Few things are as tedious and boring as working in an office, a place that, in its endless attempts at peak efficiency, often revolves around statistics and numbers. In Office Management 101, this pursuit of productivity is combined with the budget balancing and strategic character maintenance of The Sims to deliver a sarcastic comment on how capitalism and tech startup culture ruthlessly exploits workers.
As the CEO of your company in Office Management 101, you recruit and manage several other office workers, all with varying roles and tasks they can be assigned to. The office manager, for example, can recruit new employees or look for contract work, while designers or testers or engineers can be assigned to the contract that best suits their skills. Completed contracts bring in money, while the budget is maintained by balancing employee salaries, maintenance costs and the price of furniture, which affects the work-related statistics of your workers, like work quality and motivation. As each character completes contract work or documentation, which earns the company experience points, they can level up for new skills or characteristics that will give a strategic edge in the office. For example, they can become a Fast Learner, giving a 20% boost to their XP, or a Perfectionist, adding to the their maximum ability to produce quality work. Adding new abilities to a character diversifies the kind of contract work they can complete.
A few things about the game, whether intentionally or not, seem to mirror actual tech culture. The workers don’t seem to have a set schedule, preferring instead to work for several straight days until they need sleep, showing up whenever they’ve had enough rest to start working again, while the CEO works for no pay and takes on several different roles, from looking for contract work to filling in as a tester, until the company gets going (though as to how accurate that particular part is…YMMV). In one truly devious gesture that reminds me of the many hours I’ve spent drowning my Sims, you can use office furniture to bar your employees in the office, so they can’t leave on the weekends. Personally, this doesn’t suit my playstyle, so I haven’t messed around with it a lot yet, but I’m curious if the game will continue to criticize capitalism. The description of the game alone—“Step over competitors, drive your staff to the limit and milk your customers for every penny in the pursuit of spiraling success!”—suggests that there’s a lot more coming, but for now, the demo is limited to a single “year” of play.
A game like this is really only as good as it systems, and so far Office Management 101 gives enough reason to keep coming back. While it’s still in the earlier stages of its development, a few glimmers of sarcasm, bordering on social commentary, really shine through, which puts a little tongue-in-cheek spin on the game’s fun premise. Go check out the demo now on Itch.io while the going’s still free of charge.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.