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Bureaucrats Create Card Game to Poke Fun at Bureaucrats

Quitwork Games LLC

When two employees at the Defense Department realized they needed so many levels of approval to drive their own cars across a state line for work purposes that people they had never even met were involved in signing off on the excursion, they decided they had to do something.

That something, it turned out, was to create a card game.

The Defense civilians working in research and development, who requested their names be withheld as they currently work at the department, are putting their finishing touches on the Government Worker card game -- in which the winner is the player who accomplishes the least amount of bureaucratic work.

The employees, who have spent 20 and eight years in the government, respectively, said they have seen things at the workplace “so surreal” they didn’t think anyone would believe them if they told the story. Instead, they decided to bring their experiences to life through their game. They partnered with a friend in graphic design and are currently seeking Kickstarter funding to pay for the printing of the actual game cards.

They describe the game as mix of Cards Against Humanity -- an adult-oriented party game -- and Uno. The players receive “work cards” that assign various tasks, such as creating a “mascot for use in ‘Ebola Really Isn’t as Scary as Mommy and Daddy Say’ children’s pamphlet.” They continue to pull cards from the deck, receiving either more tasks or “dick off “ cards, which describe various ways government employees slack off and avoid doing their work (for example, a player can be told they set up “elaborate but nondescript party in the conference room just to see which coworkers steals from the food platter first”).

Other cards will deem a player “unessential personnel” and send them home during a shutdown, allowing the player to skip a turn in the next round. Players can also get a “reorganization” card, forcing them to trade their hand with another player. Eventually, a player will draw a “time card.” At that point, the player who accomplished the least work -- the “dick off” cards subtracted from the “work cards” -- wins. The game can last five hands (a government workweek) or 10 hands (a full pay period), based on the players’ preferences.

The goal of the game, its creators said, is not to disparage all federal employees.

“We know there are a lot of people that do important work,” one said.

They noted, however, there is no shortage of feds who do dumb things. They drew inspiration from their own experiences in writing the tasks on all of their cards, which they said are as ridiculous as are portrayed in fictionalized shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation. In one example, they saw an employee in the office with his pants at his knees as he tucked in his shirt.

“You wouldn’t see that anywhere outside the government,” one of the game’s creators said.

And while they respect many federal employees, they understand the stereotypes of government bureaucrats. In marketing the game, they said, they hope to exploit those assumptions.

To this point, the game’s creators have funded the conceptualization and design out of pocket. On March 1, they will begin accepting Kickstarter donations, with donations equating to a preorder of the game.

The gamers said it’s probably possible to make the government operate more smoothly, noting in previous careers things operated much more smoothly.

“If you look at the private sector, it doesn’t take five hours to send a package,” one noted. For now, however, the creators hope feds continue to have a lot of time on their hands. As their motto states, “Quit working and start playing.” 

Eric Katz writes about federal agency operations and management. His deep coverage of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Postal Service has earned him frequent guest spots on national radio and television news programs. Eric joined Government Executive in the summer of 2012 and previously worked for The Financial Times. He is a graduate of The George Washington University.

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