Layoff! A new game simulates downsizing

Move over fantasy football and fafarazzi. There's a new online game sweeping the net that puts all the power in your hands. The game, entitled "Layoff," lets you be the boss: Donald Trump, Whole Foods, your choice. The object of the game, modeled after the popular online game "Bejeweled," is to switch characters around to line up similar people in a row. Once you line up three of the same workers in a row they fall to the unemployment office, saving your company millions. Five people means a bank takeover. And if you get stuck, you can always hit the bank bailout button for help.

Bankers are exempt from losing their jobs, and you win once they're the only ones left. Why? As the little cartoon suits say, "Businessmen don't align. We never get laid off!" The catch is, unlike real life oftentimes, each person who is laid off has a name and a story.

You'll layoff people like Guadaloupe, 42, a pastry chef who "has been under a lot of pressure lately because of a recent car accident, which caused a broken right arm. The restaurant does not have health insurance and the bills were high. Stress has made Guadaloupe abrasive and moody, but the baking is still wonderful." Or there's Skyler, 45, who "is a big fan of hip hop music. Sklyer is one of the most sought after people at Auto Shop. People call weeks in advance to make sure Skyler works on their car, and the boss has loyal clientele as a result." It's hard to read the 88 stories presented in the game and not think of the people in your own life who mirror their stories. Oh but wait, I've already saved $580 million!

It's both depressing and fun at the same time, much like getting laid off and leaving corporate America. The game development was funded by Microsoft, which sadly enough laid off 5% of its workforce in January. Mary Flanagan of Dartmouth College, who headed the project, told the Standard, "We were trying to make these abstract figures real. It's kind of a protest game." Additionally, various economic facts, such as just how many millions of bonuses AIG paid out, scroll across the screen while playing, so it's not a complete waste of time. Fun fact: "The American economy lost 2.6 million jobs in 2008, but the average performance based bonus for 132 of the largest U.S. companies increased to $265,594.

The game has been oddly therapeutic for many players, so popular, that its site has been crashing with hits recently. As far as game therapy goes, I prefer to get mine here. You can try your hand at "Layoff" here, but just make sure your boss doesn't catch you playing at work.
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