Monday, March 16, 2009

Crouching Buzzard - Dot Com Startups

By the time this book was published in 2003, the Dot-Com bubble had burst.

But Mutant Wizards has all the feel of the ethusiastic, devil-may-care, not-following-a-standard-business-plan feeling that the Dot-Com startup companies had, with apparently unlimited money and no requirement to account for what they were doing with it.

(NASDAQ composite over time...)

I've seen a documentary on the Dot-Com bubble, that showed Dot-Com employees roller blading around the office, and buying the most expensive office furniture, just because they could. The employee perks offered by the Dot-Coms were (and are) infamous.

Mutant Wizards is different than the standard Dot-Com in that Rob's family is the source of his financing, not (gullible) venture capitalists. (Read that linked article - it's breathtaking. It's a Business Week venture capital article from February 2000, just as the bubble was peaking!)

The major difference between a real tech company and Mutant Wizards is that MW was nominally closed at night, and all the programmers went home. Real programmers have very little awareness of the sun cycle and tend to work non-stop for days at a time. "Going home after work" isn't really in their vocabulary.

With that in mind, it's easy to understand how the old role playing gamers would fit into that lifestyle. The RPGers also worked nonstop, for days at a time. (Entire weekends. We'd game for 36-48-72 hours straight, and only stop because all the characters in the party had died, or we all had classes to attend. We'd gather up our dice, shovel out most of the pizza boxes and soda cans, and shuffle off to where we needed to be.) That's how the early days of dot-com programming went.

So, when Meg goes back to the office in the middle of the night to map out the path the mail robot too, and found the employees gaming merrily in the lunch room, it's far more likely that they were taking a break, rather than meeting in the middle of the night!

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