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Toronto student creates RPG video game in Excel

A Toronto chartered accountant spent two hours a day for five months working in Microsoft Excel—not on financial reports or option-pricing models, but creating a video game.

As of Thursday morning, the game had been downloaded by more than a quarter of a million people.

Cary Walkin is studying for an MBA at York University’s Schulich School of Business and decided to put the skills he learned in his advanced spreadsheet modelling class to use.

"I realized I could use those tools to make a game," he said. "It started as a hobby."

Arena.Xlsm is a fully functional, turn-based strategic role-playing game.

"You can kill monsters, you level-up, you get new items," Walkin said. "Every single play-through is going to be different. There are over 1,000 items, 2,000 enemies and the arenas are procedurally generated."

"It's designed to have an enjoyable addictive experience," he added.

The storyline has four different endings. The player has taken part in a rebellion and is trapped in an arena as a storyline unfolds outside, determined by the player's actions inside the arena.

The feedback to the game has been overwhelmingly positive, with many people commenting on how they're happy to be able to play a game on Excel—because they can do it at work.

"There does appear to be a work-and-play dynamic going on here, taking something that is conventionally used for work and showing that it can be used for fun as well," said Walkin.

He clearly knows something about hard work. While he was creating the game, Walkin was working as a chartered accountant with Collins Barrow and studying for his MBA.

For any Excel experts who are curious about how he did it—Walkin used the visual basic backend of Excel, "essentially a lot of macros."

"It was immensely challenging and immensely satisfying," he said.

Arena.Xlsm can be downloaded free here and played on PC versions of Excel 2007 or newer.

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