Wage Slavery as a Theme

That’s one of the reasons I run, the time, the free time. While the wageslaves are chained in their cubicles I’m reading classic books, I’m catching shows in theaters, and I’m going to museums. Are there lean times? Sure there are but I’d still rather have that than be stuck in some corp army or behind a desk somewhere.

-Angelone from The Wage Slave’s Guide To the Sixth World

Earlier this week, I wrote my thoughts on Wage Slavery as it relates to my current job at a Call Center. My job proved my point just today when I called in.

To keep this short from being an E/N post, in spite of my proven record of service, I was called in in spite of my record and insistence that I was going to be fairly useless on two hours of sleep and other health issues, most likely because of the fact that I am the top worker.

But how to use this phenomenon in writing/gaming?

In another Shadowrun post, Scott of Pair o’ Dice Games, wrote about how the introduction of skillsofts in the setting, that is brain chips that can give short term training in necessary job related skills, is an exaggeration of the current trend towards cheap unskilled labor being used to chain workers to jobs with the paired threats of a very low glass ceiling and very high replaceability.

It details what is implied that such a development would allow jobs to never have to train workers to do task X, because they can just slot in a chip for the day, while keeping those same workers without the option of gaining permanent skills that would make them marketable for other companies.

In a more current technological context, we can use this to detail the struggles of the top worker who, much like Atlas, holds up the whole globe on his own shoulders becoming both valued and required. In this kind of story, we can write how someone becomes a victim of their own success.

Or, to borrow from a more personal anecdote, what if you really need or want to get things done, but can’t because you are required for your job, so you’re constantly questioned and urged to stick around or come in in spite of whatever appointments, illnesses, or frustrations are weighing down upon you. In this kind of story, I can imagine the main character having to choose between their desires and their job and always failing to choose what would make them happy or feel good.

The Dream Deferred in other words.

The interesting thing to note is how raw and painful this theme can be. I remember when I wrote Outsourced, that my friend gave me a review of how, despite editing errors (never edit your own work, seriously don’t do it), the workplace scenes were extremely raw and painful due to his having experienced a similar atmosphere of paranoia.

How would you use wage slavery in your stories/games?