Right from the start, Betrayal at Club Low wants me to know things won’t go my way, thanks to a spontaneous burst of sewer steam soaking me in hot, rancid dirt. It’s this unhappy surrender to chaos that keeps me going – I probably smell and look like shit, but the show has to go on. The show, in this case, is me showing up at my job as a pizza chef/secret agent, handing out pies at Club Low while trying to help a fellow agent trapped inside. It’s not just a game about work, but a game about the unbeatable universal high of get away with shit while working.
The act of performing work – busy work, paid work, side quests to gain money or experience – is a core part of many games, and more and more we see artists and developers using their labor to mutilate the rigid seams of capitalism (one game I’m particularly excited about is Joel Jordan’s subversive work/life simulation, Time Bandit). Betrayal at Club Low takes a basic gig work premise and elevates it to a higher state of consciousness – this dice-rolling adventure is an exercise in surreal survivalism, using the familiar trappings of a popular nightclub. It’s a solo ride that crystallizes the essence of what I described as a “lazy” mentality in my September review; since then, I haven’t stopped thinking about how his amazing moment-to-moment writing exemplifies the best and worst of work.
In Club Low, the world is my oyster. It’s a microcosm of human behavior at work, peeling back the layers on how people make extra money when no one is looking, or how they think about their bosses and employees. My role is quite simple – I tip in-game by handing out pizzas and I use different toppings to maximize my income. But watching others work is far more interesting, and like Cosmo D’s other games, there’s a lot to be said for performance and perception, especially in a setting tied to club-kid tribalism, hipster capital, impenetrable hierarchy of popularity, and of course, earning money. The game’s physical and musical checks, dance floor scenarios, and visceral interactions with laser gates are constant reminders of my body – a vehicle for pizza, sure, but also a surprisingly resilient agent of change and revolution. . I suffer from episodes of embarrassment, embarrassment and awkwardness. I’m an inscrutable pizza shepherd chained to chance, unsure of the exact end of the night, but confident that no matter what, I’ll be okay.
The betrayal shines brightest when I feel caught between making a sane rational choice and a delightful sense of recklessness. What if I lie and claim the locker room girl’s gem-encrusted coat because it would make me feel good? What if I was such a bad dancer that I could physically disturb people? What if I never had to think beyond the next thirty seconds? It’s a luxurious escape from a reality defined by economic speculation and prediction. Like many of us, my whole existence currently revolves around work and worrying about the future. But at Club Low, there’s only the present, and it’s a gift.