You're doing so well forever
One of the elements of It is as if you were doing work I’ve been thinking about lately is the question of feedback to the player on how well they’re doing. It’s gone through a few phases in conversation with thinking about what the imaginary narrative context of the game is.
Initially, the idea was very much to have a clear idea of getting things right or wrong when you play the game. So if you click the wrong button, say, a ‘bad sound’ plays, the dialog boxes shakes and closes, and you would lose some salary. If you kept getting things wrong then you’d get warnings, demotions, and would eventually be fired. Vice versa for getting things right: you get happy sounds, salary bonuses, and promotions.
However, in trying to design the interface itself and find a place to list ‘salary’ I was reminded of Jonathan pointing out that the person is literally not earning anything through this work. With that in mind it started to seem like listing an explicit ‘imaginary salary’ would be more of a distraction, so I got rid of that idea in favour of the more abstract/interpretation-friendly thing of just having your rank.
And then as I was working on the game more, I started wondering why I would have negative feedback in the first place, since it doesn’t really fit in with the empowering fantasy of being good at your job. So I moved to a model where there is a correct way to complete a dialog, but if you get it wrong, it just won’t close (and may even indicate where the problem is so you can fix it easily).
With this new model of absolutely no failure being allowed, it no longer made sense to have the idea of demotions in rank, and therefore the idea of there even being a hierarchy of rank stopped making sense. Instead, I now have a “job position superlative generator” that comes up with job titles as you get “promoted” (laterally) over and over again. “Super Dialog Processor”, “Premium Interactivity User”, “Chief Screen Expert”, etc.
All of this lends itself to an atmosphere of extreme effusiveness about your skills and success, while also signaling a kind of total stasis at the same time, which feels about right for the narrative framing. So it’s quite a journey from the very evaluative/severe version to this super-positive/going-nowhere version.