Can you play Rusty’s Retirement while at work and still get work done?

By admin May13,2024

I’m playing Rusty’s Retirement as I type this article. This cute farming sim runs at the bottom of your screen as you go about your working day. You can plant crops, hire watering robots, harvest blueberry bushes, raise pigs, all while validating the spreadsheets from Paula in accounts. Paula! Where are the running totals!? I can’t find the running t- oh, they’re under the turnips. Sorry, Paula. My bad.

But can you actually play “idle games” like this while getting your work day done? Aren’t they distracting and obstructive? These are important questions. I plan to find the answers by playing Rusty’s Retirement while simultaneously – and dutifully – completing days of work. Let’s go!

Wednesday


Chatting with work mates while playing farming sim Rusty's Retirement.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Mister Morris Games

Like I say, these games are often called “idlers”. The name is half accurate. They’re designed to keep you clicking but also to partially automate said clicking so your imaginary income increases even as you step away. But you will always step back. They are the dream of “passive income” made fleetingly real. The raw psychology of game design stripped of illusion and reduced, like so much balsamic, to a simple-minded accumulation of numbers. Mere trickery, beneath those of us with refined tastes.

I plant some wheat and am immediately addicted.

I sow a field while piecing together a news story about a troupe of Fallout 76 actors. I unlock cabbages between copy-pasting quotes into what seems like the right place, and buy farmer Rusty a water bot to do the hard job of sprinkling crops. He is very slow. Which makes sense, as he is retired. I am not yet retired and must work towards this goal by making sure all the hyperlinks in my article function and do not bring our readers to weird places.

I do lots more work today. I swear. I just don’t remember what it was.

Thursday


The main menu of Hades 2 is running while Rusty's Retirement lies on top of the same screen.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Mister Morris Games

I start my day by buying a bench for Rusty to sit on. But I have an important assignment in real life. I must review the early access roguelike Hades 2 in time for its planned release, sometime in the next few days. Deadlines are important in this business and the pressure is always on. However, I must also ensure Rusty is harvesting his leaks and carrots. I cannot neglect the farm.

This will be a challenge. Neuroscientific research shows that effective multitasking is basically a myth, and that the human organism can barely count to twenty while doing other tasks. I can corroborate this fact. Six paragraphs deep into my article on the god-bashing sequel and I finally notice that Rusty is sitting on his bench doing sweet nothing.

I plant many new crops: corn, onions, lettuce. I buy more plots of land to exploit. I install biofuel generators and build a stall for a mouse-like being who sells cosmetics. I purchase a sunflower in a panicked state of anxiety, knowing that I need to make the screenshots of this game look presentable.

As the work day marches on I constantly flip-flop between Rusty, a Hades 2 document, the roguelike itself, and the notes for the feature you are reading right now. I also do a news post about studios being closed down and discover you can move Rusty’s buildings around with a special tool. 20 minutes of the work day vanishes in nit-picky rearranging of robot stations. I must work! Did you know you can play Rusty’s Retirement literally on top of playing other games?


Hades 2 is running while Rusty's Retirement plays over the top on the same screen.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Mister Morris Games

My head hurts.

Friday

My top tip for progressing in Rusty’s Retirement is to turn the music off at once.

During the morning meeting, in which the RPS staff discuss daily plans while looking at one another’s real, flesh-and-blood faces, I distractedly remark on the tasks I have to do today. Planting tomatoes and investing in a fertilizing robot is not something I bring to the table, but it is on my mind. Deputy editor Alice B reminds me that I have a Final Fantasy top ten article to update, which I have entirely forgotten about amid the rows of onion and celery. I promise to get it done.


A journalist checks their article before publishing, while playing Rusty's Retirement.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Mister Morris Games

I play Rusty’s Retirement while refusing to think too deeply about Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, a game which I bought, played, and sold quicker than a wheat stalk ripens in Rusty’s Retirement. I draft a news story about Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, with one bazillion tabs open. Rusty and his helpers harvest the green peas and pinto beans I have unlocked as I struggle to write full sentences about shaders. I plant blueberry bushes and desperately flail between SEO documents and watering bots. My heart is pounding. This is hell.

After buying some breathing room by submitting the news post to our thorough editing procedure, I find I have enough money in Rusty’s to buy a house for a character called “Splunk”, who will plant crops for me. It is a revelation. I no longer need to play the game at all. Splunk will do all the work, forever managing a full third of my computer screen, until I quit the game, or I die, whichever comes first.

I continue my quest to update the top ten Final Fantasy list and thanks to Splunk I feel far less need to check the farm. But this may have more to do with finally turning off the “Always on top” option and hiding Rusty’s Retirement beneath my work. In this heightened state of consciousness, I get entire paragraphs done, entire HTML tags prepped, and I only once, twice, perhaps seven times, check in on the aubergines and pumpkins.

Verdict: can you really work while playing Rusty’s Retirement?


A screenshot of a video game news story being written while the author plays Rusty's Retirement.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Mister Morris Games

I am a video game journalist. Which means I can easily work while playing Rusty’s Retirement, because it is my job to play and write about Rusty’s Retirement. I can play Rusty’s Retirement while working on an article about whether you can work on articles while playing Rusty’s Retirement. It is that simple. Does the idle farming game (Rusty’s Retirement) cause stressful overthinking and a magpie-like habit of flopping from one task to another, never truly finishing a thought or formulating a—

One moment, just have to delete a few tabs.

—formulating a coherent working routine? I leave that question to the neuroscientists. Personally, I feel my productivity may have improved. After all, I got this piece written while simultaneously writing other (more important) pieces. It is not one of our best farming games. But it does scratch a certain itch. And I only got scolded for being late to meetings once (I’ve got a lot on, Graham) Anyway, at the end of this experiment I can draw two conclusions.

1) You can press the down arrow key to make the farm’s window thinner in Rusty’s Retirement, which leaves more room for real work while also revealing extra land to grow more crops. I discovered this on my last day of farming.

And…

2) If you want to feel truly productive about your work, get some freak called “Splunk” to do it for you.

By admin

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