January 6 2011|07.34 AM UTC

Samantha Eckles

7 Video Games That Provide Financial Life Lessons

Category: Personal Finance

Gamers know what skills they’re learning from video games, but sometimes the rest of the world doesn’t understand the fixation on gaming. Some games teach driving, others promote fitness, while other popular games teach groups how to work as a team, sing, dance, and play guitars (well, sort of). Here is a list of seven games which teach players valuable financial life lessons.

1. PAPERBOY

The Game:

This is a video game about your first job, back when jobs were innocent and carefree. How sweet was that first paycheck, back when you were young? Sure, in Paperboy you have to deal with obstacles, like cats jumping out at you, and old man Farley getting up in your grill, but that just added to the drama and excitement of feeling like an adult.

The Financial Life Lesson Provided:

A simple concept, yet we spend a lifetime in search of it: pick a job you enjoy. Could you imagine playing a game revolving around your current job? Where you sit in a cubicle and make sales calls to people who don’t want to talk, get bitched-out by your manager for surfing the web, and drink eleven cups of coffee a day just to feel normal? Can you imagine how much that would suck? Kudos, Paperboy, for giving us a vision of a world where earning a paycheck can be fun.

2. OREGON TRAIL

The Game:

A staple in elementary classrooms, the mission of the game is to get your family to Oregon where the promise of a better life awaits. Many obstacles await on the frontier, including disease, foul weather, and famine. Your job is to allocate funds as best you can to continue the journey and stave off catastrophes.

The Financial Life Lesson Provided:

This provides basic money management skills, put into survival scenarios. The food, medicine, guns, ammo, oxen, and firewater (ok, maybe not that last one) you spend money on are all important. Throw off the balance between these categories by just a few dollars, and it could mean an early death for you and your party.

3. WORLD OF WARCRAFT

The Game:

This multi-player game is excellent for those who struggle with social skills. It teaches players about a fantasy universe, creativity, warfare, and bizarre acronyms like MMORPGs. Using an avatar, players explore, create, build, conquer, and learn about different realms.

The Financial Life Lesson Provided:

WoW teaches players fiscal responsibility through teamwork and paying dues to your guild. Buying and trading with gold is one way to learn about credit and cash, so that users will be prepared to face the archaic and elusive language of financial experts in the real world.

4. FARMVILLE

The Game:

This wonderful game that has reinvigorated a generation of Facebook users also teaches life skills. From community building to community service, charitable gift-giving to saving, working, and reaping what you sow, this is a game that allows users to learn and grow within a network of like-minded nerds.

The Financial Life Lesson Provided:

From buying eggplants to paying for expensive gifts to send to friends, Farmville has many financial life lessons to teach. Players must work hard on their farm to earn cash, shaking trees, tilling, planting, picking, and selling items that are no longer useful. This game also allows users to buy FV, or Farmville cash, at Wal-Mart, 7-11, and elsewhere, which can be used for special items (making this game a financial lesson that crosses into real life).

5. SOUTH PARK TOWER DEFENSE

The Game:

In South Park Tower Defense the player must use snowballs to fend of hippies, gnomes, old people, ginger kids (redheads), and other evil enemies, like sixth graders. The game provides different towers, which are more or less effective depending upon the target.

The Financial Life Lesson Provided:

In order to defeat the enemies, let alone the big bosses like General Disarray, a player must strategize and spend the hard-earned gold coins carefully. The towers come in different prices and levels of effectiveness, so the user learns how to balance a budget and meet long term financial goals.

6. SONIC THE HEDGEHOG

The Game:

In this game, the title character must go on a quest to stop the evil Dr. Robotnik from taking control of his beloved home, South Island. Scattered around each level map are gold rings. Collecting 100 rings rewards the player with an extra life. Rings act as a layer of protection against hazards—if Sonic possesses at least one ring, an enemy attack will not kill him instantly, but will cause his rings to scatter outwards and bounce away from him.

The Financial Life Lesson Provided:

Insurance, baby. The gold coins are like any kind of real world insurance—put a little money (gold coins) in so you don’t lose everything (in the game, your life). Only, in the game version, you don’t have to sit across the desk of an agent with a bad comb-over and chronic halitosis in order to get the insurance.

7. GRAND THEFT AUTO

The Game:

Each game in this series allows players to take on the role of a criminal in a big city, typically an individual who rises through the ranks of organized crime during the game. The player is given various missions by kingpins in the city underworld, which must be completed to progress through the storyline. And you get to crash into some pretty cool stuff.

The Financial Life Lesson Provided:

The harder you work for something, the more it is worth. Naturally, you appreciate and value that which you had to earn. Grand Theft Auto is the flip side of that coin. You don’t feel guilty about crashing an $80,000 Mercedes, because, heck, you just stole it three minutes ago, and, frankly, it wasn’t that hard to steal.

On second thought, this game might actually be bad for some people’s financial acumen. That being said, you do learn the repercussions for stealing in these games, and knowing the value of earned money vs. stolen money is very important.

CONCLUSION

There you have it, gaming freaks. Play these games and then go forth and be fruitful and multiply. Just don’t forget your roots. As you’re making strides in the financial world, always remember that your old friend, the video game, got you there. Video games—is there anything they can’t do?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Mulletbum January 7, 2011 at 6:41 am

Harvest Moon isn’t on the list? Can’t trust this list!

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Tats January 10, 2011 at 12:34 am

Agreed!

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Telengard January 8, 2011 at 5:45 pm

What about “Rags to Riches” on the Commodore 64? I am pretty sure that game is more legit about teaching financial responsibility than GTA.

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free January 9, 2011 at 1:57 am

Yes, The GRAND THEFT AUTO is my favorite game.

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Sean January 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm

There are a lot of games you missed that actually simulate a market economy and as such can be incredibly good at teaching these financial life lessons. Take for example: EVE Online. The game itself it outright designed to be a (99%) player driven market ecosystem all on a server with thousands and thousands of people on. I honestly can’t think of a game that should be on this list more.

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Samantha Eckles January 18, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Sean and everyone else who’s commented, thanks for your feedback! It’s true: lots of video games provide financial life lessons.

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Hellwing January 9, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Where is starcraft? You must always keep your money low!!!

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Anonymous January 10, 2011 at 9:57 am

I thought for sure SimCity would make the list.

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Chips January 13, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Hmm, Sonic the Hedgehog teaches you how to be wasteful more than anything else. Games that should have been included:

1. Wall Street Kid (NES)
It only had one song which got annoying but at least it taught you about the market and to expect a golddigging wife.
2. Any Fantasy RPG (Final Fantasy, Shining Force, Crono Cross, etc)
With the large array of stores offered throughout each town, they teach you to save and prepare for the worse.
3. Shenmue (Dreamcast and Xbox)
You had to get a 9 to 5 job and raised money to go to China. It wasn’t the fun, but that’s how life is, I guess. Or you could have saved up enough and increased your earnings with some backstreet gambling.
4. SimCity(PC and consoles)
Forget Farmville, crap’s gonna mess up, lets hope you know how to fix it. It’s like working for the state of California….
5. Bayonetta (Xbox 360 and PS3)
Planning on purchasing ANY items from the store? You better better start playing the game flawlessly so that your bonuses don’t suffer a large deduction. Compare it to sales or customer service, the game forces you to go out of your way to find increasingly difficult battles, yet expects you to do more than mindless button mashing (or when compared to real life, “talking”) if you expect any raise.
6. Harvest Moon
Never played it, but according to the people in the comment section, it’s worth mentioning.

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Samantha Eckles January 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Thanks for the list, Chips!

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Rahzzel January 14, 2011 at 11:47 am

I agreed with all except for WoW and Farmville… Where someone may see the learning possibilities, the people playing don’t actually learn those specific things. If people actually learned anything from Farmville, more people would have small gardens for better health. They only play it because they’re bored and nobody wants to put any kind of real time or hard work into a real farm or garden.

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Tao June 28, 2011 at 9:06 am

…Actually, I built a long, elaborate chart calculating the relative coin value of each type of crop based on the cost, payback, and growing time for Farmville…

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FoenLypeFeeks January 31, 2011 at 5:27 pm

nalezy sprawdzic:)

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