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French game makers laugh at redundancy

Last update - Tuesday, March 1, 2011, 21:54 By Metro Éireann

In France, making somebody redundant has become a game. With the new card game Plan Social (the French term for ‘downsizing’), players must get rid of their employees and relocate to a totalitarian country with cheaper labour.

Created by two Frenchmen, John-Harvey Marwanny and Hans Margoulinski, and released in November last year by Arplay Editions, the game was an immediate success.
Game editor Stéphane Daniel told Agence France Presse: “The 3,000 first games issued in November were sold out in one month, thanks to word-of-mouth only.” A further 10,000 were set to be made available in February.
The rules of the game are straightforward: there are 52 cards divided into six groups, each representing a specific economic sector (such as the food processing industry, building and civil engineering, or new technologies). Each card represents a different job, bordering on bad taste: an undocumented worker, an asbestos fitter, a disabled worker, a keyboard cleaner, a cheating politician and so on. The higher the player in the hierarchy, the more points one gets when an employee is made redundant.
Like in the card game Uno, players must get rid of their cards by matching the colour or the points to the card on the discard pile. If a player cannot match the card, he or she must draw another card. The game is over when one player managers to discard all their cards.
In France, a ‘plan social’ is legally defined as an operation aiming at avoiding lay-offs, although the term commonly refers to mass redundancy. As such, the makers suggest that the game – subtitled “Big bosses’ favourite game” – should be taken ironically, especially in the current economic situation.
The game enables people to fufill their lives, says co-creator Marwanny. However, psychiatrist Michel Lejoyeux told Le Parisien newspaper that the game “encourages people to laugh at others’ distress”. So how can it be fulfilling to have fun at the  expense of others?
In a vox pop conducted by Le Parisien, four out of five people were shocked by the idea of such a game. According to them, redundancy is no laughing matter. Letters of discontent were even sent to the editor and authors of the game.
Plan Social may be tacky and considered bad taste by many. However, its unexpected success alone is proof that Marwanny and Margoulinski have managed to make some good out of the crisis, if only for themselves.

Celine Loriou is a French student currently studying for a BA in Journalism at Dubin City University.

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