The Game of Big

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I've invented my own board game to continue down the road with this particular metaphor. In the sense that art mirrors life, the Game of Big Bux mirrors life in Silicon Valley, where money seems to be spontaneously created (generally in somebody else's pocket) and the three big Money Black Holes are fast cars, California real estate, and messy divorces. There is luck, there is work, and assets often change hands very quickly.

A portion of the Big Bux game board is shown in Figure 1-1. The line of rectangles on the left side of the page continues all the way around the board. In the middle of the board are cubbyholes to store your play money and game pieces; stacks of cards to be read occasionally; and short detours with names such as Messy Divorce and Start a Business, which are brief sequences of the same sort of action squares as those forming the path around the edge of the board. These are ''side paths'' that players take when instructed, either by a square on the board or a card pulled during the game. If you land on a square that tells you to Start a Business, you go through that detour. If you jump over the square, you don't take the detour, and just keep on trucking around the board.

Unlike many board games, you don't throw dice to determine how many steps around the board you take. Big Bux requires that you move one step forward on each turn, unless the square you land on instructs you to move forward or backward or go somewhere else, such as through a detour. This makes for a considerably less random game. In fact, Big Bux is a pretty linear experience, meaning that for the most part you go around the board until you're told that the game is over. At that point, you may be bankrupt; if not, you can total up your assets to see how well you've done.

There is some math involved. You start out with a condo, a cheap car, and $250,000 in cash. You can buy CDs at a given interest rate, payable each time you make it once around the board. You can invest in stocks and other securities whose value is determined by a changeable index in economic indicators, which fluctuates based on cards chosen from the stack called the Fickle Finger of Fate. You can sell cars on a secondary market, buy and sell houses, condos, and land; and wheel and deal with the other players. Each time you make it once around the board, you have to recalculate your net worth. All of this involves some addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, but there's no math more complex than compound interest. Most of Big Bux involves nothing more than taking a step and following the instructions at each step.

Is this starting to sound familiar?

THE GAME OF "BIG BUX!" - - By Jeff Duntemann

Buy option on Pomegranite Computer. Look out the window- -if you can see the moon, stock falls. Make $50,000.

PAYDAY! Deposit salary Into checking acct.

Take a card from: The Fickle Finger of Fate.

Did you get laid off? If so, detour thru Start Your Own Business.

Are you married? If not, marry chief programmer for $10,000. If so, detour through Messy Divorce.

Friday night. Are you alone? If so, get roaring drunk and jump back three squares._

Total car on Highway 101. Buy antoher one of equal value.

Is your job boring? (Prosperity Index > 0.6 but less than 1.2) If not, jump ahead 3 squares._

Get promoted. Salary rises by 25%. (If unemployed, get new job at salary of $800/week.)_

Have an affair with the Chief Programmer. Jump back 5 squares.


Vest 5000 stock options. Sell at $10 X economic indicator.

Buy condo In Palo Alto for 15% down.

Are you bankrupt? If so, move to Peoria. If not, detour through Start of Business.

Friend Nick drops rumor of huge gov't contract impending at Widgetsoft. Buy $10,000 worth of Widgetsoft stock.

Did Widgetsoft contract go through? If not, jump back two squares. If so, sell and make $500,000 in one day.

Brag about insider trading to friend Nick An error. Nick is an SEC plant. Wave at Peoria. Move to Joliet. End of game.


Mortgage: $153,000 11% adj. Car loan: $ 15,000 10% fixed



Porsches: $48,000 Chevies: $10,000 BMWs: $28,000 Used Fords: $2700 2br Palo Alto condo: $385,000 4br Palo Alto house: $742,000

Start Here:

She moves out, rents $2000/mo. apartment.

Are you bankrupt? If so, get cheap lawyer. Jump ahead 4.

Hire expensive lawyer. Pay $50,000 from checking.

Lawyer proves In court that wife Is a chinchilla.

Wife is sent to Brookfield Zoo. Return to whence you came.

Lawyer proves In court that you are a chinchilla.

Court and wife skin you alive. Lose 50% of everything.

Start paying wife $5000/mo. for the rest of your life.

Go back to where you came from.

The Fickle Finger of Fate.



OTHER ASSETS Salary: $1000/week

Start Here:

Draw up a business plan and submit to a venture firm.

Venture firm requires $50,000 matching capital.

Have it? If not, return to where you came from.

Add $850,000 to checking account.

Hire 6 people. Subtract $100,000 from checking acct. Work 18 hours a day for a year. Spend $200,000.

Spend $300,000 launching the new product.

Take a card from: The Fickle Finger of Fate. First year's sales: $500,000 x economic ind.

Are you bankrupt? If not, jump ahead 2 squares.

Go through messy divorce.

Return to where you came from.

Sell company for $10,000,000. Buy another $65,000 Porsche.

Go back to where you came from.

Major Bank Failure!

Decrement Economic Indicators line by thirty percent. Bonds tumble by 20%; housing prices by 5%. Re-valuate your portfolio. Bank cuts your line of credit by $2000. Have a good cry.


Figure 1-1: The Big Bux game board



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