5 Most Recession-Proof Industries in Video Games Universes
Video games are a powerful form of escapism because (assuming you aren't someone who studied car thievery or Contra-ing in college) the lives of the main characters are just more exciting than yours. But I think there's a whole unexplored aspect of this escapism. There are millions of people just off the edges of the screen with no student loan debt and making decent money at jobs that will never be downsized. It would be great to be Uncharted's Nathan Drake, but I'd settle for being his travel agent, because he will never stop paying her. So if you're looking for stable employment and have figured out how to fit inside your Xbox, start drafting your resume and prepare yourself for a thrilling career as a ...
Engineers already have a fairly strong position in society. A master's in civil engineering will get you solid career prospects, a decent starting salary, and a whole mess of romantic comedies written explicitly about you and your architect brethren. But really, how many bridge engineers do we need? Most of our bridges last for decades, if not centuries.
In video games, however, rarely will a bridge go a day without being bombed or lit on fire or demolished by some shroomed-up plumber chasing a princess who's clearly out of his league. Bridge collapse is a trope that shows up frequently in every type of game because it taps into our natural fear of falling from high places, or at the very least, our natural fear of careening into the side of a cliff and turning into paste (depending on the type of bridge).
Maybe next time hire some engineering students from the Mushroom Kingdom's DeVry University.
But that's also what makes being a bridge engineer such a lucrative job in games. You don't have to be particularly skilled, because you're essentially building a disposable product. No one expects them to last more than a day, so castle owners and city planners seem willing to hire any asshole to build them, and then rebuild them, and rebuild them. So why shouldn't that asshole be you?
As long as game writers are lazy enough to keep using the trope to force alternate routes in a storyline and gamers keep acting predictably, the bridge engineer's job is safe. That sound of rubble splashing into enchanted rivers and the rapidly fading screams of terror? That's the sound of job security, my friend.
In the real world, the amount of physical currency changing hands is strictly controlled. Even destroying a single bill in the U.S. can be an offense punishable with prison time because it's crucial to the well-being of the economy as a whole that the government knows exactly how much money is in circulation.
But in a video game universe, none of those boring rules apply. Money disappears in every direction all the time, and no one cares. In Zelda games, it's tucked away, presumably for eternity, in abandoned chests in the middle of forests. In platformers like Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog, the cities are littered with errant gold. Not all of it is retrievable, either; each time Sonic takes damage, he throws all his money in every direction like he's being mugged. Those rings fall onto spikes, slip off the edge of bottomless crevasses, or just gradually disappear after sitting still for long enough. To prevent the collapse of their economy, the government would need to print enough currency to keep up with the perpetually disappearing wealth, and that's where you come in.
"Take it all, just don't let me die!"
If your job is making money in these games, there's no such thing as making too much. You could even print your own fortune on the side and not have to worry about the devastating effects of inflation, because in most cases, you're not even spending it. Hell, just accruing coins and rings by the hundreds is very literally extending your life. Not only would you have a stable job, but that job would be affording you immortality.
A decidedly recession-susceptible profession, set painters are responsible for the landscape backdrops in movies and theater. It's a job that requires mastery of a wide range of painting techniques, most notably trompe l'oeil (French for "oily Trump"), the forced-perspective technique that turns a two-dimension painting into a convincing three-dimensional piece of scenery. For example, Wile E. Coyote was the master of the trompe l'oeil, achieving cliffside tunnel paintings with only one bucket of paint.
Mostly just as a hobby. It's not in his LinkedIn profile or anything.
And while the job is disappearing in the real world thanks to CGI, business is still booming in video game universes. It has to be, because each day millions of citizens run directly into the edges of their worlds, only to encounter a sudden invisible wall that no amount of jumping in place and air punches could overcome. The amount of work required to make the entire border of a town look like a continuous landscape is staggering -- and that's just one town. What about Panau in Just Cause 2, estimated at 200 square miles, approximately 10 times the size of Manhattan? Or the area of Tamriel covered in The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, estimated at 188,000 square miles, around the same size as Great Britain? A skilled set painter would be the video game universe's equivalent of a plumber -- a difficult profession, but one that's always in demand. Plus, video game plumbers get to do everything from race go-carts to prescribe medicine. So at the very least, set painters probably get a license to kill and their own zeppelin.
I suspect that these cool rock walls are just painted on.
Think about the last big house party you went to. Now think of the state of that house after the party ended. All the half-full mixed drinks and their attendant fruit fly orgies, cigarette burns on every couch, urine stains on anything below waist height, and trash cans lasagna-ed with alternating layers of beer cans and vomit. Now multiply the scale by 1,000, add in noblemen who constantly hold drunken feasts for dozens of rich asshole guests, and finally factor in the infinite other jobs needed to keep a stone fortress up and running, and you get a glimpse of how much work goes into taking care of a castle. Plus, if Game of Thrones is the historical documentary I think it is, there must have been semen just everywhere.
Redefining the white hair symbolism.
Fortunately for you (assuming you aren't afraid to get your hands dirty), just about every game set before the year 1700 is lousy with castles -- how many massive wooden doors have you entered and how many walls have you scaled in the Elder Scrolls games? Or the Assassin's Creed games? Hell, just imagine the cleaning staff required to keep Castlevania inhabitable, and the undead aren't even particularly picky. Without enough housemaids to handle the rapidly accumulating filth, a castle would fall into disrepair in a matter of days. Sure, you wouldn't have modern conveniences like vacuum cleaners or Lysol or living to see your 30th birthday, but you would get to see some real, honest-to-God knights, not just guys cosplaying at the Ren Faire on their day off from assistant night managing at Arby's.
Real badasses clean their weapons using even more blood.
In your busy modern life, you have to be selective with the information you save permanently in your head. Learning all the lyrics to "Bohemian Rhapsody" means you have to delete other piles of useless trivia to make room, like friends' birthdays, or who just got engaged to whom, or what time you were supposed to appear in court. If a piece of information doesn't directly relate to you or the people you want to have sex with, it tends to slip from your mind like so much cat urine down the arm of your grandmother's plastic-covered sofa. Grandma ... uh, well, you can't quite remember her name right now, but it will come back to you, surely. Shirley! No, that's not right.
So if a stranger approached me at the supermarket and asked what the deal was with that haunted-looking house down the street, my answers would range from shrugging noncommittally to shrugging noncommittally while furiously tweeting about the weirdo who's harassing me in the condiment aisle. And yet when we, strangers in a foreign land, approach locals in Eorzea, or Hyrule, or post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, every question we ask is met with a knowing "Well, funny you should mention that ..."
I can't help but suspect some form of Asperger's.
You'll never see an NPC staring at an iPhone and scrolling through her Facebook feed, so there's only one other way everyone in these worlds can know everyone else's business: a polygonated Page Six. The streets of every MMO and open-world game must be choked with gossip columns to reach the point where every citizen not only knows but has an opinion on which family feuds have reached a boiling point, or what might have happened to the shipment of rubies that disappeared mysteriously. In fact, the video game universe might very well be the only place where people are even more invested in public scandals, dirty laundry, and urban legends than we are in the real world, which means there would be no shortage of job openings. Even if you happen to stumble into a game that takes place before print exists, you still have hundreds of quest seekers with a high turnover rate wandering through your village and willing to shell out coins for hearsay information. Granted, you'd probably be given the same amount of respect as gossip columnists in the real world (below the fungus that causes athlete's foot, above Guy Fieri), but if you can ask the tough questions and have a knack for pun-based headlines, you'll have a job for life.
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