When you think back to middle school, staying up all night with your friends playing video games, what game are you playing? That is it Block effect? Perhaps some repetition of break or Mario Kart? An adult when I was that age was Street Warrior II in all its iterations. But there’s another game that brings back the most vivid memories and it’s downright stupid: Wall Street kid for the NES.
Russ, my friend and I love JRPGs, and the Wall Street Kid fits the bill, I guess. After finishing another play of Final Fantasy II (now properly called ) FFIV) on our brand new SNES, we’ll be switching to the older Nintendo system to get into rudimentary casino capitalism. Honestly, this game was a lot harder than leveling up Cecil, Rosa, and Kain, and I vividly remember throwing away my rectangular controller when I didn’t get a million dollars to buy one. beginner’s house, accidentally spilled a two liter Pepsi bottle. It’s three o’clock in the morning.
Wall Street Kid is an incredibly strange game, and I always feel vaguely disgusted when I remember that it exists. Released in Japan in 1989 as Money Game II: Kabutochou no Kiseki and in North America the following year, this title celebrates wealth and its accumulation while offering enough humorous commentary to let you know we’re all getting in on the joke. Maybe.
But the world has changed a lot over the past 30 years. The investment tycoon’s image is not entirely blindly worshiped, especially afterThe Wolf of Wall Street, post-housing crisis, post-bank failure, and all the rest. That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of people trying to be the Kids of Wall Street, or the equivalent in the crypto or venture capital game. So I’m curious: how does it feel to play the part of the Wall Street Boy today, in the Year of the Lord 2023?
Weird. It feels weird.
At the start of the game, you’re told that your rich uncle has just passed away leaving you his $600 billion fortune—but only if you can demonstrate money management. its stock market. You have $500,000 up front to invest and a one-month deadline to earn enough to buy “a $1 million home”. You know, your standard starting house. If this isn’t outrageous enough, I can point out that $1 million in 1990 would equal $2,321,063.50 today.
But wait a minute! After you’ve repaired your upper and completed some other major purchases, the final game is to buy back the family castle. Sure, why not.
Alright, let’s dive in! Each day in the Wall Street Kid’s game begins with a stock report in the newspaper, telling you which stocks are doing well and some attractive investments. Through a point-and-click interface, you then spend your cash buying stocks with names like YBM and Boing, which reflect real companies that were popular at the time, or sell what you have and reinvest. There are a few more activities (more on this in a bit), and then you can press the clock to end your day and see how your portfolio is doing.
When you’re playing the part of an investor who buys and sells stocks based on day-to-day trends rather than whatever is inherent in the companies they represent, you can’t escape the feeling that the economy as a whole. Our story revolves around guys trying to double their money in 30 days to buy a luxury home. That’s not a good feeling.
Between buying and selling stocks for your first million, your character also has to take care of his physical health and that of his fiancée, Prisila. (Yes, that’s how they spell it.) Ignoring either of these will result in end-game status.
Prisila adds some extra raw dimensions to the game. First, presenting your relationship as a task to be done is… not cool. The purely transactional nature of your dates is highlighted by the specificity of dialogue like “I’m really going to enjoy these four hours.” But then there is the deeply problematic dynamics of the relationship itself. Prisila regularly asks our hero to buy her things – a dog, a car, an engagement ring – and miss these opportunities risking losing the game. We don’t see our protagonist and Prisila together, we don’t get a glimpse of their lives; she really exists only as a price to pay in terms of time and resources, rendered in the old-fashioned misogyny of men who hate their wives.
After you’ve bought your million-dollar home, the first thing you need to do – unless you’ve done very well so far in the game – is mortgage it for an $800,000 loan so you can continue. continue to buy. and sell, go back to the hamster wheel for your next big purchase. A yacht, if you’re wondering, for your wedding. Again, this game drops the value of everything into the possibility of creating more value. To be fair, that’s a pretty accurate description of late-stage capitalism. What is a home if not a “property?” Literally we use “property” as a synonym for where we sleep.
No, none of this came to my mind in the early 1990s.
In fact, I understand why I loved the Wall Street Kid as a teenager. It’s like a caricature of the American dream, where pointing and clicking in the right sequence opens up wealth beyond imagination. The mechanics of choosing your investments and then tapping the clock to end your day gives you both the satisfaction of choices and the haste to surrender to the whims of fate . In an age where fewer adults play video games, it’s like a window into what older adults can play. The Wall Street Kid felt, somehow, cool.
Wall Street Kid means longing. It’s just a game, yes, and one that seems to be very conscious of its animation. But it’s a game at least nominally based on the real world, and it’s a game that wants you want things. Friend want luxury house. Friend want to make your lovely girlfriend happy. Friend want to become a millionaire – check it out, billionaire. And there is always more to want.
However, when I re-watch The Wall Street Kid as an adult, I’m almost a little sad because this is still how many people see the world – stocks as a bet rather than an investment, family life as an obligation that must be checked off the list – and distressed to the extent that our real-world economy is gamified.
But I’m also excited by how far we’ve come. “This can’t be done today” is often a complaint and to any degree completely false – a lot of bad things continue to come to light. But the Wall Street Kid is almost certain will not done today, at least not in the same way. First, modern systems allow for a lot more complexity – I can imagine myself having fun with a GameStonkstype duties, and instead of a one-way fiancé, there may be personality-like romantic music – but moreover, I think the material will be treated differently.