My first customer was a woo-girl who wanted to hit the club. It was already 2 a.m., but who am I to judge?
I had been in San Francisco five minutes and I was already getting barked to speed to the other end of town. I fumbled to map a route on my iPhone screen before mapping one that took us in two circles before we finally arrived. My boss ripped me a new one.
But I got the hang of things. What to tap on the screen, what the red and blue routes meant. Within minutes my one-star scarlet letter turned into a five-star trophy. I was picking up customers and dropping them off faster and furious-er than anyone in the block. My boss showered me with praise.
And then, a prompt on my screen: Would I like to sign up and become a real Uber driver? Finally, I thought. My destiny.
I had been playing UberDRIVE, a free mobile game on the Apple app store released Thursday that’s supposed to simulate being an Uber driver without the risk of getting assaulted or getting vodka-and-cran puke on the carpet. But this boring, watered-down, Offspring-free version of Crazy Taxi is, weirdly, a damn recruiting program for Uber.
A free computer game serving as a recruiting platform for a venture whose biggest risk may be a lack of background checks sounds like a Mike Judge joke. And yes, the game is terrible. Gameplay is composed of the same repetitive action performed ad nauseam. The positive reinforcement meant to ignite dopamine simply doesn’t. You plot out routes on a simplified, bird’s-eye map and are promptly forced to watch the slow-moving vehicle you’re “driving” pick up and drop off an ungrateful yuppie. Uber drivers at least get to see the city they’re in. UberDRIVE is like playing around on Google Maps. And, as of right now, you can only drive in San Francisco.
It cannot be this easy to be an Uber driver. Does having a license even matter? I play Fruit Ninja really well, maybe I’m qualified for the UFC.
Even if a single driver gets hired because of UberDRIVE, a reputable wheelman isn’t going to find Uber via this game. But that this game exists and was made with such intentions should give regular Uber customers pause. If Uber is breezily filling its ranks through a free iPhone game meant to entice prospects, how safe are we in the backseat?