12 Twelve Minutes call center phone call on hold healthcare provider Luis Antonio Annapurna Interactive

This article contains light spoilers for the early part of Twelve Minutes — and its phone call to a call center.

Ever wanted to spend a significant chunk of a game listening to hold music? Me neither, but time-looping adventure Twelve Minutes lets you get stuck in a call center queue and it’s more fun than it has any right to be. Why? Because you’re thumbing your nose at everything Twelve Minutes wants to accomplish.

Without spoiling much, Twelve Minutes provides a point in its time-looping narrative where you get a mobile phone and the number of a healthcare provider. You can then duck into a cupboard and call them up, so the other NPCs are utterly oblivious to your presence. The loop continues while you’ve got the phone glued to your ear, dimly aware of the drama unfolding outside.

It’s not that Twelve Minutes is so dire that filling your earholes with call center hold music is preferable to playing it; there’s a lot to like about it. But checking out of the story is an oddly satisfying act of defiance, particularly when Willem Dafoe’s corrupt cop has choked you to death for the fourteenth time. Sorry, Willem, you’re going to have to have it out with my wife — I’ve got “Greensleeves” or whatever this is to listen to.

12 Twelve Minutes call center phone call on hold healthcare provider Luis Antonio Annapurna Interactive

The time loop ultimately resets before you get through to anyone, so there’s no story information to glean from it. But there’s nothing to stop you from jumping back in there and repeating the whole process again. Call me a monster for leaving Daisy Ridley to the Green Goblin, but the game attempted so insistently to pull me back into its tale that I couldn’t help but push back. Every minute it asked me if I wanted to hang up or keep going; I could almost hear it pleading for me to get back to the serious business of storytelling.

Still I kept going with the phone call, not because I believed I’d get through, but because I was determined not to let Twelve Minutes win. Plus, the sensation of sidelining its story brought me joy; I may not have been breaking the game, but I was slowing it down to a crawl. Besides which, why not use an activity that, in the real world, would otherwise drive me up the wall as a diversion from the horrors outside my Cupboard of Infinite Safety™? And demonstrating that kind of patience has to be a feather in my cap, even if Twelve Minutes cruelly denied me any kind of achievement.

Don’t start grumbling at me, Twelve Minutes — you’re the one who’s given me all the time in the world, and it’s only fair that I use it as I see fit. Maybe this’ll be the loop where someone actually picks up; I’ll get round to solving that murder and giving Willem what for. Eventually. Now if only I could ask those two to keep it down. I can’t hear the muzak over all the yelling.

Chris McMullen
I'm Chris. I've returned to games writing after a couple of career changes, and I hope, through my work, to settle the karmic debt I incurred by persuading my parents to buy a Mega CD.

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