Learn the Ways of the Financial World through Video Games

Two boys play video games while sitting on a couch.
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Video games offer a way to escape and have a little fun. But did you know they can also act as tools for financial education?

This could be as simple as teaching kids about budgeting, but could also influence a career in the finance world.

We’ll look at how some existing games simulate real-world economic scenarios as well as possibilities for future games that can turn head-scratching financial questions into no-brainers.

Popular Games that Teach Kids About Money

A lot of mainstream video games include a money management concept. They have in-game currencies, so players have to find ways to earn more money and use it sensibly to level up. Players can also use the money to buy items and upgrades via in-game marketplaces. This can teach children about saving and budgeting in a fun way.

Other games introduce kids and adults alike to the world of startup businesses. For example, Stardew Valley allows the user to start a farm and grow whatever they like to earn the most profit each year. The more activities the user does during each virtual day, the more money they earn. So, we also have a lesson in positive work ethic.

Investing also plays a part in certain games by encouraging players to buy items at a low price to sell them for more down the line. This concept is especially prevalent in sports games that simulate real-life transfer markets. The highly popular Animal Crossing franchise even has a stock market.

10 Games that Help Improve Financial Literacy

  1. Animal Crossing
  2. Stardew Valley
  3. EA Sports FC (FIFA)
  4. Roblox
  5. The Sims
  6. Tropico
  7. No Man’s Sky
  8. StarCraft
  9. Slime Rancher
  10. NBA 2K

Case Study: Animal Crossing and Financial Education

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one of the best examples of a video game teaching kids about money. It makes money-making tasks fun and encourages players to repeat these tasks over and over again.

Animal Crossing can help to improve financial literacy in four key ways.

1. Avoiding Debt

Tom Nook is an important character in the Animal Crossing world, running the all-important village store. Players purchase items from the store to expand their home and get what they need to do tasks to advance in the game. However, these upgrades come at a cost.

If players don’t have the money for a new item, they can purchase it on credit and pay Tom Nook back. They may accumulate large amounts of debt and create a whole new set of obstacles. To avoid stunting their progression, players learn to live within their means. They learn to purchase new items when they have earned enough money to do so.

2. Savings and Loan Repayments

If they rack up debt, players are forced to pay loan repayment, so they have to save money to pay what they owe. This teaches younger players to put money aside rather than spending it all at once, getting them into the habit of saving their money.

3. Interest

Loans in Animal Crossing accrue interest. It pays off to pay back as soon as possible. This is definitely a real-life concept that can teach children the pros and cons of taking out a loan.

4. Trading/ Business

Animal Crossing’s built-in stock market is called the Stalk Market. Players have to make sensible virtual investments to earn more money. This system also introduces players to commodities, and some resources are worth more than others. Consider it an early dive into the markets we can’t avoid as adults. It outlines the basics of how to trade options, invest in stocks and overall manage securities.

The online marketplace also allows players to pick selling strategies that maximize profit. For example, there are certain fish and vegetables in Animal Crossing that have high values. It could benefit them to focus on these products over lesser valued products. However, they may choose to focus on accumulating a large amount of lower-value products, which are easier and quicker to collect. It’s their choice.

The Future of Video Games and Financial Education

There is a developing market of online games that are specifically designed to teach people of all ages financial concepts. It could be simple budgeting strategies or more advanced concepts like investing.

An example of this is the free-to-play, award-winning business simulation game Venture Valley. It was developed by the Singleton Foundation, Discovery Education and Dubit. This game, aimed at students, has “greatly enhanced students’ education about business and entrepreneurship” according to a recent survey.

Gamification and Financial Literacy: What’s Next?

The future of financial education is an exciting one, especially when its delivery includes gaming. However, there still is some fine tuning left to do.

Scott Chow, educator and founder of The Blog Starter, said the concept of gamification in financial education is “something students have tried and tested.”

“A boring 2,000-word blog post can be turned into two concise 500-word lessons with visualizations, plus a quiz. It’s all about thinking outside the box and not being limited by the seriousness of finance as a topic,” he said.

Virtual reality is also well on its way to being part of the conversation. It’s becoming even more advanced and widely available.

VR can simulate real-world scenarios and give students challenges to overcome. AI will also be able to create personalized learning programs tailored to the user.

Challenges for Video Game-Based Financial Learning

Games can improve the delivery of financial education, but one challenge is designing games that fully engage the user. Finance-based games often are considered too complicated or too simple. This means developers must strike a balance to appeal to more people.

Accessibility is another factor because of the price of game consoles and high-end computers. Games will need to work across a wide range of platforms, from smartphones to the latest console. This can bump up the cost and duration of game-based finance education projects.

Gaming Your Way to Better Money Management 

Games are becoming an increasingly popular method of financial education, especially with the younger crowd. Whether it is a financially based game or a mainstream one with some financial concepts sprinkled in, kids are benefitting from the alternative option.

Although the landscape faces hurdles in terms of accessibility and usability, it is an exciting market that can play a key role in training the entrepreneurs and business leaders of the future.

New York contributor Kiara Taylor specializes in financial literacy and financial technology subjects. She is a corporate financial analyst.