Implications of the Somewhat Paperless Office

TelltaleGamesTelltaleGames Telltale Staff
It was one of those days when I arrive at the office and everyone is off at some local watering hole celebrating Arbor Day or Warren Robinett's birthday, and for a little while I can just bask in the quiet and answer my email and goof off playing online Flash games without anyone looking over my shoulder. I was deeply immersed in "Grow," contemplating strategies regarding the egg and the ladder, when I heard a polite cough from the vicinity of the main airlock.

Turning, I saw that three men had somehow managed to bypass our sophisticated Mission Impossible security system and infiltrate the office. They were meticulously dressed and stood conspicuously upright with their hands tucked away from view until they were needed for shaking. Their smiles had the appearance of having been workshopped, and their failure to blink made my eyes water profusely. One was slightly larger than the other two and did all the talking. My first impression was that they were religious zealots, which in a way they were: they were selling office supplies.

Fortunately, I was not actually completely alone. Aaron Foltz does not celebrate Warren Robinett's birthday because of certain deeply held philosophical convictions. He is trained in the application of several obscure, painful martial arts, and has loads of experience dealing with remorseless, manicured stapler-selling cyborgs. We keep him under glass for just such emergencies. Aaron flowed out smoothly to my rescue.

The battle raged for several hours, but the salesmen never stood a chance. They hurled enticements and alligator clips and all sorts of secret Street Fighter II power-up attacks, which Aaron coolly deflected. "We don't really need that much paper," I heard him say as he nonchalantly blasted the lead cyborg with a massive fireball.

"I can extend the discount!" protested the cyborg, writhing in agony. "You'll just need an account number. For pity's sake, let me give you an account number!"

In the end the intruders were repelled, shuffling reluctantly away, but with their heads held high in case anyone was watching. I last spotted them heading towards the dry cleaner a few doors down, though whether they intended to supply business or solicit it is anyone's guess.

Anyway, Aaron's battle cry, "We don't really need that much paper," got me thinking about Telltale and just how much paper we don't use here.

I remember some years ago, around the same time that computers were being billed as "productivity tools" rather than "distracting objects that allow you to play online Flash games instead of working," evangelists would talk about this great utopia called The Paperless Office where all information would be passed around in electronic form, making everything somehow much better. It was going to change all our lives. Of course what really happened was that word processors allowed people to create more documents faster, and printers allowed them to print more documents faster, and most places of business wound up increasing their use of paper by several orders of magnitude.

imageNot so Telltale, though. It's not the fabled Paperless Office by any stretch of the imagination, but it's probably the closest thing I'VE ever seen to one. As I look around, the one place I can see where there's a fair amount of paper clutter is my own desk. But it still pales when compared to my desk at Phrenopolis, and a significant chunk of the volume consists of a printout of the complete script for Out From Boneville, which I was handed on my first day here and which I have been using for scratch paper ever since (I'm the sort who likes to take copious notes with pen and paper and then put them in piles where I'll never find them again). Yesterday I printed out a copy of a design doc for Bone 2 that was twenty pages long, and I felt really wasteful. No one else is printing it out. People actually read documents electronically here.

Hooray for the environment!

Of course, there's something else I've noticed a dearth of here in comparison to my last place of work: paper airplanes. I have yet to see a single flattened-out SST swooping past the ficus, corkscrewing dangerously towards the eyeball of some unsuspecting game designer. Unnecessary paper is necessary for paper airplane construction. And of course the paper airplane industry is one of the indicators used to compute the Office Enjoyability Index -- a shortage could conceivably bring Telltale to its knees.

Also, I've been seeing reports on the news about a plague of trees overrunning the area. These leafy green monsters are everywhere all of a sudden, sucking up water and causing droughts, falling over on people in high winds, leaking sticky substances all over my truck. There are some in our parking lot. There's a big one right outside the window! Yes, and there's no proof that sudden oak death is communicable to humans, but no one has bothered to do a study, now, have they?

And what about those poor hardworking devils in the recycling sector? Collecting and repurposing paper is a big part of their business. We're talking about unemployment on a grand scale, here.

Our games don't even have any packaging! No boxes, no printed manuals, no little inserts advertising other titles, no questionnaires disguised as warranty cards, nothing! Just a delicate haze of electrons. Online distribution is socially irresponsible! A picket line of starving print-shop employees has been demonstrating outside the office. This morning they held Greg Frank down and gave him a nasty paper cut. The situation is becoming ugly.

This is why I have decided to begin lobbying for Telltale to make games that are played on paper. Lots and lots of paper. I have this great idea for a version of Hangman, where you get to make up the words yourself, and even design your own gibbet. I'm also planning a two-player game where you battle for control over a small grid by placing Xs and Os in each of its nine squares, sort of a miniature version of Go, loosely based on an old TV show I once saw. Coming soon to a paper and pen near you.

Somebody's got to save the world now that nobody plays Pictionary any more.

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