Have you ever read an email from your manager and wanted to throw your coffee mug out the window? Perhaps someone emailed you a “quick question” that ended up destroying an hour of your day. If you sympathize with these frustrations, then you might want to check out the Zer0 Inbox Kickstarter.
Roughly a year ago, I attended Play NYC with two of my friends and colleagues at TechRaptor. We each had our own plans and interests for the show, but one thing we were dead set on doing was seeing the game in person, meeting its creators, and playing it.
Today, the Zer0 Inbox Kickstarter is live, and the developers are keen on making this satirical game about corporate culture a reality. We had a quick chat with them about what inspired this zany board game and what’s in store for the future.
All About Zer0 Inbox
You might not admit it, but I’d wager that you’ve probably pawned off a task that you were supposed to do onto someone else. Perhaps you neglected to clean out the coffee pot at work, or maybe you decided that you didn’t feel like washing the dishes at home after a long day.
This upcoming tabletop game is a hilarious, cynical take on that exact subject: passing the buck for work emails. Anyone in the corporate world has surely been bombarded with various useless tasks and would foist them on someone else in a heartbeat. In Zer0 Inbox, that’s the key to victory.
“Zer0 Inbox is a corporate-parody party board game for 3-6 players [that's] all about screwing over your co-workers to clear out your inbox before anyone else can,” explained Macho Zero Productions marketing director Lina Skandalakis. “It's simple to pick up and play, but also involves some light strategy elements[.] [Players] have interesting choices to make[,] like when to forward an email to especially penalize another player or who to get stuck in a meeting to cripple their progress on clearing their inbox.”
The game starts out innocently enough: Everyone is given the same number of email cards to begin. From there, it becomes a hurried race to unload all of your work on your unfortunate coworkers and be the first one out the door, albeit with a slightly guilty conscience.
This is accomplished through a mix of card game and board game mechanics. Your trip around the board adds a heavy element of luck, but the cards in your hand (and using them wisely) is all about cold, calculated strategy—the same kind of scheming that lets you pull out of the parking lot on a Friday at 4:55 p.m.
The Zer0 Inbox Kickstarter and website ruthlessly parodies corporate culture. Many of the silly situations shown on the cards sound too ludicrous to be true, but some of them were lifted from real-world experience.
“A specific incident we actually reference in our deck is a time where someone was copied into an email thread with HR by their boss[,]” Skandalakis said. “[The boss] was writing HR to ask if they could fire the employee they CC'd on the message. That employee, being understandably shocked, replied to the chain and suggested they likely weren't supposed to be [copied] on it to which their manager replied, ‘Maybe you were.’”
That gut-wrenching moment is thankfully a rarity, but there are tons of frankly stupid things we have to put up with every day. In a sense, Zer0 Inbox serves as a catharsis for those of us who have served in the corporate trenches.
Amusingly, the game has gotten interest from managers at various companies while it’s been shown at various game conventions.
“When we've shown this at conventions, we often get attention from groups who are corporate sponsors for the events and can't resist hearing more about the game since they can relate to the theme,” Skandalakis remarked. “It is always delightfully ironic to have a corporate executive sit down for a demo of the game and laugh at all of the rules and game copy that satirize the corporate environment they're often responsible for creating themselves.”
She categorizes the game as “generically corporate” in terms of its flavor, but that’s just for the version that’s being sold in the Zer0 Inbox Kickstarter. In the future, Macho Zero Productions may create bespoke versions for Silicon Valley startups, government organizations, and other businesses.
What Do You Get in the Zer0 Inbox Kickstarter?
If you’re keen on getting down to business, it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at the Zer0 Inbox Kickstarter.
Here’s what you get for a pledge of $35:
- 1 game board
- 6 metal player tokens
- 1 deck of Email & Action cards (totaling 82 cards)
- 1 six-sided die
- A fold-out “orientation guide”
- Free shipping to the contiguous U.S.
That’s all there is to it! The Zer0 Inbox Kickstarter has no exclusive or limited editions or any fluff. In fact, higher pledge tiers simply secure you additional copies of the game.
And now, to address the elephant in the room: manufacturing and shipping. Producing a tabletop game is tough business when things are normal, but the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the gaming and tabletop industries pretty hard—especially when it comes to production. Concerns about these issues are reasonable, but Skandalakis believes that Macho Zero Productions can get its game out the door on time.
“We're working with Ad Magic to manufacture our game who does coordinate with a factory in China,” Skandalakis said. “We've been told that shipping currently has the most potential for unknowns, but thus far there haven't been a ton of major delays due to [COVID-19]. We certainly can't predict what new twists might occur during this time, but we will certainly be very communicative with our backers as we get more concrete details on the status of our project's manufacturing and shipping.”
The Future of Macho Zero Productions
The Zero Inbox Kickstarter is not only Macho Zero Productions' first crowdfunding campaign, it's the company’s first tabletop game ever. According to Skandalakis, this is only the beginning.
“We would love to pursue future tabletop game concepts should we succeed in getting our first title funded, and we have ideas for expansions to Zer0 Inbox should there be enough interest in the base game,” Skandalakis said.
If you’re worried about missing out on this campaign, don’t fret; there’s a fair few days left, so there’s plenty of time to make your pledge. That said, we may see Zer0 Inbox hit store shelves some time in the future, too.
“Yes, we are absolutely going to continue sales of Zer0 Inbox beyond the Kickstarter as a ‘retail’ version that doesn't include our bonus Desk Phone token or any Kickstarter Edition labeling,” Lina explained. “We're hopeful that the attention given to our campaign will help us gain traction on getting onto retail shelves while also continuing sales online via our website and other retailers.”
I’ve played this game myself at Play NYC with my colleagues and we all had a blast. Check out the Zer0 Inbox Kickstarter and consider picking up a copy of the game. You can also follow the developers on Twitter. We all had fun, and I’m sure you will, too.