Office Games: Making Time Fly

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. -- Dorothy Parker

Well, here we are. Sunburnt and slightly deafened, but back in the office. Now what?

A lot of people are going to be out the rest of the week, but some of us are stuck punching the clock and making sure that the cogs of progress keep turning. That's okay. You may not be out playing in the sun, but there are ways to have some fun.

Office games are simply ways to keep yourself amused at work (without the Internet). They are often derivations of regular pastimes. Each workplace has their own versions. They can be very elaborate or very simple. Some are very solitary, in others you have everyone on up to the manager playing. Some places you have to keep it very secret, others have leagues with t-shirts. If you work in a technical field they are nearly traditional, and as the movement towards more enlightened HR policies is rippling out through other industries, so are they.

I'm not talking about office pranks here. Your level of creativity in expressing your feelings about the guys who got to take the whole rest of the week off and you didn't is entirely your call. I'd recommend a thorough reading of your employee manual before drywalling over their office door. I'm just saying. Besides, you have to paint the whole wall to make it match and that's a pain. Individually shrink-wrapping everything in their office is more fun anyways.

If you're bringing this concept into your workplace, start small and build it slowly. Ease them into it. That way management gets used to it and doesn't freak out. If you've ever boiled a lobster you've got the general idea. Once they trust that the job is still going to get done and that you're not damaging anything they might even join in.

These games come in several categories to fit your office environment and the type of players. So think about your players and the amount of mayhem you want to create and see if you can find one below that might fit.

Tame:
These are pretty easy to fit into just about any corporate environment. Probably won't get you fired if you don't get too stupid about it.

Hallway Golf
This is a combination of miniature golf and scavenger hunt/orienteering. Sort of a gateway drug; most managers understand the lure of the fairway and will look somewhat kindly on you finding some way to make do when you're stuck in the office.

  • Rules: Someone prepares a "course" mapped out through the building and you have to follow it; lowest number of strokes wins. Highest number usually has to give some sort of forfeit like pay for the pizza or keep the blow-up Godzilla in their office for the day.
  • Materials: 9 or 18 drink cups from the cafeteria, postal tape to secure them to surfaces, golf putters (or pointers from the conference room with room signs taped to the ends), golf-sized Wiffle balls, wads of office paper wrapped with rubber bands, or if you're feeling brave or playing outside try real golf balls
  • Time: It all really depends on how many holes you want to put out, and just how many of them involve light fixtures, triple-cushion shots down the stairwell, or roof access.
  • Variants: You can play a genteel version where the various holes are just inside the building, or you can go extreme with it and include all the local landscape; that fountain out front makes a great water hazard if you put a hole in the mouth of that fishy-thingy in the middle.

Stock Nerf
This is a geek/college standard and it translates well into the office. Driving that annoying PM back into his office in a hail of rubber darts is a great team-building exercise. Really.

  • Rules: All participating units must be stock as taken out of the box. Some places require it to be as purely stock and as regulated as NASCAR. Others allow custom ammo but limited it to what you can make out of the contents of the supply closet and the cafeteria condiments bins. No paper clips and NO PEPPER!
  • Materials: Nerf weapons, various office supplies repurposed as targets or other props
  • Time: Any time, any place. Except a status meeting. Don't recommend it for those. I used to have a dev lead who used a Nerf as a pointer in meetings, but we weren't encouraged to bring our own.
  • Variants: Tactics and challenges are as individual as the terrain of your office. Look at your favorite FPS or paintball gametypes for ideas. Capture the Flag, Territories, target challenges and random Slayer-type snipefests are traditional. Do not recommend Plasma Punchout.

Frisky:
Sometimes you end up with a group for whom time wasting has reached the status of art. Especially back in the bowels of the IT department where management fears to tread.

Cube Battleship
The classic board game, played out on a bigger scale.

  • Rules: The two players put their coffee cups in a square on a desk blotter with a letter/numbered grid marked out on it. Then you take turns aiming and firing over the wall at the unseen target with whatever you want to mockup as a weapon. The target reports the coordinates of the square the missile actually landed in if it missed or you get that outraged, "You sank my battleship!" for a perfect splashdown.
  • Materials: cubicle walls or other barriers, desk pads (use the ones with calendars printed on them and write the coordinates in the corners of the dates), rubber bands, paper clips or wadded up sticky notes and the guys in the next cube's fresh cup of coffee.
  • Time: This one is great for anytime a boss isn't actually staring at you, because it's played sitting at your desk. And it's not time-dependent, so a quick round while waiting for the printer is an easy possibility.
  • Variants: Extra points if you want to get a hold of different desktop containers to use for other ships which require multiple hits. I have a long, skinny pencil tray that makes an excellent aircraft carrier. Once you get proficient at this, playing with people in farther cubicles adds another level of challenge. Just be polite and call in your strikes via the intercom or IM rather than shouting down the aisle. If you're an architect, systems analyst, or artist with lots of work-related important papers around that don't take splashes well, it's recommended you play with an empty cup.

Ninja
This one comes straight from the neighborhood vacant lot after school. Think Tag, but with malice aforethought.

  • Rules: Dealing Silent Justice against the testing team is not a rules-friendly sort of situation. Just don't hurt anyone or break anything.
  • Materials: Anything you can lay your hands on and turn into whatever you can dream up. Chopsticks are a start, but think bigger. Monkeybenders make excellent shuriken if you bend their little legs and tails correctly and as a bonus they stick to metal doors and frames for easy retrieval. Or if you've got ready access to a third grader they can remind you how to fold them out of lined paper. I once saw an ops guy set up a really cool Claymore sort of trap with a tripwire made of knotted rubber bands and an AirZooka that led you into a paper clip arbalest ambush set up over the top of a receptionist's desk that was pure genius. Or there is plenty of inspiration out there on the Internet, like this Bola Grenade.
  • Time: Overtime.
  • Variants: Depends on how much Ninja Gaiden the gang has played, and how many sets of chopsticks the local teriyaki place will let you have with a lunch special. Pirates vs. Ninjas is a fun way to spice it up, but requires more setup and is more noticeable.

Do Not Try This At Home!:
These usually show up two months into ship mode at 3 am. Because that's the only time this would be considered even a remotely good idea.

Australian Indoor-Rules Quidditch
This is where you bat a super bouncy ball at each other as hard as you can. Known by many other names, like Combat Baseball or Rubber Rochambeaux.

  • Rules: Get hit and you're out. Hit someone else and you get a point. Play to the last man, or if more survive the most points at the end of the agreed upon time wins. You loose points for hits that are illegal in Judo, hitting with anything but the ball, hitting a janitor, or for breaking a relight. Oh, and you must have someone of the same gender check for welts.
  • Materials: a super bouncy ball (usually available at a capsule toy machine in the front of your local grocery store or in your kid nephew's Halloween candy bag); Wiffle bats, those novelty miniature Major League baseball bats, or wooden fish whackers. Paintball helmets are also prudent (particularly for the guys who wear glasses).
  • Time: Night time or weekends. Waiting for security to be slow and management to be gone is what you're looking for.
  • Variants: Using Ping-Pong paddles is a bit easier if you're just starting out. Or if you want to crank up the difficulty, turn off all the lights and use one of those balls with the LED lights in the center. If you have skylights, you have to wait for darkness to do this.

Modded Nerf
This is a Nerf battle where the weapons have been "improved" by their owners. Everything from little stuff like adding little folding fins to the darts for accuracy on up to that one freaky systems guy with a garage and too much time on his hands who has managed to overclock an N-strike Longshot with parts from an airbrush compressor and a ranging system scavenged out of an old LaserTag set.

  • Rules: See Stock Nerf, minus the stipulations about the gun's features. Some suggested rules to keep it somewhat under control:
    • All ammo must have the suction cup intact and on the impact end.
    • No guns that require that they are plugged into a wall outlet to operate. If you want to charge it up, that's fine. But it's plugs out for the game itself.
    • No fissionables.
    • No entangle attacks.
    • No rocket fuel.
  • Materials: Guns. Lots of Guns.
  • Time: Not when normal humans walk the earth. The temptation to stealth up to a closed door full of suits deciding how much your next two months are going to suck, throw it open and soften up the room with a couple belts of darts can be hard to resist. But you probably should. Look up the definition of Career Limiting Move, print it out, and post it where you can see it before you start a game.
  • Variants: Pepper-rounds are the least of your worries here. Depends entirely on whether the guy with the garage has a good angel press and knows how to use it. Avoid the guy who records every episode of Mythbusters, Junkyard Wars, or McGyver, and anyone who ever tried to pull the left-handed spanner joke on you.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Making up your own house rules and variations is the best part. Be creative, remember to be safe, and go have some fun!

Comments

Ninja
This one comes straight from the neighborhood vacant lot after school. Think Tag, but with malice aforethought.

* Rules: Dealing Silent Justice against the testing team is not a rules-friendly sort of situation. Just don't hurt anyone or break anything.
* Materials: Anything you can lay your hands on and turn into whatever you can dream up. Chopsticks are a start, but think bigger. Monkeybenders make excellent shuriken if you bend their little legs and tails correctly and as a bonus they stick to metal doors and frames for easy retrieval. Or if you've got ready access to a third grader they can remind you how to fold them out of lined paper. I once saw an ops guy set up a really cool Claymore sort of trap with a tripwire made of knotted rubber bands and an AirZooka that led you into a paper clip arbalest ambush set up over the top of a receptionist's desk that was pure genius. Or there is plenty of inspiration out there on the Internet, like this Bola Grenade.
* Time: Overtime.
* Variants: Depends on how much Ninja Gaiden the gang has played, and how many sets of chopsticks the local teriyaki place will let you have with a lunch special. Pirates vs. Ninjas is a fun way to spice it up, but requires more setup and is more noticeable.

I fully endorse office ninja foolery.

This is a really fun article, but it makes me sad that I live in a much less fun office.

We have the occasional overdone office pranks like a lil superglue on someone's phone handset... taking a screenshot of their windows desktop, making it their background wallpaper and then hiding all of the icons... the exciting box full of packing peanuts on their chair open on the side that is down... etc etc. Unfortunately only myself and my good friend we just hired as a second network admin (me being the first) are nerds. If we tried to get the rest of the people to play any of these games we would be ridiculed and spit on! So we tend to stick to the interwebs for time wasting and cruel pranks for amusement : (

Man, I could never get away this any of this.

Sadly, I would be fired, or at the very least chastised, for any of the above tomfoolery. My job sucks.

I had a great job once where we all had cool pellet guns and ran throughout the office dressed as Matrix characters waging war on each other.

The cleaners used to whine all the time about cleaning up the little yellow pellets.

Ah, fun times....

We used to do food challenges in my office. First it was the Five a Day Challenge where the winner was the first person to eat a lemon, a kiwi fruit, a potato cake, an orange and a spring onion. Then the chilli eating contest, the jaffa cake challenge, the polo mint challenge (how long can you keep one fully formed mint on your tongue?), the random item from the vending machine challenge. Anyway, the season ended and we're on a sort of summer haitus at the moment.

There have been talks of a Record Breakers tournament come Autumn time but we'll have to see how negotiations pan out on that. There was mention of balloon animals so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Good article.

Baggz wrote:

I had a great job once where we all had cool pellet guns and ran throughout the office dressed as Matrix characters waging war on each other.

The cleaners used to whine all the time about cleaning up the little yellow pellets.

Ah, fun times....

For the record, air soft guns will destroy your 20" LCD monitors

I'm sorry if this makes people sad. It was mostly deadpan tongue in cheek, but I've played all of these games and some even more festive variations. And yes, we did shrink wrap a guy's office once. I know intellectually that this stuff is a no-go in most places, but I guess I gauged how stuffy it is out there wrong.

Hopped Up On Koolaid wrote:

very cogent warning about monitors and airsoft

But not those cheapie things you get at Toys For Us or the toy aisle at Target that spit foam pellets. Those things that launch foam disks are good, too. Airsoft can be done, but you have to mod the heck out of it. A spring-driven Airsoft gun can have the spring replaced to take a bunch of the sting out of it. If you chrony it and keep the pellet speed below 75fps or so you would be reasonably safe. But I'd still stick with Nerf for indoor office wars. Or you can have endless fun with an Airzooka.

Eating stuff sounds interesting, Scotty. We do a lot of group lunches here around a theme. This month it's a baseball theme, so we're going to do brats and grilled chicken and the QC manager is making a batch of her home made root beer.

I have to be more careful with these articles, though. My boss read it and followed that link to the Bola Grenade instructions. Guess what he greeted me with when I came back from an errand this afternoon? And for your information, when you're wearing shorts you do get a bit of a sting when tape roll cores whip around and smack you in the calves. It did work like a charm, though.

It's OK momgamer. You aren't the first woman to make me sad.
/emo

Who else got a phone number tonight and had time to get back in time for Gears & Beers?

wordsmythe wrote:

It's OK momgamer. You aren't the first woman to make me sad.
/emo

Who else got a phone number tonight and had time to get back in time for Gears & Beers?

Holy crabcakes, I think I posted that the night I got E Hunnie's number.

Thanks, spambot!