The Tedium of Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor Made Me Crave Worker Liberation

Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is coined as an anti-adventure game, one where you see the adventure hinted at around you, but you are not able to reach and access it. You simply pick up trash each day, get paid for it the morning of the next day, and repeat until the end of the game or forever if you are inclined. Even if you do not continue picking up trash in game post-credits, the subtext suggests that maybe you are still picking up the trash in your real life every day.

The game metaphorically demonizes your fear of death because of a low wage job in the form of a curse. This curse follows you around most of the game and it is a constant reminder of how you cannot escape the tedium of your job. It reminds you that you cannot escape your low wage job, or this spaceport and planet. You will constantly worry about having enough money to eat. You will worry about having enough money to be able to gendershift (a not-so-subtle metaphor for gender-affirming healthcare). You’ll worry about money the whole game. Even if you do get a decent amount of credits, you can still accidentally buy some expensive food and lose most of it (like I did once) and fall further into poverty.

You will find trash that hints at being able to access something else; an adventure. There are items like the above Quest Listing that make you feel like maybe there is more to this game than picking up trash. The game is engineered so you will feel, as the player, that there must be some element of the power fantasy that many games let you live. But there is not. One popular Steam guide even specifically tells you that “there are no adventures” as the game is engineered for you to want them to be.

Your avatar, the Alaensee girlbeast you play, craves that adventure too. They crave liberation. As the player you will too. You will want to go on a quest, but you can’t. This is not to say that the game is bad or unenjoyable, it is simply crafted for you to want something more. You will feel like the girlbeast you embody. You’ll want liberation. They may or may not attain it by the end of the game, you will need to play to find out of course, but that’s the point.

Workers everywhere crave that liberation.

In Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor, you don’t participate in what most people think of as typical wage labor. You participate in a version that depends on your merit; on how much trash you pick up. You don’t get money because you’re alive and deserve to exist and live a happy, healthy life; you receive money based off of how much trash you can pick up. Maybe in real life you receive money off of how many latte’s you can serve without getting angry at a customer telling you to smile more, or how many lines you can program, or words you can write in a single day. If those measures of merit decrease you may get a pay cut or fired entirely. Whatever you do and whatever way your boss measures your merit and why you should stay in your position it boils down to the same thing in the end.

In many workplaces you could be better at your job than everyone else there, but someone else will get a raise before you because they smile more. Maybe they lick their boss’s boots a bit more than everyone else. They become manager while you labor below them. You eventually get a raise of 15 cents because everyone gets a small raise this quarter. How you perform doesn’t matter. Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor might seem less than realistic because of that, but there are days when I seemed to get less for the trash I picked up than others. It’s difficult to tell if the kind of trash you incinerate matters, or just the amount, and what the pay scale is. It seemed to vary from day to day.

If you don’t understand the feeling of wanting liberation from labor, you’ll just need to play the game to see what it’s like.

Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is available on PC at itch.io and Steam

Originally published at http://www.coryfeineigle.com on June 22, 2020.

Tech worker and indie game developer who sometimes writes about games they enjoy. You can find them on twitter @blade_kissed.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store