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Do not be alarmed What you have just experienced was a metaphor It was not the real thing (The real thing comes later) I use metaphors a lot in this book A metaphor is a loose comparison drawn between something familiar (such as a Saturday morning laundry list) and something unfamiliar (such as a computer program) The idea is to anchor the unfamiliar in the terms of the familiar, so that when I begin tossing facts at you, you'll have someplace comfortable to lay them down The most important thing for you to do right now is keep an open mind If you know a little bit about computers or programming, don't pick nits Yes, there are important differences between a homemaker following a scribbled laundry list and a computer executing a program I'll mention those differences all in good time For now, it's still 1 Take these initial metaphors on their own terms Later on, they'll help a lot
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"There's a reason bored and board are homonyms," said my best friend Art one evening, as we sat (two super-sophisticated twelve-year-olds) playing some game in his basement (He may have been unhappy because he was losing) Was it Mille Bornes Or Stratego Or Monopoly Or something else entirely I confess, I don't remember I simply recall hopping some little piece of plastic shaped like a pregnant bowling pin up and down a series of colored squares that told me to do dumb things like go back two spaces or put $100 in the pot or nuke Outer Mongolia Outer Mongolia notwithstanding, there are strong parallels to be drawn between that peculiar American obsession, the board game, and assembly-language programming First of all, everything we said before still holds: Board games, by and large, consist of a progression of steps and tests In some games, such as Trivial Pursuit, every step on the board is a test: to see if you can answer, or not answer, a question on a card In other board games, each little square on the board contains some sort of instruction: Lose One Turn; Go Back Two Squares; Take a Card from Community Chest; and, of course, Go to Jail Certain board games made for some lively arguments between Art and myself (it was that or be bored, as it were) concerning what it meant to Go Forward or Backward Five Steps It seemed to me that you should count the square you were already on, and Art, traditionalist always, thought you should start counting with the first step in the direction you had to go This made a difference in the game, of course (I conveniently forgot to press my point when doing so would land me on something like Park Place with 15 of Art's hotels on it )
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To avoid getting in serious trouble, I have invented my own board game to continue down the road with this particular metaphor In the sense that art mirrors life, the Game of Big Bux mirrors life in Silicon Valley, where money seems to be spontaneously created (generally in somebody else's pocket) and the three big Money Black Holes are fast cars, California real estate, and messy divorces A portion of the Big Bux Game Board is shown in Figure 11 The line of rectangles on the left side of the page continues all the way around the board In the middle of the board are cubbyholes to store your play money and game pieces; stacks of cards to be read occasionally; and short detours with such names as Messy Divorce and Start a Business, which are brief sequences of the same sort of action rectangles as those forming the path around the edge of the board
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Figure 11: The Game of Big Bux Unlike many board games, you don't throw dice to determine how many steps around the board you take Big Bux requires that you move one step forward on each turn, unless the square you land on instructs you to move forward or backward or go somewhere else, such as through a detour This makes for a considerably less random game In fact, Big Bux is a pretty deterministic game, meaning that whether you win or lose is far less important than just going through the ringer and coming out the other side (Again, this mirrors Silicon Valley, where you come out either bankrupt or ready to flee to Peoria and open a hardware store That other kind of hardware) There is some math involved You start out with one house, a cheap car, and $50,000 in cash You can buy CDs at a given interest rate, payable each time you make it once around the board You can invest in stocks and other securities whose value is determined by a changeable index in economic indicators, which fluctuates based on cards chosen from the stack called the Fickle Finger of Fate You can sell cars on a secondary market, buy and sell houses, and wheel and deal with the other players Each time you make it once around the board you have to recalculate your net worth All of this involves some addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, but there's no math more complex than compound interest Most of Big Bux involves nothing more than taking a step and following the instructions at each step Is this starting to sound familiar
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