When it comes to games for engineers, few companies do it better than Zachtronics. From Ruckingenur and its sequel to pseudo-80s programming hit TIS-100, Zachtronics' games appeal to those who like to tinker and hack - but the company's latest is something special indeed: Shenzhen I/O.
We're no strangers to the Shenzhen region of China ourselves. A technology hub, Shenzhen is a must-visit for anyone interested in electronics and technology. Where tools like Andrew 'bunnie' Huang's Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen provide a handy reference to those lucky enough to be on a trip to the region, though, Zachtronics' Shenzhen I/O provides something a little different: the chance to simulate a life there.
The game opens with the story of an engineer, fresh from university, who discovers that nothing in made outside of China in the not-so-far-off year of 2026. As a result, said engineer packs a bag and heads to Shenzhen for a job with the Shenzhen Longteng Electronics Company, and that's where you come in: throughout the game, you'll be asked to build various devices based around a simplified microcontroller family using a clever user interface.
A real highlight of the game, though, is the manual. For anyone who has genuinely worked to build a product from Chinese components, it's a cracking recreation: the various parts used in the game each have their own data sheets, some of which are more readable than others and one of which requires you to translate from the original Chinese. Interspersed among these are emails welcoming you to the company, a reference guide for the microcontroller, and even a photocopied page of a bartenders' guide should you be expected to entertain your new colleagues - and, in the game as in life, entertain you shall.
To go too deeply into the game would be to spoil the enjoyment of discovery, but it's an experience we can heartily recommend. Grab the game via Steam, print off a copy of the manual, assemble yourself an entirely convincing three-ring binder of reference material, and prepare to immerse yourself in the Shenzhen experience - albeit a gamified, simplified version.