Independent Contractor

Independent Contractor is a web-based simulation game investigating a fictional world in which drone-delivery is changing our behaviours and systems. As the UI designer, writer, and front-end developer for this project, I was in charged of creating the user interface of the game and its narratives, as well as all visual and textual components.

September 2019 - April 2020

Thesis Project at Emily Carr University

UI/UX designer, front-end developer, copywriter

June Tang & Declan Reilly-Gordon

Read detailed process documentation

It’s the year 2032 and you’re working a grueling gig-based job for a tech company...

Your task: remotely dispatch drones to deliver packages to people’s homes from your computer. As you work, ulterior motives at play deep within the company become increasingly apparent. You soon come face to face with moral dilemmas as the story unfolds, with your actions revealing an impact on the world.

Independent Contractor​ is a web-based simulation game in active development.

context

As of now, the demo of Independent Contractor spans about 10 minutes of gameplay, consisting of three days in the fictional world. The setup in Independent Contractor offers 4 applications: a generic email application, a news-aggregation site, a social media application, and a drone application owned by a major corporation on which the main character works for a living.

Through these applications, the player explores events happening within this fictional world, as well as getting to know different characters and their motives. The interface is designed for the player to interact with the narrative, eventually influencing them to make informed decisions with their drone deliveries.

A Critique on Surveillance Capitalism & Gig Economy

As new technologies bring about new ways of existing, what are our ethical and moral duties as consumers and makers? Independent Contractor strives to explore the life of a typical gig worker, highlighting social issues and problems such as cyberbullying, social isolation, tech-utopian beliefs… 

Surveillance Capitalism through Common Applications

The desktop applications serve as a foil to the player’s character, with each application revealing a different perspective on the topic as the story progresses.

Process & Insights

Front-end Design & Development

Each application is designed with a specific identity that is reflected through UI elements (colours, fonts choices, sizes…). For the Aireo Drone Dispatching and Email application, as they are both work-related apps, they have very basic user interface and use colours that signify a corporate identity (blue and grayscale tones). The social application has a more playful interface, with colours and inspired by Michael DeForge’s works.

Puzzle Design

With this game, we started by looking at the story which would drive other design aspects. Aside from tangible design elements such as UI, the story helps us analyze a problem space and solutions that would address these issues. This story also helps us create an overall guide for the interactions within the game, and how we would develop these aspects.

By writing the same scenarios through different perspectives (first person vs third), we are able to explore the world and the characters we want to depict. After many refinements, we were able to finalize on the final story, which helped us build an overall roadmap.Based on this roadmap, we proceeded to create more detailed content, design and develop the game.

Conclusion

Working on Independent Contractor has been such a great learning experience. It taught us to be flexible and constantly search for new and effective ways to do things.

Moving forward, we would like to refine the puzzles, adding more delivery challenges and puzzles for people to play. We plan to continue developing the narrative, building a more complex world with many more events that will take place. The game also offers a space for writing and social critiques that can be further explored.

We hope to bring a new way of learning about surveillance capitalism and the gig economy that inspires hope and change in our interactions with technology. We also hope you laugh at the jokes we make inside the game. Thanks for reading!

Independent Contractor / The Show 2020 / Teaching & Learning Centre