SnappyGames is a group of people who met at the London Random Hacks Of Kindness event in December 2011. We got together on a weekend to develop an educational computer game targeted at teenagers, and designed specifically for use in classrooms. The game allows students to explore the complexities and uncertainties involved in purchase decisions, and how these decisions can affect their long-term financial stability.
"All or Bust" is an interactive, multi-user computer simulation that can be used as a teaching tool in classrooms. Using a network of tablet computers and large displays, students can learn together in teams, while a teacher can observe their progress and moderate discussions. This pedagogical model and the technical framework were taken from an existing gaming platform called 4Decades. 4Decades was developed by Stefan Kreitmayer and has been used in management training for business leaders.
In the current version of the game, players can choose for a range of consumer products whether they prefer to pay them upfront or pay by credit. To inform this decision making, the tablets provide players with a forecast of how any decision will impact their financial situation in the next year. This short-term forecast allows players to try out, compare and evaluate various options before committing to a decision. However, since the game progresses over several decades of players' lives, players need to think ahead. Coming up with good long-term strategies is a process of creative problem solving that encourages players to draw on a variety of resources and skills. Resources include
- their personal subject matter knowledge
- their personal expectations about how the simulation reflects reality
- each other's knowledge and expectations
While discussing in-game decisions, teams use and practice their communication skills, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.
Financial illiteracy is a major problem worldwide. The UK is the country in Europe with the highest level of consumer debt and there is an acute need for education. According to the Royal Bank of Scotland, half of UK 16 year olds do not know the difference between a debit card and a credit card.
There is great potential for interactive, collaborative learning experiences to resolve some of the deficits in financial literacy. Classrooms are a good place for these experiences, as they provide powerful resources that learners can interact with: peers, teachers and technology.
The challenge for educators, designers, finance experts and developers is to find ways to bring these resources into synergy.
We narrowed down on a particular question that we want to help students get their heads around: "What difference does it make for me in the long run whether I pay stuff upfront or by credit?"
1. In order to provide a realistic account of the problem, we identified the essential financial principles the game needs to include.
2. To link these principles up into a meaningful, interactive learning experience, we explored various possible game mechanics. We explored which parameters should be made available for the users to change, and what time frames are meaningful and interesting.
3. Once we identified a promising core structure, we began to collect representative data for the simulation. E.g. what are realistic conditions for buying a phone, television, car, etc... in installments.
4. Simultaneously, we started designing the user interface for the game. This involved deciding for each piece of relevant information how and where it should be represented. For example, should players be able to see and compare each other's credit rating on the classroom projection screen? What information should be visualised graphically vs numerically or as text? What variables are most interesting to track over time?
5. We built a crude, very preliminary interactive prototype to test and iterate on our idea of the game mechanics.
6. We wrapped up the work of two days in a nice presentation.
Minor improvements to the prototype, more mind mapping, planning, sketching, networking....
MyBnk has expressed interest in collaborating with us. We are absolutely excited about this.
We are planning to get together with potential users, i.e. educators who are interested in integrating the game in their classroom teaching.
Their experience and judgement will be vital in the upcoming design and testing stages.