Video Games

ARENA.XLSM – An RPG Playable in Excel

I’ll admit it, sometimes the urge to goof around at work during slow periods is a compelling one. But your boss, that taskmaster, wants you constantly be working or have the appearance of work. Procrastinators and shifty layabouts: your game has arrived. You can get your game on and appear to be productive simultaneously! ARENA.XLSM by Cary Walkin is a full RPG completely playable in a macro-enabled Excel 2007-2010.

PS4, weep in despair.

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Key Features

  • Random enemies: Over 2000 possible enemies with different AI abilities.
  • Random items: 39 item modifiers result in over 1000 possible item combinations and attributes.
  • An interesting story with 4 different endings depending on how the player has played the game.
  • 8 boss encounters, each with their own tactics.
  • 4 pre-programmed arenas followed by procedurally generated arenas. Each play-through has its own challenges.
  • 31 Spells. There are many different strategies for success.
  • 20 Unique items. Unique items have special properties and can only drop from specific enemies.
  • 37 Achievements.


I don’t see this as just being a way to goof off at work. The smartphone game does this better than any website possible. What I like about this is that it’s taking a piece of distinctly non-gaming technology, a spreadsheet program, and making a fully functioning game with some VB ninjitsu and clever design. He’s like a spreadsheet MacGuyver, jury rigging a Apple II to play an ASCII version of Doom.  As a tech writer who does a fair amount of spreadsheet work, I can truly appreciate the complexity of this. I didn’t even know you could make something this complex with Excel, other than EVE ONLINE microtrans and econ work (har har). This is someone thinking truly outside the box (or cell) on what software is meant to do, and what it’s capable of doing. ARENA.XLSM shows us how robust and inventive the Internet modding community can be. Much of the game content is procedurally generated as well. Wrap your mind around that one.  Sure, it looks a little obtuse, but you make a game completely in Excel and see how it turns out. Quick, someone port DWARF FORTRESS into Turbo Tax and have the honor of blowing my mind. Or you could play an RPG in Excel. That still blows my mind.

The only system requirements you need is a legit version of Windows macro-enabled Excel 2007-2010 and a download of the game. (Sorry, Mac users. No games for you. But that can’t be too much of a surprise, can it?) You can download it from Cary Walkin’s website. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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The Author

Carl Wilhoyte

Carl Wilhoyte

Carl Wilhoyte is the Video Games Editor of a class warrior poet who writes about all things video games. He's sure everything is not under control and is not going to be okay. For a good time, follow his angry rants and smart thoughts on Twitter: @carlwilhoyte.