Simply ‘Excel’-erating

August 16, 2023 | By Enrique Segura

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Love it or hate it, Microsoft Excel stands as one of the most renowned spreadsheet applications dominating the white-collar workplace.

Bundled within the quintessential Microsoft Office suite, Excel has solidified its role as crucial software for the modern workplace, seamlessly handling tasks like crunching numbers and managing pivot tables (whatever those are). But what was once a utilitarian spreadsheet editor has undergone an unexpected renaissance, escaping from office confines into uncharted territories like esports competitions, video game programming and even art. 

Let's get ready to rumble — er, perform a regression analysis

In 2020, the Financial Modeling World Cup hosted a Microsoft Excel competition for the first time. What exactly is an Excel competition? During eight rigorous stages, competitors navigated through real-life challenges like managing a forest investment fund. Bonus points were given to the competitors who completed the tasks correctly and ahead of time. Whoever scored the most points across the stages was given a prize pool of $10,000.  

Despite the unusual nature of the competition, a devoted following has sparked the internet, and the number of registrations for the competition has doubled. In turn, the prize pool has also grown in size, now reaching $25,000.  

Now the FMWC hosts a dedicated Excel esports tournament each year, attracting a growing number of spreadsheet enthusiasts. The event’s popularity has even led to coverage during ESPN’s annual “The Ocho” event, a special showcase for unconventional and lesser-known sports.  

'Excel’ in a new playground  

The software’s engine has also found its way into the hands of creative spreadsheet enthusiasts, leading to the recreation of famous video games. Just last year, a YouTuber took on the challenge to run Doom using Excel.

Other creators have also crafted their own versions of beloved games like Flappy Bird, Super Mario Bros. and even a tribute to Sid Meier’s Civilization, all brought to life using Excel.  

And while some may feel the results don’t rise to the level of professional art, there’s no denying there’s creativity at work, proving that Excel extends far beyond just formulas and graphs and is now a digital canvas for those who use the right side of the brain.

For example, Tatsuo Horiuchi has been using Excel to create incredible landscapes since 2006. By using vector drawing tools typically used for pie charts and bar graphs, Horiuchi can paint breathtaking vistas of rural Japan, including mountains, wheat fields, serene lakes and forests. 

Horiuchi’s pixel-powered creativity hasn’t gone unnoticed. His unusual approach to art has led him to be featured in art galleries and brought the recognition from people around the world for his unconventional tool of choice, mixed with his incredible artistry to transform cells into a living and colorful canvas.   

Embracing this new renaissance  

It took a little more than three decades for Microsoft Excel transform from a routine office tool to find a new life within the realms of esports, gaming and even art.

With Excel esports competitions a trend and computing capabilities increasing, it’s certainly exciting to ponder what other possibilities common tools may have for us in the future. Microsoft Word typing competitions? Power Point presentation contests? Only time will tell …  

Enrique Segura, senior specialist, digital marketing