Office Politics Explained By Video Games

by Dan Seitz

Video games are useful and flexible metaphor for the larger difficulties we face in life. Except life has a crummy control scheme, the economy is too realistic, and you don’t get any extra lives. So maybe they’re terrible. But we still haven’t found a better metaphor for office life than video games, so here’s how to navigate the dark waters of other people’s personalities.

Overall Objective

To collect a paycheck and not be fired. Players are free to stray from these conditions, as The Workplace is an open-world game, but expect the game to punish you severely for straying too far from its sometimes arbitrary sets of rules.

You meet the winning condition when you collect enough money to not have to go to the office and deal with the game’s NPCs anymore. This can depend heavily on luck (see the manual section on lotteries and the Marriage subgame).

Overall Gameplay

The Workplace is similar to text adventure games or turn-based RPGs. The player interacts with various NPCs and uses skillful navigation of dialogue trees and specific keys provided in-game to complete objectives. Most objectives have a specific time limit, and NPCs will attempt to waste your time by offering non-essential dialogue about children, houses, popular music, and so on.

Essentially, players must balance listening to non-essential dialogue with collecting actual information to complete their objective. NPCs will also have objectives that they need to complete: Facilitating completion of their objectives is generally advisable, but players can not be assured that NPCs will assist them with their corresponding objectives.

This is especially true of players hoping to land a high score off somebody cute; at best you’ll be trapped into wasting time, and at worst, you will be sent to the Sexual Harrassment Seminar minigame or handed a non-standard Game Over.


Physical combat is unlikely to occur in The Workplace. Most hostility is expressed through communication between other NPCs about how drunk you were at the Christmas party and snippy emails. Generally it’s inadvisable to engage in combat with an NPC; you never know when you’ll need them to complete key objectives.

Power Ups

Completing objectives on time tends to reward players with power-ups such as Sick Days, and Friday Beers. Unfortunately, power-ups are distributed at random and will depend heavily on the programming of your Workplace, and should not be relied on.

Boss Fights

Boss fights in The Workplace are generally based around three tactics. The first is to complete your objectives on time. With most bosses, this will be suitable. Completing objectives early is not advised: Then you will be given more objectives, with a lower time limit and more difficult dialogue trees, often with no corresponding increase in paycheck.

Other bosses will require more finesse. Many bosses play by a separate set of rules and conditions, often not discernable by the player, and often having little to do with logic. In these cases, you can either use dialogue trees to trick your boss into believing you’ve met the victory conditions, in which case, you win, or you can attempt to defeat the boss by pointing out errors in their views of the objective. The latter course is risky and not recommended.


Many versions of The Workplace feature Meetings, unskippable cutscenes that rarely offer any value, but are nonetheless important to completing objectives. It’s advised to bring something that will allow you to discreetly complete other objectives, like Solitaire, during meetings.

Unusual Victory Conditions

Most games have only one way to play and win, but The Workplace has many different objectives and many different ways to beat the game. One of the more popular is fulfilling the Work From Home victory condition, which is where you draw the exact same paycheck and do the exact same amount of work, but heavily reduce coworker interaction, Meeting cutscenes, and also avoid having to spend your paycheck on “workplace appropriate” skins.

As “coworker” AI becomes more annoying and prone to error, expect this victory condition to become more popular.

That', not subtle

That’s…er, not subtle.

Dan Seitz is the creative director at GammaSquad and the gadget guy at Guyism

Much more in demand than a Beanie Baby

Much more in demand than a Beanie Baby.

Dan previously enlivened the office with Four Subtle Ways To Mock Your Boss At Work and charted the dodgy question of Beanie Baby or Stripper?

More from Dan Seitz

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