During season 3 of The Office, Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) settles in at the Stamford office of Dunder Mifflin where they have an interesting co-worker bonding experience: they play Call of Duty together. The story behind how the video game became featured on the show has a real-world connection and, interestingly, it even traveled on to Parks and Recreation in a small way.
‘The Office’ writers had ‘Call of Duty’ on their radar
During the June 10 episode of the Office Ladies podcast, hosts Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey discussed the season 3 episode 3 “The Coup” and, of course, there was a deep dive into why Call of Duty played such a big role.
It actually came from the real world of creative folks working on The Office, as the show’s editors first played it and eventually the writers played as well. They wanted to incorporate it into The Office in some way and had the idea on their radar for a while. Eagle-eyed fans of the show noticed a reference to the video game during Jim’s party in season 2 episode 9 “Email Surveillance,” which was inconsistent with Jim’s claim that he wasn’t good at playing it.
Jim plays ‘Call of Duty’ in Stamford
In “The Coup,” Jim and his new office co-workers, Karen (Rashida Jones) and Andy (Ed Helms) play Call of Duty, something he notes they never did in the Scranton office.
Unfortunately, Jim isn’t much of a gamer and it becomes frustrating to his co-workers — he’s even brought into the conference room to discuss strategies to improve his gameplay.
During the Office Ladies podcast, the hosts revealed that Jones actually was given lessons on how to play the game and that it proved to be a fun bonding experience for the actors.
How the game made its way onto the show
It turns out there was a real-world obsession with the game and that’s why the writers hoped to incorporate it into a storyline. “Kent [Zbornak, the show’s producer] told me that after we wrapped Season 1 of the show the post-production guys moved to some offices in Venice to edit the episodes,” Fischer shared. The game was installed on their computers “so they could blow off steam during edit sessions,” she added.
The actress continued, “When we moved to our new stages for Season 2, [Zbornak] did it again, but this time he also installed it on all of the writer’s computers, and that’s when the editors and writers started playing one another… They did exactly what Stamford did. They would turn off the lights and they would have this elaborate match going on.”
Given their real-world investment in the game, showrunner and “The Coup” director Greg Daniels, who was “particularly obsessed” with including the game in the show.
Fischer shared that “the writers had a card up on the wall in the writer’s room all through Season 2 about a possible Call of Duty storyline,” and considered trying to incorporate it into “Email Surveillance,” as people were playing the game at Jim’s party (and he had the game’s expansion pack on his desk). It wasn’t until Jim’s transfer that they figured out how to create a full plotline around the game.
“They had to just live with the fact that there had been this tiny appearance of Call of Duty earlier,” Fischer said of fans’ catching the inconsistency.
‘Parks and Rec’ got in on the game too
The video game wasn’t just an Office thing, it turns out. The mania surrounding the game carried on to Parks and Recreation too.
Fischer shared that writer Mike Schur, who co-created Parks and Recreation with Daniels, continued the Call of Duty obsession on that show. “Dean [Holland, the show’s editor] told me that during Season 2 he and writer Mike Schur were the best [players]. They were at the top of the leaderboard. He said they got so into it that they took it over to Parks and Rec when they moved over there, and they played it every day on Parks and Rec,” Fischer dished.