911 Operator is both informative and repetitive (Steam review)

Everyone can agree 911 operators do a great job under the circumstances. Each day people dial 911, and most of them are in dire need of help. Uninformed or otherwise rude callers who do not require emergency services call too, and the operator must decide on the urgency of each call. In 911 Operator, gamers receive a taste of the process.

A low-end Lenox Flex 3-1130 laptop was used to play this pre-release version, along with Peppermint 7 (Linux). Gamers without a Linux OS can use Windows 10 or Mac OS instead. So 911 Operator is very accessible.

The game starts off with three modes: Tutorial, Career and Free Game.

In each mode, the same gameplay is seen. Players are presented with a blue city map, and incidents can be found through notification icons on the map or on the lower-right end of the screen by clicking on “Incident.” The operator must take 911 calls as well while choosing dialogue options, and the emergency locations appear afterwards.

On the bottom-left side of the screen, the “Units” option can be chosen. Whenever someone needs help, the police, medics or firemen are available depending on the type of situation. Before the start of each session, the emergency  teams can be supplied with more staff, equipment or vehicles for an extra cost. Playing well means more money.

Try to focus on building up the police staff. Firemen and medics are needed too, but not as frequently.

Similar to real life, staff resources are limited, so the player really needs to make hard decisions on which emergencies deserve the most attention. The range of incidents is varied. At times, little kids call the operator asking for homework help or pizza, while at other times the emergency is as serious as rape or terrorism.

These calls are based on real life, so one can imagine the frustration of taking a call from someone asking how to factor in math, when terrible things are going on elsewhere in the city.

The firemen and medics tend to complete their tasks. Policemen, on the other hand, will have a bit more trouble and may not finish taking care of the emergency before the day runs out. At times, police will call for backup, and the other patrol units are busy elsewhere taking care of another incident, leaving the player in a tough position.

It is possible to become fired for a poor performance. Also, if the player gets overwhelmed, his or her reputation drops. Reputation points are the gateway to other city maps in the career mode.

To discuss the blue city maps for a while, it could have helped to show where the major highways or streets on the maps are located. Even though someone familiar with the city will recognize the layout of the streets, especially since they are based on real locations, the drab, dark blue appearance of the maps becomes boring.

At least, when an emergency occurs, real street names are used as locations. This helps to make the cities feel a little different from each other. Plus, cities can be chosen and downloaded through Free Play.

Want to download a smaller city, such as Lexington, Ky.?

This writer, who once worked in Kentucky, can confirm Lexington is available. It is fun to see an old hometown or favorite city on the download list, even if the map looks as dull and blue as before.

The 911 calls are somewhat repetitive as well, and players should expect to hear the same recycled phone calls many times. It would be nice if the calls changed up a little depending on the city.

The developers had one major goal though (it appears): to inform people about 911 calls. During loading screens, the game gives tips on what to do in emergency situations and when to call 911. The game itself gives an important lesson on how difficult decisions are made every day, and how pointless 911 calls distract from important work.

While the game can only remain interesting for so long, it is easy to see teachers or professors giving this game as a classroom activity. Playing a video game to learn a lesson is more fun than reading a website.

For other people, 911 Operator is worth it at the right price. Users in the Steam community list the price at $15.50. While Jutsu Games did a decent job with this Kickstarter project, you can wait a while until the price comes down.

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