Personal branding assignment becomes online hit

An MBA student at the Schulich School of Business at Toronto’s York University has seen his marketing homework go viral. Cary Walkin, a 25-year-old chartered accountant who has spent his fair share of time working in Excel, has created a role-playing adventure game playable in Excel spreadsheets. Since being posted online, it has been downloaded […]

An MBA student at the Schulich School of Business at Toronto’s York University has seen his marketing homework go viral.

Cary Walkin, a 25-year-old chartered accountant who has spent his fair share of time working in Excel, has created a role-playing adventure game playable in Excel spreadsheets. Since being posted online, it has been downloaded half a million times and is getting worldwide coverage from the BBC, Gizmodo, and The Sydney Morning Herald.

The game, called Arena.Xlsm, came about as a result of a “Brand Yourself” assignment for his course on Entertainment Marketing and Culture.

Walkin, whose dream it is to work in the gaming industry, said he began Arena.Xlsm as a hobby, but realized he could apply it to the assignment. The assignment was designed to get students to create their own brand narrative and promote themselves online and through social media.

Walkin told Marketing he discovered he could create buttons within Excel spreadsheets, leading him to build a complex game featuring 31 magic spells and more than 2,000 enemies.

Arena.Xlsm was published on Walkin’s personal website on March 23, and then to a private forum. After it found its way to Reddit, things started to skyrocket, and more than 60 news organizations around the world have picked up the story.

Walkin has yet to make any money off Arena.Xlsm, but hopes to market it to a game development company in the near future. He said he envisions it working well on mobile devices and as a PC game. So far, it works on three PC versions of Excel (but Mac users are out of luck).

Walkin, who will be graduating in two weeks, said he will be receiving an A plus for the project, and hopes to never, ever go back to accounting.

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