Monday 16 June 2014

Tech Support

This is just for fun: it's a fairly silly nano-game that you can play as a group, but it works just as well as a time-filler for two players.

The premise is simple: one player takes on the role of someone employed in tech support, while everybody else takes it in turn to call them with problems. The twist is that the callers can be calling up for the support they need in doing anything and the call-taker will help them, no matter what.
This requires some principles and assumptions to be laid down before you can start playing:

  • Nothing is ever the customer's fault, even if the root cause is their own ignorance or failure: the caller should always report a specific instance of something not working the way it is expected to, not merely "It doesn't work," with no context.
  • Callers are always placing a call to whoever specifically deals with the issue they are having: they aren't just calling the emergency services or a generic helpline, it is always the corporation that sold them the product or service they are having problems with (even if no actual sale of any kind was involved - see below.)
  • The call-taker is professional, courteous and doing their best to help with a genuine problem; the caller is always anxious, polite and genuinely grateful to the call-taker for their help. No ranting, raving, screaming, asking to speak to supervisors or hanging-up angrily is allowed.
In all situations, the caller explains what is happening with their product or service and the call-taker responds by seeking further explanation, offering solutions to the problem or finding some other way to help them if the problem cannot be fixed. The essence of the game is coming up with novel situations that stretch the definition of 'tech support' as far beyond the usual as possible. Here are some suggestions for the types of calls to make:

Low Tech Support
"I tried putting my shoes on this morning but they didn't fit."
"I was reading a book but two of the pages stuck together."
"I was trying to make a cup of tea but the water wouldn't boil."

High Tech Support
"My clone just tried too kill me and take over my life."
"When I go to warp speed, everything goes all blurry and shaky."
"My time machine brought me to this era but now I can't get home."

Non Tech Support
"I'm failing all my subjects at school."
"I don't think my partner loves me any more."
"I never seem to get invited to any parties."

Non Human Support
"I've been trying to fly south for the winter but I keep getting lost."
"My dominance of the pack has been challenged by an outsider."
"I've collected all this pollen but it's not making honey."

Supernatural Support
"We found a cursed book and read from it, now one of my friends is possessed by a demon."
"Nothing is appearing in my pentacle."
"I've tried stabbing, shooting and setting it on fire, but nothing I do makes this monster stay dead!"

If you're the caller, you can draw on your life experience or your knowledge of history, science, mythology and popular culture to define your problem ("I just tried teleporting but a fly got into the pod with me and our DNA got mixed up") as long as you stick to the tone of the game: communicate your problem calmly and clearly, as if it were no big deal and a perfectly acceptable problem to have. If you're the call-taker, remember your options when dealing with any issue:

  • Ask for more information ("Was this zombie moving very fast or was it quite slow?")
  • Take the the caller through some simple diagnostics ("What happens if you change your political opinions?")
  • Suggest a solution ("Try regurgitating the frog then swallowing it again.")
  • Ascribe the problem to temporary conditions ("Well, it looks like civilisation was due to collapse this morning, but society should reform some time in the next 5-10 generations.")
  • Explain that it's a feature, not a bug ("That actually sounds like empathy, not telepathy, so you can only sense their emotions, not read their thoughts.")
  • If all else fails, offer, to replace, refund or upgrade ("I'm sorry I've not been able to help you today, but I can offer you a karmic upgrade for your next incarnation upon the material plane.")
The caller can never just arbitrarily block the call-taker's contribution, they must respond to everything that is said, either positively (give the information the call-taker asks for or confirm that their suggestion has worked) or negatively (explain why they can't give the information or what other issue is preventing the solution from working.) The call ends when either the caller is happy that their issue has been resolved or the call-taker has to offer to replace, refund or upgrade.

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