Professional accountant Cary Walkin has used Microsoft Excel to create a full length turn-based role-playing strategy game. Arena.xlsm features over 2,000 enemies, 1,000 weapon variants, 31 spells and four different endings depending on how players tackle the adventure.
Walkin is passionate about playing video games and uses Excel on a day-to-day basis in his work as an accountant. While taking a course in advanced spreadsheet modeling for his MBA (Masters of Business Administration) he discovered that it was possible make buttons within spreadsheets. This led him to devote the next 5 months to writing Excel macros, using VBA, to complete the first version of Arena.xlsm spending 2-3 hours per night on it rather than playing video games.
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On its release in March Arena.xlsm, which works on PC versions of Microsoft Excel including 2007 and 2010 quickly gathered a following and Version 1.1 was released to address issues uncovered by volunteer testers and Walkin is now working on Version 1.2, in between taking his final exams for the MBA.
In an interview for Digitally Downloaded, when asked his views on making games with unconventional tools and methods, Walkin explained his rationale for using Excel:
Games are an art form, people should be free to express themselves however they see fit. I'm an accountant, I use Excel every single day of my life, it was a natural fit for me to make a game using Excel. It blurs the lines between work and play.
Although his game isn't impressive from the point of view of its graphics, it is certainly playable and shows that there is more to Excel than just calculating your monthly mileage totals.
This must also be the last game to be programmed in essentially Visual Basic 6 which is, of course what VBA is with a spreadsheet as its display area - unless, of course, you know different.