Miss Management

Brought To You By Angel Funding


What appears to be yet another estrogen-laden, too-friendly-to-say-anything casual game that marked the 2004-2007 era is actually the best game to emerge from the now defunct GameLab, whose LinkedIn page now stands as a shadow remnant of its former greatness. Miss Management was notable because of its source of funding, an unnamed High-Net-Worth-Individual made this game possible, and as such the burdensome demands of publishers were relaxed to the desire to make something interesting and polished. The game doesn't pile in swears or sexual innuendo with this opportunity, it's still considerably tamer in subject matter than an episode of The Office, the show after which it seems to fashion itself, but it does paint a compelling enough caricature of corporate life and the inane frictions thereof. It also combines character design directly with game mechanics to do a nice job of role-driven storytelling, almost like Chris Crawford's old Siboot streamlined with the chassis of Diner Dash.

Instead of serving food you serve tasks, instead of putting a queue of type-cast faces through the paces, you have a small set of employees each with their own strengths, preferred means of relaxation, and pet peeves. Typically what pleases one person upsets others, so you end up juggling personalities as much as you do the incoming work load. Each "episode" as they name their levels involves a different set of goals set up by the narrative contexts of each character. The writing is quite sharp and illustrates the potential of designer Naomi Clark, who recently did a podcast worth hearing.

There's a crack out for those who resent paying Bigfish, Playfirst el alia for IP that should be going directly back to the investor and developers of this fine title, maybe they'll leave a comment to the effect that they do indeed get a quarter out of each purchase, but whatever. You all know how to use google.

I was playing this recently while going through a tremendous amount of stress trying to balance work with my personal life, which nearly went into a critical melt-down. You don't want to hear the details, but armed robbery, latina soap opera dialogue and Western Union were all involved. Playing this game to relieve stress also taught me to be confident in dealing with stress, and I feel like perhaps I too could manage an office, or at least my apartment.


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Project Funding

What was interesting about the gameLab model (for this game and also for Out of Your Mind) isn't that it was "angel funded" so much as that it was project funded. That is, gameLab did not sell equity to investors; instead, it sold to investors a share of the future revenue stream of these games. There is a community of investors, mostly out of Hollywood, who are more comfortable with this model than the conventional venture capital model -- and, at least for independent developers who wish to remain independent, rather than be forced into a firesale to, say, Zynga at some future time, it is a much more congenial model.

Unfortunately, my impression is that the investors did not do well off this experience, and thus it does not stand as a gateway to the future, alas. gameLab was coming off the success of Diner Dash (the IP to which, in the typical game industry clusterfuck, woumd up being owned by Playfirst, the funder, rather than gameLab, the creator), and investors bought into the idea that gameLab could recreate that game's success. Which they did not do, and no surprise; the reality is that even the best game creators are lucky to generate one hit out of five. As in any creative industry, the rule is "nobody knows anything" -- not entirely true, but even the smartest and most knowledgeable have only a small edge on the odds.

Best of genre?

Does this genre have a pinnacle in terms of fun/game design? Possibly _Miss Management_ or one of the _Diner Dash_es? I've played Miss Management before and didn't much care for it after a bit, but don't want to dismiss the genre altogether without seeing what it has to offer.