I operate with the understanding that gaming is supposed to be a fun activity. It’s the kind of thing we do when it’s time to unwind, escape, or relax. Worlds of fantastical reality await players in any game of the players choosing. Except for “Gas Station Simulator.”
I won’t lie to you, reader, my competitive edge means most of my nights gaming are spent trying to squeeze another hundredth of a second per lap on “Assetto Corsa Competizione” or yelling about how bad I am at “Call of Duty,” so relaxation isn’t in the dictionary for me. What I really want from a game is a complex challenge. The brilliance and the problem with “Gas Station Simulator” is that the challenge is in simply surviving the game’
The title says it all, as the game is simply about simulating a gas station. It is in a similar vein to other random simulators like “Farming Simulator” and “Goat Simulator,” but it lands somewhere in between the two. Initially, I thought “Gas Station Simulator” was going to be an exaggerated and ridiculous quick-play game like “Surgeon Simulator” for maximum entertainment value and minimal time commitment.
I was wrong. It is the closest approximation I have found of a crushing minimum wage future simulation. The first 30 minutes of the game, nay, the first hours are spent literally picking trash up around a dilapidated old gas station that was spontaneously purchased by the player character. In the game the player saw this gas station that had been closed for some time on a fictional version of Route 66. The old muscle car that the playable character was driving in the intro scene is later explained to be sold as seed money to buy the station.
So, I am already straddled with the dumb decisions of the dude I am playing as because who the hell stops to buy an entire gas station? After wasting some time literally picking trash up, turning it into several actual bags of trash that I needed to then manually pick up and throw in various dumpsters around the gas station, the character is then tasked with sweeping.
Yes, sweeping. What the hell am I doing playing this?
After sweeping up some dusty footprints, I then had to pick up the larger debris around the property, manually, and throw it in dumpsters. After that, I get into a skid steer that is inexplicably named Rudy and start digging up piles of sand that remind me how bad of a decision it was to buy a desert gas station. But wait, there’s no gas in it. So I then get a jerry can, fill it at the pump, and fill the skid steer.
Having just dumped piles of virtual sand into a virtual pit for the facade of entertainment, I was now then tasked with repainting the gas station because of a periodic in-game mechanic that has a literal vandal come to the store and graffiti actual male genitalia on the walls. The little shit looked like a country boy with denim overalls and a striped shirt. The only way to get rid of him was to literally throw random things like bricks at him.
I took my frustration with this game out on that turd with pleasure.
After wasting approximately two hours of my life, I could finally open my gas station. That’s when the first call from the playable character’s in-game uncle appears. His mysterious avatar is a strong clue to the bullshittery players are about to experience. He looks like the caricature of a mobster, and he offers to cover startup costs for the business and sends a shipment of product my way.
Four hours in, I was finally ready to open for business. I had stocked my shelves and cleaned my store thanks to the mobster uncle sending $5,000 worth of product. I was thrilled to finally experience this game and its core mechanics when a little countdown timer appeared at the top left of my screen. It said I owed the $5,000 to the mob uncle within five minutes.
I had hope that I could make it until I realized that this game is also incredibly realistic with its pricing. The first gas customer I got netted $20 for about five gallons of gas. The first convenience store transaction? $3.54 for a purple drink. I was boned.
Approximately $87 and four minutes later, an ominous alert appeared on my screen. It said something like, “It’s time to answer the phone.” So I walked over to answer it and I was suddenly getting the shit kicked out of me by a biker gang sent by my mobster uncle.
Waking up the next day, presumably battered and bruised, heroically bleeding from the wounds incurred by my gas station ownership, I was instructed to once again answer the phone. I obliged out of fear of getting jumped by an Aryan biker gang again. At the other end of the line, the mobster uncle was apologizing profusely and called it “bad business.” I was allowed to keep the product and be free of any debts.
After wasting an additional two hours of my life with this shitty rendition of a bootleg Scorsese movie, I had set a cumulative six hours of my life alight with this game. I could now, finally, actually begin the core gameplay of the game, which included sweeping, scanning food items, and pumping gas. After some time, the game let me open a repair garage that is basically “Car Mechanic Simulator” lite.
That’s basically it. I quickly got into a vortex of scanning foodstuffs, pumpin’ gas, fixin’ cars, pickin’ up trash, and sweepin’ dusty footsteps. There are five levels to achieve for the gas station itself, and I legitimately reached the third level after another five hours of gameplay. Now I had an employee, two gas pumps, and a larger convenience store.
My life-wasting tally was up to a strong 11 hours. That’s when I had enough of being in the menial job simulator. I had done this plenty of times in real life with my previous jobs. Now, it was time to give virtual capitalism the middle finger, so I hacked the game, just to see what the top looked like. Don’t worry, rich people in real life do this too.
Thirty minutes of futzing with Cheat Engine, an advanced sort of game editor and hack software, and some help with Google got me all the money and experience possible. I gleefully stocked my shelves and fully upgraded everything, expecting some sort of triumph or end game. I maxed everything out at level five and found out that nothing changes. Basically, I hired three employees and let them do three of the four tasks available and I was left to my choice of task. Ten minutes of repairing cars later, I figured out that there is no winning this game. It’s a stunningly accurate representation of a dead-end job.
“Gas Station Simulator” is a game that wasted half a day of my life. It provided nearly zero entertainment value to me, except for ironic fascination and pleasure from how accurately it depicts tedium. I award this game a shock second place after “Desert Bus” in this hotly contested category of gaming. Excuse me as I use “Assetto Corsa” as a palette cleanser and enjoy my gaming life.
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