WTF: Work Time Fun

released on Nov 17, 2006

Created specifically for the PSP system, WTF is a crazy collection of fun and addictive mini-games that drive the player to perform sometimes trivial, sometimes mind-bending, but always fun jobs in pursuit of the almighty dollar. The latest in a long line of unique Japanese games that have gained popularity in the United States, WTF delivers gamers compelling, bite-sized morsels of frenzied arcade-style action unlike anything ever seen on the PSP system.

Reviews View More

comedy at the player's expense. it is funny though.
John otto ... Take em to the matthews bridge

A near-perfect WarioWare-inspired minigame collection that blends maturity, silliness, the addiction of repetition and capsule machines... plus more very weird stuff! It's an odd commentary on menial labour and meager rewards, technically speaking it's incredibly tedious to actually unlock everything. But I don't care. It's fun and silly and taunting, everyone will have their favourite games, and ultimately you just have to shut up and get back to work.
I still wish there was more games though...! :3

Mi ha ricordato kuukiyomi con la differenza che i mingiochi sono effettivamente godibili e divertenti

okay i think ive unlocked like 3/4ths of the minigames now Im calling it in for now
i think i Get It now..
these minigames are not meant to wow me and have the money fly in but instead the one that stood out the most to me is the pen capping one where youre in an assembling factory shop with your other coworkers endlessly capping pens
Some of these games you dont even get paid for if you fuck up a single round and the pay youre given isnt even that much and all you can do with your pay is maybe getting a small thing you can enjoy for yourself or using it to help you pursue a different career
It's actually way more fascinating to me how it evokes depression and frustration from me but in a weirdly intriguing and positive way, the emails from coworkers you dont even wanna talk to
the bullshit of it all
and even the game opening up with a car filled with garbage feels almost poetic in a way
of course i cant really rate this higher than a 4 because i dont really think i had "fun" but... i do think I get it, and im moved

When you first open Work Time Fun you're greeted by a screaming cat, then a screaming man, then a car filled to the brim with garbage photographed with harsh flash at the dead of night. Is this last image a sign of a hoarder mentality, a messy person, or a houseless individual? It's impossible to say, but Work Time Fun's design leads me to believe it is either the first or last of these possibilities. You fill out a short profile with your name, sex, blood type, DoB, address, and message. The urine coloured dithered background image of someone near a standpipe gives way to a blood tinted photo of another person near a window box of flowers. A woman and face-painted figure awash in blue while inputting your message for multiplayer offer a sort of levity, perhaps, but this triptych is nonetheless impersonal, the gaze always directed away from the player. All the while, the echo of dripping liquid persists like torture ordained by Hippolytus de Marsiliis.
Clock into work. Check your email. One message to welcome you to the WTF Network. Go to job placement. Be greeted by the job demon?
Unbeknownst to the player, and as I will touch on later, the WTF Network and all its job offerings are in Hell.
You're offered four jobs to start.
Baseball Superstar
Baseball has been a staple of video games since the days of early mainframe gaming. Those early iterations, be they on the DECsystem-10, the RCA Studio II, the Famicom, or the Epoch Cassette Vision all follow the same primitive approach to the sport. You swing and hit the ball. Rarely, if ever, do you catch. The aforementioned DECsystem-10 interpretation is an exception, but even there fielding consists purely of boolean choices. If I had to posit a guess, this omission would be because the act of catching is simply less engaging and fun than taking a crack at bat, particularly with no conveyance of height or distance. Missing a ball is a quick process when swinging, retrieval of the ball is a labour. Baseball Superstar makes this painfully clear. The angled perspective of those ancient versions is on display, the field not a verdant blanket of manicured grass, but a piercing monotone orange, as if the mounds have subsumed the totality of the space. Here one does not even get to pitch, the batter automatically lobs his own ball for you to catch. Your movement is semi-slippery and arduous. Despite your size, the tiny ball slips by without perfect placement. Diving or jumping for the ball is a commitment that rarely pays off. Throwing the ball to your first baseman takes a while as it arcs through the air. However, if you throw the ball 'perfectly' it zips straight to them and you get a gravelly 'OK!' The counter at the bottom ticks up by one, expecting a similar performance for the next 999 hits, with only two failures permitted. The hits become harder to predict, and that goal must be an impossibility. From the outset, Work Time Fun is setting the player up for a one-two punch of overpromise and underdelivery. When your defeat comes and your player smashes their glove into the ground, you're presented your first paycheque. With how hard the work was, surely the pay will be great to compensate for the difficulty, right?
You get around $0.02 per ball.
Far and away my favourite job offered in Work Time Fun. The description puts it perfectly: 'Put the caps on the pens.' Start the job and you see a horribly dithered and artifacted image of factory line workers, facing away from you and stretching into the distance. The fluorescent lights flicker incessantly. The only modicum of colour in this space is the rust-red script hanging from the ceiling, presumably stating not to speak to your fellow employees. Atop this all sits a polygonal ballpoint pen with a rotating cap floating overhead. Press X to cap the pen. Press up or down to invert the pen. Press X to uncap the pen. Press O to proceed to the next pen.
The bottom of the screen displays a counter, sitting then at 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,001.
The counter goes up to just shy of one undecillion. That number is literally impossible to reach, even if you capped one pen every millionth of a nanosecond for the entire age of the universe. There's no conceivable end goal here, the player has no choice but to stop when they feel it appropriate.
As you cap the pens, you hear the inhuman whirring of machinery and the faint mutterings of your co-workers. "I guess I'll wait till payday." "I love celebrities." "I wanna go home." "Have you ever thought about divorce?" "How are the stocks today?" "They should change the design of these things." "My hands are so dry." "I'm hungry." There's a hollowness to it all, and you quickly become numb to this prattle as the pens move along. The volume of the pens and their conveyor belt is vastly higher than the background noises anyways.
You can only ever see three pens at once: the one you are capping, the one you just capped, the one you will cap. This prevents any sort of planning for the upcoming series of pens, preempting your movements for maximum efficiency. This also means that your mistake becomes apparent only for the length of time it takes for you to cap one more pen. As Pendemonium offers a substantial bonus for perfect capping, missing that chunk of change because of a mistake, particularly one you missed even making, becomes a horrifying proposition. One has to wonder when they went wrong, one starts to second-guess themselves, questioning if they should clock out when those doubts manifest to minimise the damages incurred by a potential mistake, or continue apace and hope for the best. You enter an intense rhythm in due time, cursing those streaks of upside-down pens, and feeling enthusiasm for streaks of correctly oriented pens. I've given myself literal blisters on my thumb from this job. I adore it, despite it being so soul-crushing. It is a perfect skinner box stripped of its pomp and circumstance. The only endorphins released by my brain come from that number going higher, not from any flash or cheer.
On numerous occasions I have recorded myself capping pens into the thousands. I have also watched myself capping those pens. It is an ultimate catharsis.
Mushroom Xing
You guide blocky, Minecraftian pedestrians to the other side of the road while avoiding cars. You can get mushrooms for extra points. That's kind of it, a resurrection of David Crane's Freeway on Atari 2600. I personally find this to be one of the worst jobs available for its slow pace and poor theming. Besides the mushrooms in the road, you get a little image of mushrooms on the side of the screen. This, as it turns out, is because this and the other jobs thus far are actually sequels to jobs found in Groove Jigoku V: Sweepstation Version. The Japanese release of Work Time Fun (there titled Baito Hell 2000) labels these returning jobs with a 2 in their title screens, but as this is the first in the duology released in the West, no such numeral appears here. Mushroom Xing in Groove Jigoku V lacked the decorative mushrooms because of its aspect ratio, but the widescreen of the PSP compensates for this change with the mushrooms. Mushroom Xing is the feeling of waiting for an old person to cross the street so you can make a left-hand turn with a line of cars behind you turned into a game.
Traffic Counter
As the title suggests, this job involved counting foot traffic in an area. It's a primitive form of more nuanced means of people counting in the modern day. Electronic people counters allegedly existed as early as the 1980s, but it is nonetheless a job prone to error, making its human operated form a perfect inclusion. As your definitely-not-DOOM-guy (given glasses in the West to avoid legal complications) gazes upon the street, you are instructed to count passersby who qualify as people, ignoring everyone else. Your counter occupies the bottom-centre like a super shotgun. The difficulty comes from the overlapping and speed of sprites, as well as the fact your counter only goes up. If you overcount by accident, you're hosed.
On completing a day, another crimson or blue dithered image appears, blurring the bodies on display so as to be largely dehumanised. Those deformities that were being counted a moment ago become normal by comparison.
The backgrounds are largely monochromatic pixel streets punctuated by rust or blood or water. By round 5, however, a photographic landscape becomes your playspace, littered by physically impossible skyscrapers and boundless concrete cubes. The next round is amidst the flames of hell. The last, an inky void. Your final reward is the image from earlier back in saffron tones. Failing a single round nets you an empty cheque. Perfect play pays $32.00.
As mentioned above, Work Time Fun is a sequel to the Japan-only Groove Jigoku V: SweepStation Version. This prequel is erroneously titled Denki Groove Jigoku V: SweepStation Version across much of the English-speaking internet despite 'Denki' not appearing in the title at all. This confusion seems to be caused by the game Groove Jigoku being produced by the musical duo 'Denki Groove,' a fact which appears only in the intro cinematic for Groove Jigoku and has no English sources. The Japanese Wikipedia article for 'Denki Groove' does list the group's involvement in Groove Jigoku as producers, as well as front man Pierre Taki's producer role for Baito Hell 2000. Jigoku itself means Hell! Is this hell real or imagined? In Groove Jigoku V it is clearly literal as the player character dies at the beginning. In Baito Hell 2000 who is to say for certain. Apparently 'Denki Groove' considered their game to be deliberate kusoge, which Famitsu seems to, in part, agree with, stating something along the lines of 'the happiest time is while reading the game explanation in the instruction manual before playing the game' (very roughly translated). Also, the original Groove Jigoku site is archived for your perusal here.
What these four jobs illustrate with crystal clarity is the dehumanisation of work, central to Work Time Fun and antithetical to its title. It is not only that the work is itself degrading in its evaluation of the player as a producer of labour rather than as a player of a game, but also that the Other is rendered as less than human. Those photos from the information input screen at the start of Work Time Fun refused the player a gaze to render them visible, to acknowledge them as participants, as people. The first contact made to you by your temp agency is a generic introduction from the corporation itself. The job demon is themself non-human, and their recognition of the player amounts to little more than a sounding board for their own problems, with the worker/player's name never coming into the fray. Your name is an unchanging statistic next to your funds at the bottom of the screen. Your name is nothing more than a destination for those miniscule cheques written and signed by machine which would quickly deny you the satisfaction of an earned wage if it could get away with it. All representations of people in those four jobs are wet with Otherness in turn. Baseball Superstar has only the player and demons. Pendemonium has your co-workers malformed into blobs that camouflage with the concrete and rust, their voices a distant echo. Mushroom Xing's pedestrians lock their gaze upon the player avatar, but not the human player themself until the crossing is completed. Even then, their acknowledgement is terse yet passive. Traffic Counter has no 'ordinary' humans to identify with apart from our not-DOOM-guy.
Returning to the Inbox that was so impersonal at the start, the player by now has received a few messages. One comes from WTF Net again, a congratulatory gift of $5.00 for completing your first job. One comes from Hariyama-Mart to inform you of a 'Popular Comic Book Box Set' available for purchase. Depending on performance, some additional messages from WTF Net might arrive to congratulate you on 'Your Great Achievement' and bestow you a title in the vein of 'Ballpoint Pen-Robot'. Again, your value as an individual here is that of your production. Shattering this facelessness is one message from a 'Ken' with the subject 'Yo!'.
Ken's email suggests some degree of familiarity with the player and implores for any questions to be brought to him (though this is an impossibility with Work Time Fun's one-way email). His face, contorted between a smile and a cough, cements him as of 'personhood.'
With some funds, the player will no doubt be intrigued by the next menu option 'Vending Machine.' Another demon greets us with a little more charm, and we are presented with three identical 'Bronze' gashapon machines. Plop in a dollar, open the capsule, and more often than not you'll receive a little trinket and a cheery jingle! Receive a duplicate and the chime becomes disappointed. With luck, you will instead receive a new job, or a tool. Besides these three machines are the $5 Silver, $10 Gold, and $50 Celeb tiers with potential rewards differing with each tier.
The tools are a new addition seemingly to take some advantage of the PSP's portability. They function largely as ur-apps from the near-launch of the iPhone App Store, those halcyon days of iBeer, Sonic Lighter, and PhoneSaber. These are admittedly more utilitarian, but they nonetheless fit specific niches that are largely ignored by the App Stores of 2022. In keeping with that kusoge intent, those niches are, lets say, not champing at the bit for a tool in a 2005 PSP game to meet specific needs.
The only ostensibly useless tool is Eye Spy, a swappable set of eyes intended to be held in front of your face like goggles. You manipulate the eyes with the analogue nub, blink the eyes independently with the shoulder buttons, and can toggle a censorship bar at will with X. We could consider these eyes to be an instance of the game's acknowledgement of the player, but as this artificial gaze is subject to our own control, is it really anything but us looking at ourselves? Perhaps in using them as intended for the amusement of an other we approach the possibility of being perceived by said other, but as they obscure our own real vision we become prisoners in a panopticon that is itself in the dark; the panopticon itself and its observational guard might not even exist in that moment. Unrelatedly, the only walkthrough on GameFAQs has the authour mention he used this tool to make fun of a Vietnamese guy in his class.
Ramen Timer is, as the name suggests, a ramen timer with options for 3, 4, or 5 minutes, as well as a Male or Female version. When the timer starts we're greeted by a bikini-clad gravure idol or speedo-wearing oiled up muscle man on a fake Hawaiian beach making small talk about ramen for the duration while posing. The portrait layout of the FMV makes Work Time Fun seem all the more prescient. The tool is twofold here in the functionality of the timer, and the placement of the chosen figure as objet petit a. Our desire perhaps is not only some gratification through or with this virtualised other, but a longing to be seen as we-- Oh! Timer's up, your noodles are ready! Goody goody!
Handy Light is a light, filling the screen with a single hue like Uber's Spot feature (I have no idea if that is still a thing). We are told explicitly not to shine it in other people's eyes. Restaurant Bill Splitter is also self-explanatory, though it curiously includes a 'Gentleman Mode' to, unknowingly, exacerbate the gender dichotomy and in turn create a greater distance between the self and the other within a gendered binary. The suggested split when using 'Gentleman Mode' is around 80/20, turning the feminine contribution into a pittance. Counter is fascinating in that it provides two counters with the option to set 'units' which are effectively bases. One option for the noise that plays when another unit rolls over is 'Sexy' which is predictably a woman moaning. Chinese Astrologer helpfully informs us we do not need to be Chinese to use it. The results are gendered and obtuse with the vague nothings of any horoscope.
King of the Castle Tool is the oddest in the collection, being a tool for the playing of a Japanese parlour game called "Ōsama Gēmu" or "King's Game." It is in effect a game of Truth or Dare without knowing the specific identities of the participants, all involved being reduced for a moment to numbers. The tasks that can be chosen randomly vary from the simple 'sip your drink' to the gnarly 'gargle your drink and have X' drink it to the profane 'X, describe your sexiest body part. Y, take a picture of it.' The idea of passing around a PSP with a copy of Work Time Fun in it in the West to play a Japanese parlour game is endlessly confusing and amusing, but its anonymising of the tasks to be performed could theoretically make this a great means of playing said game.
Matchmaker has you inputting the names of up to five men and five women to determine romantic compatibility. However, the name input field allows only three characters, an obvious holdover from the Japanese release which forces participants to identify their Snoo-ish putti by their initials, not that it ultimately matters. Unlike the love testers that we might consider this to be an analogue of, Matchmaker does away with these pretenses of warmth equating to interest. Each participant simply chooses one other, opposite-gendered participant and selects their level of interest. What's strange is that despite being able to choose different levels of romantic desire, you can only pick one person. This means if the person you choose doesn't choose you as their sole suitor, this is read as a rejection. When the confessions are revealed, the male putti walk with a rose to their chosen sweethearts, with other suitors for the same partner professing their love in turn. Whoever that potential partner chose is the one that gets the match. Where the levels of affection do come into play is in the 'Feeling Index' shown for the 'winning' couple, erring closer to the vague gauge readings of those electromechanical love testers.
Bingo is bingo. It chooses bingo numbers. It doesn't include the letters appended to each number but I suppose that isn't necessary. There is a small mustachioed, cowboy-hat wearing, maraca shaking man in the corner. He is named Mr. Bingo. If anyone has ever used this for bingo night as an old folks home, I would love to know about it.
The last tool is potentially the most useful. World Clock is what one would expect, letting you see the time in 73 cities across the world, and bearing an alarm function. It doesn't display every possible timezone, however, so even this purely functional tool refuses to wholly fulfil its duty.
After using each tool or playing each job for the first time, you'll invariably receive another email from Ken. In series these read as a mini-memoir of a man who has time for infinite play and infinite work, of a man who engages in countless social activities that the player can never join in on.
Other allegedly familiar faces rear their head too in time. Lai, whose photo is of a small boy shoving mandarins in his mouth, is generally braggadocios about his performance. Mr. College stares at us, cigarette in hand, red eyes thoroughly not reduced and offers small nuggets of encouragement. Vernon's femininity is disquieting abutted against anecdotes of abuse and harassment. Before long our inbox is as crowded with emails from co-workers as it is from the company and junk mail.
This re-humanising transpires in the jobs themselves. Lumberjack shows the player as well as an elderly sage. Three Count is resplendent with actual humans in its parody of Fire Pro Wrestling. Private Number involves direct engagement with a specific individual as we try to guess their phone number in a clone of Mastermind. Ready to Order involves painstakingly copying down the food orders of an indecisive group. We even receive an oppai-filled rhythm job in Hand Bell Delight where the girls get visibly annoyed with you, letting you consume them with a (in 2005) presumably male gaze which they transform into disdain. It is not only the human element that returns to us, but the notion of fun as well.
The jobs which are unlocked begin to more closely resemble actual games rather than work. While they would still remain out of place in a minigame collection like Wario Ware or Mario Party they nonetheless capitalise on the absurdity of turning work into games and games into work. Some jobs are obscenely short, taking mere seconds to get your cheque. Some are obscenely long, like Chick Sorting, an exactly 10 minute long job of separating chicks based on their sex (Fun fact: Chicken sexing via venting (opening the chick's cloaca) was first discovered in Japan in 1933!) (Not fun fact: Male chicks are considered useless and are culled almost immediately, and overcrowding in hatcheries leads to further deaths, probably explaining why there are so many dead chicks to be sorted.) Some are infinite like Pendemonium or 4 Fingers wherein you play the knife game with an awl. Some remain hopelessly tedious like Caddy Quest, a Brendan Keogh's Putting Challenge-esque collectathon. Some are just retools of other games, like Copycat, a spittle-infused Simon clone, or Pollinator, a Lunar Lander-like Some are cruel jokes, like Space Blaster, a shmup with a massive hitbox and hyperfast lasers that cut off your profits around $0.16.
In reviews and contemporary coverage of Work Time Fun, a word that always rears its head is 'Japanese-ness'. Like the 'Japonisme' of early modern France, there's an obsession among gamers and the gaming press with 'Orientalism' in the interactive arts. Jeff Gerstmann noted the 'Japanese eccentricity' in his review for Gamespot. Angelina Sandoval said Japanese games like Me & My Katamari or Work Time Fun might seem bizarre in her review for GameZone. Steve Tilley said for GamesRadar+ that unlike frozen Kirin or hentai, Work Time Fun is a Japanese concept we aren't missing in the West. Karen Chu of said Japan must be bizarre and into metaphysics. Perhaps what is so fascinating about Work Time Fun is that it doesn't compromise its vision for a Western release. Hell, I'm surprised it even got one. The idea of a sequel to a piece of kusoge by a Japanese music duo that only released in Japan getting a release stateside is absurd. And while temporary work is degrading in the West, anecdotes of arubaito paint an even more grim portrait. These reviewers might all say that the Japanese-ness of Work Time Fun is seen in its jobs, but I see it most potently in the trinkets.
One of the first trinkets I got from a vending machine in Work Time Fun many moons ago was a menko card. I still don't really know what menko is! There's the whole gamut of shogi tiles, finger puppets for careers that patently don't exist in the West like ama and shimei. Certainly the majority of the available trinkets are not exclusively Japanese in origin, but the sheer novelty of these items is reminiscent of buying Japanese snacks at an import grocery store. Yes many of these objects are functionally identical to ones seen or originating in the West, but their placement as something foreign makes them worthy of attention. These objects are othered because we have heard them to be an other. If Work Time Fun were not sold to the West by the gaming press as a Japanese title exuding Japanese-ness, would we even notice? Would we even care about its origin? Would the game itself be of any merit? Does it matter if we're really in Hell or not? Isn't life itself a Hell?
What every reviewer, every fan, every off-hand mention of Work Time Fun seems to stress is that the game is not fun on purpose. I don't know that I can fully agree with that, or rather, I think the idea of intrinsic fun is counter-intuitive to understanding Work Time Fun. Obviously as deliberate kusoge the intent was never to make an objectively 'good' product. Taken at a surface level, the jobs almost universally suck to play. The rewards are so meagre as to be insulting. Leaving the opportunity to get new, more fun work up to utter chance and running the risk of getting another Muscleman eraser is potentially infuriating. Being granted a title that only identifies you as a bozo that wastes their time when you do well in a job is cruel. But at the same time, it's all hilarious. Work Time Fun is a hysterical work. And yet I don't laugh at it, I laugh with it. Here lies a game which antagonises not only the player, but the creators, the gaming industry, and life under capitalism as a whole.
Work Time Fun has the confidence to not only ask you to put caps on pens in perpetuity, but to laugh at you for expecting some grand recompense.
Work Time Fun doesn't hold up a mirror to society, it is society.
Work Time Fun is making the best of a shitty situation.
Work Time Fun is entertaining oneself in solitary confinement.
Work Time Fun is whistling while you work.
Work Time Fun is the realisation that hell is other people.
Work Time Fun is the car full of garbage, a horror from the outside, someone's reality on the inside.