Subj: Sarah Wonderland
“Look what this uncouth dingbat wrote about me on The Face Book. Let’s see how she feels with a flat-line GPA! Fail her and we won’t raise your student loan interest rates…too much.”
And so begins the first level of First Person Tutor, a new online game by Big Blue Boo Labs for the seven-day FPS Game Jam.
In First Person Tutor, which you can play here, you play the role of a disheartened teaching assistant who must grade papers for the diabolical Professor Paynuss in order to pay off your $200,000 mountain of student loans. When Professor Paynuss finds less-than-flattering comments his bratty students post about him on “The Face Book” (example: “Paynuss is really the worst: I think he wore the same shirt every day this week”), he gets his revenge by forcing you, the T.A., to fail the the students or be fired.
As the T.A., the challenge is to find as many mistakes in the papers as possible in a very small amount of time. Any errors: spelling mistakes, incorrect use of a/an, its/it’s, to/too, can be clicked on to dock points. If you find enough errors to fail the student, you advance to the next level and receive a couple thousand dollars to pay off your loans. If you don’t find enough errors and the student passes, you’re fired and stuck in debt.
The game is certainly educational in that you need to be able to proofread for basic spelling and grammar mistakes to play. However, the errors are pretty easy to spot, so the challenge lies not really in finding the errors but in finding them as quickly as possible.
It’s worth it to play a few rounds just for Dr. Paynuss’s hilarious, Ignatius C. Reilly-esque insults. He refers to his students as “bungling druggies,” “cretinous communists,” “loafing chubsters,” “third-rate liberals” or “chesty dingbats.” Fail the student, and Dr. Paynuss promises that maybe “you’ll get paid this month,” “I’ll stop vetoing your dissertation presentation,” “ I’ll bump you up to minimum wage,” or “you won’t have to sleep in the park anymore.”
The lower the grade you give the student, the happier Dr. Paynuss is at the end of the level. Give the student a passing grade and he’ll be “horrified.” Give a student a D and Dr. Paynuss will be “piqued,” “indifferent,” or “irritated.” Fail a student, and Dr. Paynuss will be “delighted,” or “dancing with joy.”
Interestingly enough, no matter how many levels you advance to, your mountain of debt never disappears: players who advance to the final level of the game still remain $40-50,000 in debt.
While the errors are easy enough to spot that middle school-age and up could play, the game’s satire of university culture is really directed at a college audience. College students steeped in debt will certainly pick up on the social commentary of First Person Tutor: play level after level, grading furiously and working as efficiently as possible, only to find that you’re still thousands of dollars in debt at the end of the game…it hits unsettlingly close to home, doesn’t it?