FACEMINER is a dystopian management sim where you’ll take great pleasure in harvesting mugshots for money

AI nowadays is big business and it’s pretty terrifying, honestly. FACEMINER captures both of these things well, as it sees you build a biometric data processing empire from scratch. And most scary of all, is you’ll relish upscaling your organisation as you mine mugshots. I mean, I went from, “Hmmm, this is dubious”, to a sicko excited by the fact I didn’t have to click much to harvest strangers’ portraits. Nic wrote about it a while back, but I’d like to draw attention to it again as it’s very good.

The game is set entirely in a 90s Windows-inspired interface, with all those lovely grey squares for panels and buttons that compress when you click on them. You’re an employee of a company that pays you to stare at said computer day after day and harvest people’s faces for data. As a grunt, you’ll start by buying datasets of people’s faces (the best datasets have a higher purity rating, meaning they’ve got more faces and less corrupted squares) that fit within your limited budget. Then it’s a case of manually clicking faces on grids until you’ve completed the data set and earned back a bit more money than you might’ve spent. It’s dreary work, both pinging those satisfaction receptors in your brain and making you feel a bit slimy.

Doing some facemining in FACEMINER, while listening to some MADWRECK.
The soundtrack by MADWRECK is filled with 90s-inspired tunes ranging from jungle, to ambient, to techno. Click the in-built audio player and it’ll make the clicking even… lovelier? Here’s a link to his Bandcamp.Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Wristworks Ltd

It’s absorbing work, though. Your inbox rings out often with a slightly soothing, slightly unsettling robotic voice reading you new messages. Click lots of faces and you’ll move up the ranks within the company, with complimentary inbox messages telling you so. This means you’ll unlock new software and hardware and other things to make the mining process easier. A new tool that auto-clicks on faces for you. Solar panels to increase the amount of power you’re generating. Memory to compensate for the accuracy boost you’ve given your auto-clicker. All of it is easy to understand and most importantly, easy to downgrade or upgrade when you weigh up the fluctuating costs of your operation. Don’t go bankrupt, for god’s sake.

Sometimes a message in your inbox will ding you out of those operational wins. “Subject: Going insane with boredom”, it might read. “Click. click. click. No breaks, low pay, and no end in sight. I should have gone for the job at the paint factory”.

Having played the demo for a short while, I think it’s an excellent mixture of idler and management sim where your inbox is awash with corporate wins that push AI’s power, and human losses that dispel its charm.

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that the developers say the game’s featured faces have been generated by a “GAN (Generative Adversarial Network) trained on the FFHQ dataset, a research dataset released by Nvidia that is the backbone of many real-world facial recognition applications. Per Nvidia, only images under permissive licenses were collected.”

The game’s due out sometime later this year and you can find the demo over on Steam.

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