Video Game Investing
Looking for inspiration for this week’s article I was reading a study Google published about the perceptions of Teens and Millennials on brand “coolness”. (You can check out the study here) Out of dozens of brands, the least “cool” of them all was the Wall Street Journal.
This prompted me to think back to my childhood and I realized in that moment that I was apparently a really weird kid. You see, I would have rated Wall Street Journal much higher because I actually thought stock trading was, in fact, “cool”. If you were to travel back in time and dig through my collection of original Nintendo games, you would have found a “gem” of a game called “Wall Street Kid” (You can still actually find it and buy it on Amazon! Buy used to save some $$). Every time I had a friend over and they saw the game they got really confused. I would attempt to explain the game to them and they immediately tuned out and just popped in Super Mario Bros 3 which would end the conversation. Well, I have a blog now so I’m finishing that conversation once and for all…
With a retro video game review.
Trust me, it still counts as a personal finance article; I promise. Just hang in there with me.
So the premise of the game is that your long lost billionaire uncle just died and his Lawyer contacted you letting you know that you are the only living heir to his fortune. That’s you with the big smile on the left while hearing the news of your dead uncle. In case you didn’t already figure it out, you are kind of a jerk.
The lawyer further explains that there are conditions and you have to prove that you are worthy of handling this wealth in order to get it all. To do that you will simply need to grow a starting sum of $500,000 to about $8,000,000 over the course of four months by day trading in the stock market.
Lesson #1: Investing and compounding gains over time can grow your wealth
Think about how ridiculous that goal is. You need to grow your money 16x in four months or double your money each month. If that were at all realistic, you wouldn’t need your Uncle’s Billions to begin with. At that rate of return you could be a multi-billionaire in one year! See:
Luckily this goal is achievable because it starts at the beginning of the best bull run in all of video game history. The two main resources in the game are your money and your time. You have a limited amount of time to use to day trade, work out and spend time with your fiancée.
Almost forgot to mention. There are several ways you can lose the game:
- You fail at achieving one of your money related goals
- Your health gets so bad you can’t work
- Your fiancée is so unhappy with you that she leaves
Lesson #2: You need to achieve a balance between work, health and personal happiness.
Going all in on one or two of the three isn’t enough to succeed. Losing at one means losing at all. Happiness in this game’s simplistic terms means having a steady relationship. This means keeping this spoiled brat happy. Meet Priscilla:
Throughout the game she randomly calls you wanting to spend your money on various things like:
Spending money on these things takes away from your investment capital that you NEED in order to obtain your four month goal. Yet every week she calls you up with an urgent “NEED” to spend on completely optional WANTs.
Imagine yourself being a part of a couple in this situation. Wouldn’t you cut spending to near zero for a few short months in order to maximize your potential to be rewarded with Billions later? I remember as a kid getting angry when I got these phone calls while playing. Didn’t she realize we have much bigger things at stake here? She could have all the poodles she wants in 4 months but right now we have to buckle down and use every dollar to make many more!
Lesson #3: You need to be on the same page about shared goals with your partner
During these moments you have to make a choice between overspending on luxury items, selecting the cheaper option or just saying no completely to any purchase. After many play-throughs I figured out the game mechanics of the situation:
- If you spent big, you would accumulate a lot of happiness points with her.
- If you went for the cheaper option it would be a neutral impact to the hidden happiness points
- If you just said no you would lose happiness points. You get into enough negative points with her she just leaves and you lose the game.
Once I understood this. I was able to say no on every purchase knowing the consequences (Check out the sad face and verbal expression of disappointment in me.)
(No Priscilla! Even though we have 1.8 Million in stocks invested, we can’t afford that T.V.)
This was because there were other ways to repair the relationship by simply spending quality time with her. You had the option at any time to just blow off your day trading and spend your time with her. You could go on a picnic in the park and hang out. No cost associated with that. This trade of time actually could make up for any loss of money related happiness points. Priscilla was actually pretty happy with your time/attention when you weren’t buying her off with gifts.
Lesson #4: Spending quality time with your partner is a reasonable substitute for lavish gifts (Sorry FI Girl, this game ruined me early)
So then there is the actual draw to the game; the actual trading in the stock market. You get to make big numbers turn into bigger numbers by buying shares in companies you read about each game morning in the Wall Street Kid Journal. In fact that newspaper read is one of the only consistent ways to determine where the market in general is going in this game.
The game drops terms like “blue chips”, “dividends” and “cyclical” left and right. As an 8 year old playing the game it is not very intuitive. You learn through trial and error. As beginner I remember picking stocks at random and treating it more like a gambling simulator. This of course results in either losing your money or most likely not achieving the ridiculous goals set in front of you.
It was a game I shelfed after a burst of playing, but one I kept being drawn back to every year or so as I was growing up. I started to figure out the terminology and the relationship between the stories / editorials in the paper and the short term market. Sometimes the game would randomly throw you curveballs so while you would be able to do better overall by paying attention, there was still some risk in being wrong.
Lesson #5: Stock picking is a lot like gambling. You can lose and you can win. The more research you do the better off you are but there are no guarantees.
I didn’t realize it at the time when I was growing up, but this dumb little game actually influenced a few big choices in my life.
- I chose to go to business school because I wanted to learn more about investments.
- When I finally had money to invest, I wanted to actually understand what I was investing in rather than gambling by picking stocks without any knowledge.
- Finally I wanted to make sure I found someone who I was on the same page with in terms of life goals and aspire to have balance in my life e.g. work / health / happiness. (aka NOT Priscilla)
So the next time you think video games are only good for rotting your brain, think again! It could set you on the path to Financial Independence.
Game Rating: I give this game 4 out of 5 mad Priscilla’s