Home Safety Hotline Shows the Horror of Call Center Work

Meet those accuracy quotas about boggars and bedbugs in a fascinating analog horror game

Home Safety Hotline Shows the Horror of Call Center Work
Source: Press Kit.

While I have never worked for a call center, I did interview at one. Rather, I waited for several hours in a large reception room while a bad movie played at maximum volume and, after all that waiting, my group was simply told to show up for the graveyard shift. I ran out of there, realizing it would not be fun; for me, that was a very correct decision.

In Home Safety Hotline, from Night Signal Entertainment, the player character experiences what I fortunately avoided; the horrors of customer service, in the form of a 1990s-era pest control company. If they know which packages to send to concerned callers, they can move up the company's ranks. If they mess up, the follow-up calls will let the player know. The phone keeps ringing and never stops during the call center shift; it's just a sound effect, but it bores into your soul.

Unfortunately for our player character, quitting is not an option. The best they can do is receive a promotion, but they can get a bad ending if they aren't good at answering questions for their customers. Good luck with your phone skills, and watch out for the flashbacks if you have ever answered the phone at an office job.

While horror games like this are too intense for me to play, I did enjoy watching a stream that showed the game's entire runtime of 2-3 hours. The $15.99 price could prove an intractable value problem for some, but your mileage may vary.

Source: Steam.

Supernatural pest control

It's 1996. You get a job at a call center. Much like other call center jobs, you have to take inquiries from frantic customers and follow scripts to reassure them, while making logs about the callers' problems. In this case, you receive calls, put them on hold, and look up which creatures could be infesting their house. You can take your time before answering the question because that hold is magical.

What can inquiries cover? Sometimes it's bedbugs, and there's no need to make those a magical threat; bedbugs are absolutely terrifying if they infest your house. Other times, you get a spirit that loves drinking the most expensive wine in the cellar before shattering the bottles (the monster!). You also get the occasional prankster who makes up problems.

If you're really unlucky, someone may get eaten or turned into a tree. All you can do then is offer your condolences. No pressure!

The most you can do is submit the appropriate information packets. Fortunately, you don't have to go to the houses or cellars to solve these problems. All you have to do is click, research, and click again. Never mind that network outages will happen, and you still have frantic customers on the line who need their problems solved or they will die. Better hope your power of memory or Google is good. Otherwise, you may get that bad ending when your supervisor wants to talk about your performance.

You also don't just get the ringtone and the hold music for sound effects. Some entries have eerie sounds for the players to hear, and not all of them are for cross-referencing with a complaint. You just have to push through and do your best despite the circumstances.

Source: Steam.

Real life concerns

Home Safety Hotline shows what happens when folklore and monsters go corporate; we find out that the company owners are not exactly human. Any employees that displease them may join the genius mice populations that have been popping up in the science community. It would have been cool to see an expansion on that, when you realize that there is a huge mouse problem.

The more realistic parts of the game can concern a person who has worked a call-center job. If you've been in an office with aggressive personality types, you understand the dread when that phone rings. You wonder if it's your boss ready to chew you out or praise you. The player character has that same dread, especially if you can't match the right packages to the customer's needs and start failing at your job.

Any phone call can spell disaster. The most depressing calls are when you can't do anything for the customer. They are dying, or trapped in a fate worse than death. All you can do is send the kit that will help the family mourn. Yet, quitting from burnout is not an option, nor is talking to a magical therapist.

You get the sense that this employee is being exploited and underpaid, even if you don't know their salary. Does the player character get any benefits for logging into these shifts? Any 401ks for retirement? Can they ask Carol in HR for vacation days? Will the local call center union reach out to them to make sure they have job security? And if not, while they save the customers, who is saving the player character? AskAManager would have a lot to say about these workplace conditions.

Source: Steam.

We don't get answers to any of those questions. It makes sense; the analog formatting for the game creates limitations, where we can't draft letters of complaint to HR or further ask Carol about our limitations. Still, it'd be nice to know if unionization is possible.

Overall thoughts

Home Safety Hotline was a delight to watch on stream and sparked a discussion in the chat about unions and the jobs that make phone calls terrifying. Perhaps this was what the developer was intending: to make us think about the horror in everyday mundanity and what we must do to get by. It may be scary, but at least you have customer service scripts and information packages.

It paints a picture of the past that doesn't emulate 90s-kid nostalgia, but rather, shows what '90s adults had to do while we kids played. The sense of responsibility is high, as is the need to comfort the callers. And you can do both, with the right answer.


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