Retro Review: 911 Operator


  • Would I recommend this game? - Yes
  • Value For Money - About £0.25/hr
  • Simulator game that gives a good impression of what it might be like to be a emergency call operator. Has educational flourishes and some mild humour. UX/UI is not perfect. Slightly repetetive in later play, but what how else do you force a message home?


    Something I treasure in games is the ability to get you to learn something, or to think somewhat differently about our reality. As a software engineer I also value software that does one thing well. As such, I thoroughly approve of 911 Operator, a game which puts you in the chair of at 911 Operator to answer emergency calls and direct emergency service vehicles to where they are needed.

    The graphics are desireably simple, and the UI is mostly clear. One grumble I have with the UI is that it is not simple to identify emergency vehicles with specific pieces of additional equipment. I think the idea is to force you to standardise the equipment given to different kinds of vehicle; but nowhere is this stated - something I'll return to later.

    The gameplay loop is tight, and really well refined. There could have been greater variety in terms of the calls that can be recieved and interacted with by the player, but equally mastery by repetition is a good piece of game design so it feels very over-opinionated to criticise this aspect of the game.

    The one slight wobble on the gameplay loop is the (in my opinion) slightly strange decision to include an aspect of the game which was hiring staff, and selecting vehicles and equipment. This, to my knowledge, is a different job, feels a bit out of place, adding a ‘tycoon’ element to a public services game. Though it occurs to me that this might be a European/American cultural disconnect. Regardless, it breaks the immersion for me, and felt a bit like scope creep.

    Moreover, it seems to be impossible to actually get enough money together over a single-city run to purchase the helicopter vehicles without reducing the number of other service vehicles in play. Without hitting spoilers - at that point in gameplay, number of units seems to count for a lot more than type. I’m not sure if the developers were making some kind of point with this or not, and if they were, I’m afraid it was lost on me

    There are a couple of truly superb flourishes which make this game truly excellent; one of which is the darkly humourous reference to the fact that some emergency calls recieved are just daft. The other is the well illustrated and all-too important lesson about the dangers of false and mistaken emergency calls to emergency numbers. The visceral frustration at having to deal with a bunch of riotous football fans or a noisy party while you are trying to manage a drugs raid is something that a player can take with them into the world.

    There is one bug which crops up from time to time where the interactive calls would hang and stop progressing, and this never seems to have been fixed.

    All in all, a great little game at a decent price, and something I‘ll probably continue to pick up from time to time in the future.