Just another day
By DAVID RIDER
Bill and Franke James found inspiration for Office-Politics in scandals, ranging from that of Cinar Corp. of Montreal to the Clinton-era White House, with WorldCom Inc. and Enron exploding as the game developed. A sample screen is shown.
TORONTO - An office where workers lie, stab the boss in the back and cheat their way to the top only to be betrayed themselves?
What sounds like the latest headline-grabbing corporate imbroglio is actually the Web-based game Office-Politics. Its Toronto creators plan to bring the game's wicked social Darwinism for the water-cooler set to a cellphone, board game or television near you.
The game was launched at www.officepolitics.com in August and received its latest -- but not last -- tweak on Monday. Visitors face a daily question. Yesterday's was: "You've been slacking off ... Do you distract your computer-illiterate boss with technical bafflegab?" Then vote Yes or No and learn the poll's up-to-date results.
Registered players win points that bring status -- the leader is CEO -- and players can forge alliances openly or secretly.
In a world where U.S. President George W. Bush and other leaders are beseeching businesspeople to behave themselves, Office-Politics urges players to "kiss ass, backstab, hire and fire your way to the top."It was created by the husband-and-wife team Bill and Franke James of the James Gang, an advertising-design firm known for fun writing, strong art skills and the embrace of new technologies.
Ms. James said that after creating concepts and turning them over to companies including Sony Music, Roots and Umbra furnishings, they wanted their own baby to nurture and market using different media.
Their inspiration was scandals, ranging from that of Cinar Corp. of Montreal to the Clinton-era White House, with WorldCom Inc. and Enron exploding as the game developed.
The Web site has almost 1,800 registered players. Plans are apace for an Office-Politics board game, a text-messaging wireless component, animated television spots, a newspaper cartoon and a text-based version for elevator advertising screens.
Nerdheaven, the company set up for the game, has three or four investors and a budget of about $1 million. Advisers include Paul Toyne, inventor of the board game Balderdash. Telefilm Canada has turned an initial $75,000 development loan into a $349,000 advance on royalties.
Current sponsors are Monster.ca, Labatt and its Stella Artois beer, and Communications and Information Technology Ontario, a non-profit organization funded by the provincial government.
Mr. James likens his business model to that of movie-making, where the investors are also hands-on participants in the project's development.
"We believe that the copyright law offers more valuable revenue possibilities in many ways than a patent," he says, adding that the company plans to be profitable next year from advertising and licensing revenues.
"We have a brand name called Office-Politics and we have a style and that has a certain value that is bigger than either one of us and can be sold around the world."