The new Office video game shows why the show will never die

After a stealth launch in December, the new free-to-play game The Office: Somehow We Manage is now available on iOS and Android. The game, which is based around trying to save the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin from downsizing, “offers players the chance to immerse themselves in iconic moments from the series and connect with their favorite characters like never before,” Darcy Taylor, chief executive officer of developer East Side Games Group, said in a news release.

Taylor followed up by noting that “fans of The Office will absolutely feel the nostalgia through this new game.” Players will have chances to collect iconic characters from the show, like “Prison Mike, Farmer Dwight, Pretzel Day Stanley, and of course, Three Hole Punch Jim,” which ESGG’s press release notes are all “appearing in animated form for the first time.”

If Somehow We Manage sounds very similar, that’s because it is. ESGG’s bread and butter are IP-heavy free-to-play games, including Archer: Danger Phone, It’s Always Sunny: The Gang Goes Mobile, and Trailer Park Boys Grea$y Money. While all of these games are built on franchises with strong fan bases — and cashing in hard on them — none of them approach the long afterlife of The Office, which seems to be entering a brand new phase beyond streaming-enabled binge-watches.

Remember these guys? Who could forget?
NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Consider the recent surge in The Office podcasts. There’s Office Ladies, hosted by Office co-stars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, where the two costars rewatch episodes of the shows and interview key contributors like Michael Schur. It’s also being spun off into the book The Office BFFs: Tales of The Office from Two Best Friends Who Were There.

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Brian Baumgartner, better known to Office fans as Kevin, has not one but two Office podcasts: An Oral History of The Office, which looks at behind-the-scenes figures like casting director Allison Jones and key production moments like Steve Carrell’s decision to leave in 2011. Based of the success of that podcast, Baumgartner created another, The Office Deep Dive, which features multi-part interviews with Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Schur, and an assortment of others involved with the show’s production.

While The Office left Netflix in 2021, the show lives on as Peacock’s main attraction. There is perhaps no streaming show given as much spotlight as NBC’s streaming network gives The Office. Seasons 1 through 5 are available for free on the app — “just like Pretzel Day!”, Peacock helpfully notes. If you want more, you have to subscribe.

What’s behind the long, long afterlife of The Office? Let’s start with the obvious: The Office was, and remains, a very funny show. Much of its run, from 2005 to 2013, was dominated by an effective mix of the awkward cringe of Michael, the general goofiness of Kevin, and a romance for the ages in Jim and Pam.

After an unfunny pilot, based directly on the original British show, and a mixed first season, the show branched out in its second season into something truly unique for the time. The Office built its world out carefully and in wonderful detail, using the mockumentary format to make characters like David Wallace feel as real as Stanley.

Characters like David Wallace and Jan felt just as crucial as Michael

But, as Darren Franich noted in a 2015 EW essay, “The Office never got huge ratings. It ranked 67th among network shows in its second season,” and even though it became something of a success, never dominated in the way a show like Seinfeld or Friends did. What has kept people coming back?

It’s a question Emily St. James asked in a 2020 essay for Vox, where she quotes her wife saying The Office “demanded nothing of me, wasn’t too infuriating, and took place in an almost impenetrable bubble. Blundering bosses used to have hearts of gold and wanted the best for you. That’s not our reality. But it was once. And we hope it will be again.”

Crucial to The Office is the concept that a workplace isn’t just a place where people go every day, it can also become a found family. In 2022, this idea has less and less traction. Roughly 33 million Americans have quit their jobs since Spring 2021, referred to by some as The Great Resignation, others as The Great Renegotiation. The office is no longer a place many people even go to, with many jobs made remote.

At this point, the workplace of The Office is as much fiction as Thor: Ragnarok. But like Ragnarok, it’s a lot of fun. So while the new mobile game may just be another free-to-play app that makes you pay too much for Prison Mike, it also taps into the greatest American fantasy of all: that your bad boss will eventually be good, that your office crush will work out, that people you work with will remember your name. It’s a story people want to hear again and again.

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