Escalating Office-isms

Here’s a game I came up with last night (with the help of my lovely wife) for subverting the office water cooler into something more interesting.

Escalating Office-isms: A game for the modern office environment.

Two or more people are required to play Escalating Office-isms. Players should be loitering by a water cooler, next to the copier, or some other suitable location for office small-talk. Waiting in an elevator has the added bonus of giving you a captive audience for your game performance, but the drawback of an artificial time limit (although advanced players will bypass this by simply riding the elevator up and down repeatedly).

The game begins by one player making a casual statement about somebody else in the office, or a fictional character spontaneously written into your office context. The statement must contain at least one name, and at least one “office-ism”, ie. an office buzzword. Buzzword examples are listed later, but the best ones are often those which stand out from your own office experiences.

The next player must make a follow-up statement which includes at least as many office buzzwords as the previous statement played. It must also refer to someone within the office, fictional or otherwise. Fictional names are preferable as it adds a level of misdirection for anyone listening, as well as allowing for more flexibility in play.

Most importantly, the name included in the response must begin with the last letter of the name last spoken in the previous statement. A statement may mention more than one name, but the first proper name used must follow this criteria. Only first names should be used during the game to keep this rule’s difficulty reasonable. If a name has more than one viable spelling, any plausible spelling is allowed to structure the response.

The game progresses with each player in turn responding to the previous statement played as above. In the case of more than two players, players can respond in any order, or spontaneously agree on a clockwise or counterclockwise play order. Players must use non-verbal cues to come to this agreement if they do so at all; the intention being that, while all players are aware of the game’s rules, game play begins spontaneously in the correct context and without any additional clues to others who may be nearby to alert them that a game is being played.

During game play, all players should maintain a straight-faced, casual but serious tone.

Play ends when players finally give in and go back to work (considered a loss), or when one player keeps a straight face while making a statement that causes other players to crack up laughing (considered a win). Bonus points for all involved if a random passer-by is drawn into the conversation; extra bonus points if the random passer-by is the one who cracks up laughing while all players remain straight-faced. Super intense bonus points if the random passer-by unknowingly responds with a well-formed statement.

An example of a few rounds of play, with office buzzwords in bold:

Player 1: “Were you at this morning’s meeting? I thought John’s action items were highly questionable.”

Player 2: “That is so true! I was just telling Nigel the other day that we need to stay focused on our mission statement.”

Player 1: “We could all learn from Linda’s example. Her action items are so dynamic!”

Player 2: “She needs to work together with Arthur on the project; we need to bring our resources together to maximize our synergy.”

Note that acceptable buzzwords will vary and are subjective. If a player responds in a way which implies a miscount the previous player may repeat his statement, adding emphasis on the words or phrases he considers valid. eg. “I think you misheard me – her action items are very dynamic!” If the responding player still does not seem to agree on the buzzword count, the earlier player should concede to the responding player to allow play to continue as smoothly as possible.

This was inspired by Rules of Play‘s suggested exercise of creating a Site-Specific Resistance game design. If you have fun playing Escalating Office-isms, or have any questions about the rules, I would love to hear from you!


6 thoughts on “Escalating Office-isms

  1. Would this work for non-office work environments? Or non-work environments?

    What I would like to know is how it pertains to information found in the “Rules of Play” book you reference. I mean, does it show methods of turning any situation into a game or… Just wondering the relation. I will take a peek at the book, though I would not classify myself a game designer. Although, turning any situation into play might be intriguing.

    I have a feeling that some less scrupulous people may exchange the watercooler for a beer keg, though…

  2. These particular rules were geared specifically to the office environment, but you could remix them however you want for a different situation. Heck, they could be remixed however you want even in an office situation.

    I suspect that the rule about chaining names by letter might be more work than it’s worth, and the experience might be funnier by just dropping it. The point is mostly to provide a structured outlet for making fun of overused words and office clichés. And to mess with people’s heads. =)

    Rules of Play is a book on game design principles and concepts. It’s a great textbook on the subject; a long read but easily the best place for anyone interested in game design to start. The connection to this game was just a suggested “classroom exercise” related to a later chapter, “Games as Cultural Resistance”, where the exercise was to design a game (of any kind) that would be specific to a given location.

  3. Hey, if you can find a beer keg in the office, go right ahead and play there!

  4. Sweet place of employment!

  5. Pingback: Escalating Office-isms - DeepFUN — DeepFUN

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