporter was just doing their job. Pretty quickly, the situation snowballed. Gallant was unable to disclose the exact nature of what happened on Tuesday. Take a guess. He could only confirm he no longer had a job, and it’s pretty clear the reason Gallant is no longer taking phone calls is due to the game he made.

“The Minister considers this type of conduct offensive and completely unacceptable,” said National Revenue Minister Gail Shea in a statement to the Toronto Star. “The Minister has asked the Commissioner (of Revenue, Andrew Treusch) to investigate and take any and all necessary corrective action. The Minister has asked the CRA to investigate urgently to ensure no confidential taxpayer information was compromised.”

It’s not difficult to suspect how a story like this might end.

The story that ended up running in the Toronto Star about I Get This Call Every Day.

Gallant attracted a bit of attention from the story itself, but when it became clear an investigation would happen, he received a flurry of questions about his employment status on Twitter. He was, at least, able to disclose that he was no longer employed at the Canada Revenue Agency.

“Anyone hiring?” he wrote.

Since then, there’s been an unbelievable outpouring of support from the community.

LD'er @davidsgallant made a game about his job, got covered by Canada's largest(?) paper, and lost it. Help a bro out: davidsgallant.com/igtced.html

— Mr The Mike Kasprzak (@mikekasprzak) January 30, 2013

Buying this game right now - the developer, @davidsgallant , was fired for making it. Be kind and share this link. davidsgallant.com/igtced.html

— Alan Williamson (@AGBear) January 29, 2013

Yesterday @davidsgallant got fired for a game he made. I thought it was a fabulous example of games as art: business.financialpost.com/2013/01/30/dow…

— Daniel Kaszor (@dkaszor) January 30, 2013

“Oh, my god,” he said. “I don’t think I have a word for the emotional experience that this has all been. It was pretty tense yesterday [Tuesday], and then just coming home to the explosion of support--all the media coverage. And it’s still ongoing. I really thought by now it would have died down, but it’s still going!”

Besides media coverage, he's received support from Double Fine’s Chris Remo, Vlambeer’s Rami Ismail, Molleindustria’s Paolo Pedercini, and others. These are developers he admires, and they’re talking about his game.

“Both the local Toronto community and the online community has stepped up to this plate that I didn’t even know existed,” he said. “The amount of home runs being hit right now are...I can’t fathom it. I really wish I could say more. I’m just speechless.”

The outpouring of support has also translated into money for Gallant. His numbers don’t update in real-time, so it’s unclear how much he’ll actually make from all of the attention, but it’s enough to give him some breathing room over the next few months. He’s still looking for a job, though.

Dys4ia is an interactive reflection of Anthropy's experience with gender identity disorder.

For the time being, Gallant and his wife are trying to take it day-by-day. They've taken to watching Star Trek episodes as a distraction, while watching email notifications about new sales come in, $2 at a time. He’d love to transition over to full-time game development, but eventually attention towards I Get This Call Every Day will dry up, and there’s not enough to gamble on just yet.

The enormously positive reaction he’s received has reinforced his desire to work on video games that do more to encompass the human experience. He pointed to Minority Media’s Papo & Yo and Anna Anthropy’s Dys4ia as formative moments for him, both as a player and developer.

“I had a friend who went through a gender change and, at the time, I didn’t really know how to deal with it,” he said. “Playing Dys4ia years after that happened really made me realize what I’d been missing in that whole experience,what she must have been going through that I really didn’t consider at the time. I think it’s really important that games are doing that,” he said. “I don’t think every game has to, but it’s something that deserves exploring, that I really want to see more developers explore.”

Patrick Klepek on Google+
228 Comments
Posted by patrickklepek

“This game is a work of fiction. It is inspired by real events. Similarities to real and actual events are intentional.”

When Canadian game designer David Gallant created the purposely mundane I Get This Call Every Day, based on his employment experience at various call centers, he knew it could get him into trouble. But it’s easy to think in hypotheticals. On Tuesday, however, the worst case scenario actually happened.

I Get This Call Every Day was originally conceived during a mini-Ludum Dare game jam from last September with the theme “Not Game.”

Gallant's job at the Canada Revenue Agency was not the first time he'd worked in a call center.

“That’s where I kind of got the idea of a call center simulation where there’s no good outcomes,” he told me on Wednesday. “There’s no real way to win the game.”

Development continued for several weeks after the jam, and it was finally published on his personal website on December 21. Gallant followed the popular pay-what-you-want model with a minimum of $2. On launch day, Kotaku ran a story on it, which drove a little bit of attention his way, but nothing notable in terms of sales. Gallant was just happy to have someone pay attention to his game.

The game itself falls into a similar category as Cart Life. I Get This Call Every Day has less to do with fun and more to do with imparting empathy through interactivity. Games are in a unique position to convey an activity, even one as dull as talking to taxpayers on the phone. I Get This Call Every Day has players sitting at a desk, waiting for a green button to flash, and choosing how to respond. Both characters are voiced by Gallant, and the whole experience--interface, visuals, art--is humorously crude.

It’s also, ironically, very easy to get fired yourself in I Get This Call Every Day.

Gallant published the game on Desura and Indievania, and made a move for approval on Steam's Greenlight service. It hasn’t gone well, with users responding negatively to the MS Paintish aesthetic.

“Things were, for the past week, really quiet,” he said.

Then, a reporter for the Toronto Star contacted Gallant. The Toronto Star is a big, notable newspaper in Canada, so if the Toronto Star comes a-knockin’, you answer. The reporter wanted to discuss I Get This Call Every Day, and revealed a key bit of information about Gallant’s life: the reporter knew he worked at Canada Revenue Agency.

I contacted the reporter in question, Valerie Hauch, to learn more about how she found out about the game, but Hauch did not return my request for comment, as of this writing.

His co-workers were aware of his hobby, and he regularly passed out business cards to promote the part-time business. Either nobody went to the website prominently featuring I Get This Call Every Day, or nobody cared. He didn’t actively discuss and showcase I Get This Call Every Day, though, knowing it might solicit unwanted attention.

“I got the idea that my fellow coworkers really wouldn’t be the audience for this game because it is an experience that they already have to deal with,” he said.

Nonetheless, Gallant’s not-quite-secret secret was about to become very, very public.

“To this point, I had never disclosed who I worked for deliberately,” he said. “The game doesn’t mention what employer it is.”

Gallant was told this detail would be included in the reporter’s piece, which appeared in a story on Tuesday titled “Tax department employee creates online game to vent his frustration with taxpayers.” Furthermore, the reporter contacted the government to get an official response.

“I knew that was always a possibility,” said Gallant. “This game could, in a way, be linked back to my employer, it could be something they take offense to, and I always knew there was a risk that I could lose my job because of that.”

He knew the risk, and the reporter was just doing their job. Pretty quickly, the situation snowballed. Gallant was unable to disclose the exact nature of what happened on Tuesday. Take a guess. He could only confirm he no longer had a job, and it’s pretty clear the reason Gallant is no longer taking phone calls is due to the game he made.

“The Minister considers this type of conduct offensive and completely unacceptable,” said National Revenue Minister Gail Shea in a statement to the Toronto Star. “The Minister has asked the Commissioner (of Revenue, Andrew Treusch) to investigate and take any and all necessary corrective action. The Minister has asked the CRA to investigate urgently to ensure no confidential taxpayer information was compromised.”

It’s not difficult to suspect how a story like this might end.

The story that ended up running in the Toronto Star about I Get This Call Every Day.

Gallant attracted a bit of attention from the story itself, but when it became clear an investigation would happen, he received a flurry of questions about his employment status on Twitter. He was, at least, able to disclose that he was no longer employed at the Canada Revenue Agency.

“Anyone hiring?” he wrote.

Since then, there’s been an unbelievable outpouring of support from the community.

LD'er @davidsgallant made a game about his job, got covered by Canada's largest(?) paper, and lost it. Help a bro out: davidsgallant.com/igtced.html

— Mr The Mike Kasprzak (@mikekasprzak) January 30, 2013

Buying this game right now - the developer, @davidsgallant , was fired for making it. Be kind and share this link. davidsgallant.com/igtced.html

— Alan Williamson (@AGBear) January 29, 2013

Yesterday @davidsgallant got fired for a game he made. I thought it was a fabulous example of games as art: business.financialpost.com/2013/01/30/dow…

— Daniel Kaszor (@dkaszor) January 30, 2013

“Oh, my god,” he said. “I don’t think I have a word for the emotional experience that this has all been. It was pretty tense yesterday [Tuesday], and then just coming home to the explosion of support--all the media coverage. And it’s still ongoing. I really thought by now it would have died down, but it’s still going!”

Besides media coverage, he's received support from Double Fine’s Chris Remo, Vlambeer’s Rami Ismail, Molleindustria’s Paolo Pedercini, and others. These are developers he admires, and they’re talking about his game.

“Both the local Toronto community and the online community has stepped up to this plate that I didn’t even know existed,” he said. “The amount of home runs being hit right now are...I can’t fathom it. I really wish I could say more. I’m just speechless.”

The outpouring of support has also translated into money for Gallant. His numbers don’t update in real-time, so it’s unclear how much he’ll actually make from all of the attention, but it’s enough to give him some breathing room over the next few months. He’s still looking for a job, though.

Dys4ia is an interactive reflection of Anthropy's experience with gender identity disorder.

For the time being, Gallant and his wife are trying to take it day-by-day. They've taken to watching Star Trek episodes as a distraction, while watching email notifications about new sales come in, $2 at a time. He’d love to transition over to full-time game development, but eventually attention towards I Get This Call Every Day will dry up, and there’s not enough to gamble on just yet.

The enormously positive reaction he’s received has reinforced his desire to work on video games that do more to encompass the human experience. He pointed to Minority Media’s Papo & Yo and Anna Anthropy’s Dys4ia as formative moments for him, both as a player and developer.

“I had a friend who went through a gender change and, at the time, I didn’t really know how to deal with it,” he said. “Playing Dys4ia years after that happened really made me realize what I’d been missing in that whole experience,what she must have been going through that I really didn’t consider at the time. I think it’s really important that games are doing that,” he said. “I don’t think every game has to, but it’s something that deserves exploring, that I really want to see more developers explore.”

Staff
Edited by Triumvir

Man, I hate my government sometimes.

EDIT: Oh, I finally got the quest. Cool. Anyway, I hope Minister of National Revenue likes lawsuits.

Edited by aldo_q

Darn that both sucks for him and also is pretty cool he's getting such support at the same time...

Posted by MrMazz

Well that sucks. I'd only heard of this game in passing I'll have to check it out now.

Posted by Robitt

This guy will land on his feet.

Posted by cannedstingray

I always meant to give this a try, I guess I probably should

Online
Posted by Canteu

I smell legal action.

Posted by MorkaiTheWolf

Wow...while it's sad he lost his job, it's cool to see the support he got from people defending his creative outlet. Makes me smile when I see the community do things like this. =D Great story Patrick.

Posted by Xtrminatr

Typo at: ' “Things were, for the past week, really quiet,” said.'

Posted by YukoAsho

As bad as I feel for the guy, I don't see what the government agency did wrong. It could easily be seen as a slight against Canadian taxpayers.

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

That's some hot bullshit right there. At least he's getting paid for his troubles!

Posted by patrickklepek

@Xtrminatr said:

Typo at: ' “Things were, for the past week, really quiet,” said.'

Thanks!

Staff
Posted by ChuckDeNomolos

Yeah, with the newspaper article tilted in the way it was, there was no hope for him.

Posted by cloudymusic

Really good writeup. Saw David mention this in the forums, and felt bad for him. Hopefully he lands on his feet, but with how big this story seems to have blown up, I guess it's inevitable that some studio or another will offer to help him out.

Posted by bombedyermom

GO CANAD-

damnit.

Posted by Vigil80

Sounds like the best thing that could have happened to him. Follow your dreams, people. I know there are responsibilities that have to be taken care of, but don't stay in a job you hate.

The Minister has asked the Commissioner (of Revenue, Andrew Treusch) to investigate and take any and all necessary corrective action.

Here's a corrective action: crush souls less.

Posted by mrfluke

ah glad you covered this! :D

and are going to be happy

Posted by Livingitlarge224

From my personal experience, getting fired from a job you hate is one of the best things that can happen to you.

Posted by Livingitlarge224

Also, no one outside of Ontario reads the Toronto Star.

Edited by zeekthegeek

Canadian taxpayer here. This government continues to be the worst in our history. Any criticism is seen as treason.

I've worked as a QA minimum wage flunky at Electronic Arts and it was still way way better a work environment than a call centre.

Also, now I am going to Dig Deeper into Canada

Posted by CrunchbiteJr

He's no different from anyone else working in a call centre. Only difference is he was honest about how difficult his job is and how you can hate the people at the end of the phone. Best of luck to him in the future.

Edited by big_jon

I'm a little surprised he didn't see this coming, Canada revenue agency is know for being evil as hell, he having worked for them I would assume would know this, and making a game, that I can only assume makes them look bad would not make them very happy at all, when and if they found out.

Posted by The_A_Drain

That headline is some hardcore bullshit, why that 'journalist' isn't being sued out the asshole is the real story here.

Fuck that shit.

Posted by gbrading

Ah, the joys of office work. I feel sorry for the guy but he did have to kind of expect something like this to happen. Bureaucracy is such so heartless. My favourite game about bureaucracy is still Bureaucracy.

Posted by KLEPEK_DefenseForce

Fantastic article Patrick. You write like an angel.

Posted by SupernormalStep

@YukoAsho: I don't believe the government was meant to be villainized here, just a story about a guy losing his job, which he knew was a possibility. If anything I'm more annoyed at the newspaper/reporter that did the article outing him, but even that is just annoyance.

Posted by bennyboy

it's okay, his dismissal from his job garnered him publicity so now more developers are gonna take notice and wanna hire him and then he'll get hired as a game developer and then make another hit and then become very rich

Posted by TomA

The game is pretty great, I recommend it. I would argue that it IS in fact fun. It's funny, and I have fun laughing and I enjoyed myself. Boom.

Posted by theManUnknown
“Playing Dys4ia years after that happened really made me realize what i’d been missing in that whole experience, what she must have been growing through that I really didn’t consider at the time. I think it’s really important that games are doing that,”

I'm not very familiar with hormone therapy. From this it sounds like quite the transformative experience.

Posted by buft

I worked in a call center, not a government one and even posting too your Facebook page that you answered a phone in work can get you fired, apparently this counts as a trade secret and call centers don't like you sharing their processes and even something as basic and mundane as this counts.

It seems silly to think that something that would be common sense could get you fired but it seems thats where we are with society and that sucks, my sympathies to Mr.Gallant, i know hes a user here.

Posted by Luck702

As I can see it, this is all the loud mouth reporter's fault for disclosing his job in the god damn title.

Posted by bibamatt

Fantastic article! I'm desperate to try all of these games out (I tried Papa y Yo already but Dys4ia sounds really interesting!). Thanks for these articles, Patrick. You're a star.

Posted by HellknightLeon

Wait... Did Patrick just say... "He knew the risk, and the reporter was just doing their job."?

Edited by MildMolasses

The Toronto star is not read outside of Toronto. It is not the National Post or the Globe & Mail. That being said, he was a government employee being paid to deal with public inquiries. Part of that entails being able to handle stupid, irritating, angry, ignorant or hostile people. That's the job. If it bothered him so much, find another line of work and then make the game where you shit all over the old one.

Edit: I was confusing the Star with the Sun

Posted by Humanity

While it sucks that he lost his job and everything, but what did people expect would happen? Everyone is outraged and I don't know about Canada, but in the US if you badmouth your job in a public manner you are at a pretty high risk of losing that job. Especially big government jobs where the HR department doesn't mess around.

Posted by GalacticPunt

This could be the best thing that ever happened to him. Notoriety as a martyred game designer! He should team up with a proper artist and churn out indie games full-time while he's hot.

Posted by HellknightLeon

Oh and I love this article. I think it's sad and at the same time it's awesome! Stop playing with my heart strings! (But fuck the reporter and Patrick if he is defending him(I like Patrick maybe i'm being to mean))

Posted by cooljammer00

Hey, I read up on the dude when the game first came out. From what I understand, he hated his job but kept it to support his family. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise?

Online
Posted by Brodehouse

@Canteu said:

I smell legal action.

Probably not. His work contract probably covers this.

Posted by blacklab

The reporter could have been a bit more sensitive to his situation. Pretty lame I think.

Edited by graf1k

I'm kind of surprised at the dude who made the game as well as Patrick's reaction to the reporter calling the article “Tax department employee creates online game to vent his frustration with taxpayers.”

At best it's a leading title for an article. That said, I can't really believe the government would let someone go over something so small and insignificant especially when the game itself doesn't mention where he works or is unfairly critical of his employer of the people who call in. That's pretty much bullshit. I expect better from Canada.

Posted by FLStyle

Hopefully this will land him a job with one of the Canadian video game companies, good luck to him.

Posted by ripelivejam

feel like sending a few bucks his way. hope he ends up being able to follow his dreams, tough of a market as it is nowadays...

Posted by MarvinPontiac

Getting fired from CRA is more like being pardoned.

Posted by Hailinel
@Humanity

While it sucks that he lost his job and everything, but what did people expect would happen? Everyone is outraged and I don't know about Canada, but in the US if you badmouth your job in a public manner you are at a pretty high risk of losing that job. Especially big government jobs where the HR department doesn't mess around.

He never identifies his employer in the game, though. It's a game about the miserable calls in a call center, not an indictment of the Canadian tax agency.
Posted by MattOnTheSite

@patrickklepek: Hey, that Star link goes to a follow up article, not the original story.

Posted by Fobwashed

Games imitates Life? life imitates art? Art imitates games?

Saw this in the forums a few days back and it's sad but if you agree to an interview that will obviously be outing your place of employment and putting it into a seriously negative light in a very public forum, it's hard to say this wasn't a predictable outcome. I hope all goes well for him nevertheless. Good luck.

Online
Edited by calebur

@Humanity You can't be outraged at the expected now? Sure its the status quo, and he knew the risk going in, that doesn't make it cool.

Posted by BisonHero

@MildMolasses said:

The Toronto star is not read outside of Toronto. It is not the National Post or the Globe & Mail.

Patrick's statement is still correct:

The Toronto Star is a big, notable newspaper in Canada

The Globe & Mail has the highest circulation, but the Toronto Star is still the second highest, despite only being distributed in Ontario. The National Post isn't even close.

Posted by eccentrix

Do they really think any confidential taxpayer information was compromised? That's silly.