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Madoff: Grand Theft Wall Street

Okay, I have an idea for a new video game that I think would sell very well. And no, it's not Fuck Fuck Revolution this time (which sadly, we never followed through with... if I thought I would actually follow through on this one, then I wouldn't post this publicly.)

First, some background on 3 other games that may be relevant...

EA Sports has a highly successful console video game called Madden, named after Pro Football hall of famer John Madden. Highly realistic football simulation.

Rockstar Games has a highly successful console video game called Grand Theft Auto, where you drive around in stolen vehicles, battle the cops, steal more cars, and take on various criminal jobs assigned to you by NPC's in the game.

Parker Brothers (owned by Hasboro) has a highly successful board game called Monopoly, which according to the Guinness Book of World Records, over 500 million people have played. The most commercially successful game in US history, Hasboro claims the game was invented by Charles Darrow during the Great Depression. Others (such as Wikipedia) claim that an earlier version of the game called "The Landlord's Game" was developed by Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips in 1904, and Charles Darrow based Monopoly heavily on that. Lizzie Phillips' stated purpose of the game was to illustrate the shortcomings of concentrating land in private monopolies. According to some, Hasboro has deliberately suppressed the original history of the game... but regardless of where it started first, the reason its popularity skyrocketed during the Great Depression is clear. The country was becoming disillusioned with some of the cutthroat winner-takes-all practices of pure capitalism, and was begging FDR to fix the problems. Monopoly was essentially an educational tool and a propaganda tool which helped expose people to what can happen when large corporations and landowners are unchecked by regulations--namely, monopolies form. And if history is an indicator, it worked pretty well.

So what does all this have to do with today? Well, people are starting to get disillusioned with Structured Finance, or at least unregulated structured finance. Yesterday, Bernie Madoff pled guilty to 11 counts of financial fraud, and admitted to stealing over $50-billion from investors.

Madoff was not some obscure, shady, small time Ponzi schemer... he was one of the most highly respected bigshots on Wall Street, former chairman of the board of NASDAQ. Here are some incredible things he said regarding regulation in October 2007, before anyone suspected he was conning everyone since the early 90's or even possibly the 80's:



"I'm very close with the regulators, so I'm not trying to say what they do is bad... as a matter of fact, my niece just married one!" (then from the audience, "my condolences"... chuckle)
...
"They tend to look at the industry as if... if you're making a profit, there's something wrong. Even though, intellectually they know that shouldn't be."

Here's another clip from the same interview, where he talks more about his view on regulations, and how his philosophy is to try to have as few people involved in the trading as possible (a team of 7, rather than 40 or more if it weren't as automated) and let computers handle it... the purpose being, in his words, that people aren't as honest as computers and that "we haven't figured out a way yet" to make the computers cheat customers. Also very ironic, he says "[In today's regulatory environment] it's impossible for a violation to go undetected. Certainly not for a considerable period of time.":

(the real reason that he wanted as few people involved as possible, it seems retrospectively, is because it would have increased the chance that someone honest would get involved and rat him out)

He pitched his fund as being very secure, the kind of thing that is good to put your retirement money in... something that will give a steady return rather than huge growth and high risk. For this reason, he got a large number of charities to invest, some of which had to shut down entirely after it came out that the money they put in was gone. Others looked at the long list of charities and figured it was even more safe... because after all, who would stoop to cheating a charity? One billionaire who lost everything hung himself after realizing he had been screwed by Madoff. All along, he was making fake trades and pretending the fund was growing while really, he was just getting more people to invest and using the new money to pay off anyone who wanted to get their money out.

Board games are kind of out of date now, but video games are in. Grand Theft Auto has been a huge success. So I propose the next big hit video game should be "Madoff" subtitled "Grand Theft Wall Street". The object of the game is simple... you're a bigshot in charge of a wall street firm and you want to make a pile of money in any way you can. You have to deal with the investors on the one hand, and the regulators from the SEC on the other hand. If you get caught, you lose... and if people start taking their money out of your firm you also lose. It would also be kind of similar to a "Sim" game, since you are managing the growth of a real fund (or set of funds), with a variety of different inputs and possibilities at every turn. Could it turn into a classic like Monopoly, but for the 21st Century?

P.S.: Just out of curiosity, to see if anyone had capitalized on this idea already, I did a search for Madoff Game, but I didn't find anything relevant. I did, however, find the limited edition Madoff Action Figure!

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
euneeblic
Mar. 14th, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
What? No shooting? What fun is that?! :P
easwaran
Mar. 14th, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC)
Board games have definitely been coming back in the past decade, though Germany has been the epicenter of the action. We've been benefiting from the ones that do get translated though. (Settlers of Catan is perhaps the flagship of the trend.)
lyrabanks
Mar. 21st, 2009 08:52 am (UTC)
Madoff 2009: Grand Theft Wallstreet

Madoff 2010: Grand Ass Raping?

I like this franchise already!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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