Why you should care

Because sometimes when you’re climbing the corporate ladder, you need to throw a few trash cans around.

I leapfrog over the chair to reach my coffee. With two finger swipes I’ve downed it and then race to the next desk. My colleagues aren’t far behind, so I push trash in their way.

This is Reshuffle, a mobile game designed to simulate the hyper-competitive nature of office life. To win, players must battle faceless office workers, steal briefcases and climb the corporate ladder.

The game is a work in progress, the brainchild of five Game Design students from Norwich University of the Arts, England, created to showcase at the Dare to Be Digital 2014 indie game festival.

One thing is for sure: It’s far darker than Flappy Bird or Candy Crush Saga — popular mobile games. “On the surface, the game has a very child-friendly aesthetic; it’s brightly colored, it’s sharp,” says lead artist Lee Gregory. But like most things in life, the outside doesn’t tell the whole story. Reshuffle mimics office life to an uncanny level.

The office setting has been satirized before, notably in TV series The Office and Silicon Valley shows that both highlight the absurdity of expecting people to behave as efficiently as machines and personify the bleakness inherent in the operation of large corporations. But it’s unusual to see this in a computer game, one that threads social commentary into an action-packed story line.

Gregory’s personal interest in how politics and economics structure society is played out in this office microcosm. The enemy is the other players — the characters that can stand in your way of winning. Although you play against them, you rarely interact directly, something that uncomfortably echoes in many workplaces.

Your success is often necessarily intertwined with the demise of others.

 

He used his personal experience of office life to create a game that feels authentic; the audio features the constant whir of air conditioners (generally set to freeze in most office buildings), the repetitive ding of elevators (soooo annoying), and the constant clacking of keyboards.

Gregory’s goal was to create something multilayered, a story within a story. “We wanted to offer something that was more than merely just a game — that there should be something else for those who can perceive it,” he said.

Gaming entertainment and introspection combine as players inevitably start to examine their own motives for being part of the giant machinery that is working life today.

And it’s fun to play. There’s something very satisfying about jumping ahead of your colleagues and throwing them into walls and trash cans. Because, of course, we can’t do it in real life.

The implicit idea here is that the game allows you to take those dark impulses and run with them.

Though the game is about your personal success — something achieved by impeding your colleagues advancements — it’s necessary to involve other people: the game has no solo player option. Players connect to the host game via Bluetooth, so you’re always battling people you know, and the player who accumulates the most briefcases per time period wins the round.

“Your success is often necessarily intertwined with the demise of others,” Gregory says. Ouch.

The game isn’t ready for the public yet, but the team hopes to get funding and launch Reshuffle next year on Android and iOS. But while we can’t play the game right now, we can still pay attention to its message.

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