Aperture Desk Job (2022)

Desk Job, the newest “game” developed by Valve, is more of an interactive promotional experience than a real game. Taking place in Valve’s Half-Life universe, and the Aperture Science Labs, it continues the ever evolving slow spanning story of Cave Johnson. Which is surprising that one of their biggest characters gets continually relegated to a handful of smaller experiences than a full real game.

Valve’s newest piece of hardware, the Steam Deck launched, and with that new hardware came a new free “game” called Desk Job. You play as a voiceless bodiless character who is a factory Quality Assurance tester of toilets for Aperture Science Labs, and are assigned a Supervisor in the form of a bot named Gordy. Gordy is written in that very Valve stylized bumbling stumbling AI that is a bit rouge and doesn’t have all the screws tightened. He proceeds to walk you through a quick tutorial of your workstation, which is a desk, and it shows off the features of the Steam Deck, like the gyroscopic aiming.

Gordy lets you test out a few toilets, but quickly as time passes, he wants to show you a new invention, a toilet that also becomes a turret. While you end up destroying the warehouse with a modified suped up version of the toilet turret, you become the patsy and land yourself in jail for eighteen months. During that time, you apparently get a sweet tattoo.

Gordy again convinces you that the newest version of the toilet turret is much more refined and you have a meeting with the big boss Cave Johnson to show it off and get rich. After a bit of actual gameplay of shooting the turret at a few machines, you arrive at Cave Johnson’s office. Gordy confesses he didn’t actually book an appointment as no one has actually seen Cave Johnson in years, but you’re gonna try anyway.

This is where the real story of the game is, and again, it’s pretty much entirely out of your control. The only thing you have control over is the few moments where you fire the toilet turret, and it’s very limited. I won’t spoil the ending as it’s so short and interesting, it’s better left to be seen on your own, but again, it’s so odd to me that Valve refuses to make more games, and instead continues to dip into their Half-Life extended universe and pull out these beloved characters. Using them in such small portions or ways over the course of a decade, only when new real world hardware is coming out. These feel much more like promotional material than a real game.
Desk Job highlights both the great job Valve can do when they put something out, a game that looks really good, has great writing and understands why games are fun and creepy and interesting. But it also does an amazing job at showing how absurd and stubborn Valve can be when they continually tease fans with a “game” that utilizes the Half-Life brand yet delivers a extremely small experience as opposed to a full game.

Desk Job is free on Steam, and while it’s a promo for the Steam Deck, you don’t have to own one to play it. As long as you got a PC, you can play this game, and still enjoy the small story that serves as an Epilogue to the Cave Johnson storyline in Portal 2. Plus, it’s only thirty minutes long, so it’s absolutely worth experiencing.