The K5M 25-Share Bracket Challenge

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As many shareholders know we love betting, and there is no greater gambling event in America than March Madness. So, in the spirit of Warren Buffett, who is sponsoring a billion dollar prize for a perfect bracket, we’re launching our own tournament for the shareholders.

The K5M 25 Share Bracket Challenge

We are offering a prize of 25 shares to whoever wins the K5M 25 Share Bracket Challenge. Additionally we will give one share to any bracket that beats our own best bracket!

We’ll be using the Yahoo! Fantasy Sports system with Fibonacci scoring. Everyone can set up two brackets, allowing for both an aggressive and conservative attempt. Each bracket that beats our best bracket will be awarded a share (so it’s possible to win two shares) with the exception of the winning bracket, which will receive a 25 share prize.

Sign Up Here

You will not automatically be entered into Warren Buffett’s Billion Bracket game, but you should also sign up for that in case your bracket is perfect. Just think of all the shares you could buy…

More information on the Shareholder Forums.

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Oskar On Assignment: Central Bank Video Games

Euro Cash Academy

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This game has the music you would hear in a Safeway commercial. I am happy that someone was paid to make these illustrations, but the animation of the the Europa character’s mouth moving was just creepy because it didn’t match the words she was speaking. Kind of an uncanny valley-type creepy. The game starts off forcing you to watch a boringly shot video and then quizzing you on the new Euro banknotes.

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Then you are able to learn more about the features of the note by twirling around in a panorama of a European town, finding informational pop-ups sort of like a drab advent calendar with no yummy chocolates. The music also became aggressively cheery and after about a minute of listening to the 16-bar loop I quickly closed the window. I felt sad that I wasn’t able to play their much cooler looking Tetris game but they appear to have taken it down.

Escape From Barter Islands

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A very simple puzzle game where you are marooned in an archipelago and need to trade oranges for a sail to escape. The first two islands you go to have barter economies which makes the game somewhat challenging. Much like a maze you have to find what sequence of trades will get you to the next island, all before the sun goes down. I liked that the sun actually progressed across the sky as you traded on each island rather than a simple countdown, but the art style was definitely not my favorite.

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On the third island they trade everything for coconuts, which makes trading for your sail as easy as two trades. The lesson here being that currency helps expedite the process of fixing merchant ships and other transactions besides. An easy game, a simple message.

€conomia

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The first thing that impressed me about this game was the music, unlike the Cash Academy it was actually listenable! The point of this game is something like a soccer management game (which I’ve never understood the appeal for) except you play as a central bank; changing the key interest rate to try and keep inflation down and at a steady 2%. You can check in with advisors, most of whom are hilarious looking, look at indicators, or read fake news headlines to help plan your next move.

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The animations were clean and the interface could have used only minor improvements, but what I was impressed by was the leaderboards which actually gave the player an incentive to win the game. I played this multiple times to try and win, and learned not only about the key interest rate but that I would make a lousy head of a central bank.

Fed Chairman Game

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This was a lousier version of it’s Europian counterpart, €conomia. I’d be interested to learn which game came out first because of how similar they are, down to the newspaper headlines idea. It had no music except for a few jarring sound effects, it’s interface and font were pretty run of the mill, and I think it used Microsoft Word clip art for the intro picture. I was severely unimpressed.

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Top Floor

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Another quiz game from the European Central Bank, same as €conomia, and Euro Cash Academy. The animations were incredibly slick, but there’s no real way to get me excited for what is basically a glorified SAT-style test on the European banking industry.

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I was immediately disappointed that due to an issue with the browser or the coding of the game it wouldn’t properly fit in my window, I learned later that my mission was to deliver important documents to the council of the bank and on the elevator ride answer questions Cash Cab-style to earn the papers for my bosses. The intro music was very repetitive but still better than the uninspired muzak of the Cash Academy, and the people that kept rushing into my elevator were as vaguely hilarious as the characters in €conomia. Again the top scores were recorded which makes the player have a reason for answering quickly instead of relying on the lifeline telephone for the answers.

Monetary Policy Balloon

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Honestly I was surprised that a game with this little effort put into it would be the most entertaining to play. Like €conomia and the excitingly named Fed Chairman Game, Balloon serves to teach the player that the interest rate and inflation are inversely related. And it does so pretty quickly when you realize to make the balloon (inflation) go up you use the down arrow.

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Now, this game is not without it’s flaws. Firstly, the design is utterly abysmal, the font is Comic San’s utilitarian half-brother. Taking a page out of Escape From Barter Islands’ book they used simplistic art style to make it look bright and fun, which unfortunately made it look slapdash and uninspired. Lastly, the narration made me feel sorry for the English dude forced to read that script on a soundstage somewhere, their plan was to use rainclouds and factories as metaphors for economic crises and booms respectively, but the guy sounded so dreary I played the next few games with the sound off. It could have had some music, but seeing their font choice I shudder to think what they would have used.

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Hobbies Of A Capitalist: The Skateboard

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Oskar On Assignment: Heather Vescent

1175741_10153147275370580_1589344474_nHeather Schlegel is a futurist and social scientist with a background as a writer and entrepreneur. Her current project is to produce a mini-series on the future of money. She funded a small amount of it through Kickstarter, which helped her better understand through participation the burgeoning field of crowd funding. Strangely though, 90% of her donations through Kickstarter were from people she already knew. Calling it an “ATM to tap your social capital” she says she now has a “a monetary value of what [her] social network is worth.” This ties in with her idea that the new financial paradigm is one where “non-financial data is layered on top of financial transactions.” Examples of this would be the reputation of a business on Yelp or the ideologies associated with Bitcoin which makes using the currency an “act of financial activism.” Schlegel does not see us moving away from using physical money, rather that more information will be tracked and available to help better understanding something’s overall value.

Other pieces of this paradigm shift are diverse currencies and ways of transferring money. There are already many cryptocurrencies as alternatives to Bitcoin such as Litecoin, Dogecoin, and Quarkcoin. In one of Heather’s short films, “Fly Me to the Moon,” a waiter prefers his tip to be in credits for space travel that function like frequent flyer miles. A currency like Bitcoin which can be transferred for no additional cost is beneficial because it changes the role that banks and consumers play in the market. Already companies like Dwolla and M-Pesa (popular in Kenya) are making payment simpler, and sites like Kiva are changing how loans work. Schlegel says banks have a role to play in the future, “how big a role depends on them.” She encourages these companies and currencies and predicts they will increase as a corrective result of our economic crises; “in the wake of 2008, there are flaws to the international monetary system which must be corrected by innovation … [there is a] flawed dichotomy that either the whole system is working great, or the whole system collapses suddenly. In reality, complex systems evolve over time, and new players and behaviors emerge. That’s what we’re seeing all over the place now.”

Sources:
* http://techcrunch.com/2013/11/27/keen-on-the-future-of-money-kickstarter-and-the-bitcoin-climax/
* https://medium.com/i-m-h-o/54c0070a03c2
* https://www.wfs.org/futurist-interviews/interview-heather-schlegel-future-money
* http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/05/the-next-money-as-the-big-economies-falter-micro-currencies-rise/257216/

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Mike vs. The Creator

The most interesting part of playing a game is the learning of How It All Works (this is what I find interesting in real life too). Once I figure out How It All Works (which sadly is really only achievable in a game) I will play for a while as The Creator intended. But to be honest, that gets boring. Once the intent of The Creator is known then the actions that lead to success no longer contain creativity.

This is why I tend to love, but rarely complete, sandbox games. I know The Creator wants me to go to a place and do an action. The Creator keeps reminding me that I should do that. But that is not what I want to do, and while I believe The Creator is good, I am not interested in following the script The Creator laid out. If The Creator wants that action done so badly, why not just make that action happen? Why the illusion that I have a choice in the matter? A good game, like real life, should be interactive. I should be allowed to fail a number of different ways without dying and eventually find some weird way to succeed. Maybe it’s not the best way. The best way was probably scoped out by The Creator when the world was built. Maybe it’s in fact, the worst possible way to succeed. Possibly it does not even meet the requirements for success. Perhaps I even failed!

What I find the most boring, in games and in life, is to be presented with a problem that has only one obvious solution. I am not the man for that job. I want to be presented not with a problem, but an objective, and given tools that may or may not help me achieve that objective. What I don’t want is to feel like The Creator is breathing down my neck telling me what to do all the time. The Creator should be building a world and letting me inhabit it.

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