How to use video games to teach kids about money

General Finance

By: Michael Dinich on MelissaBlevins.com

This post is inspired by a discussion I had with Melissa Blevins about the power of using analogies to teach kids about money through different financial lessons, including out-of-the-box methods. I appreciate her lending me her platform to help you use stories and analogies to improve your own financial lives as well as your children’s.

Sometimes people in the personal finance space question my use of geek culture to teach financial lessons. When I have offered to do guests posts on other people’s blogs tying back some financial topic to the latest movie, video game, or comic book I often get some resistance. Allow me to explain why I use stories and analogies to teach lessons and why as a parent you should be doing the same.

When it comes to personal behavior, we are resistant to change, whether is with finances, fitness, productivity.  Any improvement in behavior immediately presupposes the old behavior was “wrong” and people (myself included) do not like to be “wrong”. The knee-jerk reaction to anyone suggesting we are wrong is to become defensive, maybe make excuses or justification of the behavior. Some people go as so far as to become depressed or desponded over a worsen behavior, creating a vicious self-fulling cycle.

Why stories?

Stories, through the use of analogies, metaphors, or just a healthy geeky discussion have a wonderful way of bypassing our defenses. It’s much easier to see the faults in some fictional character or situation than our own. However, we can see ourselves in these situations and learn from them neither the less. In fact, analogies are certainly not a new teaching aid, they have been around since Biblical times. Fables have been used for centuries to pass on knowledge, and even today stories and games are used to educate young children.

I think at one point, everyone collectively decides money is such a serious topic that we can’t have a bit of fun with it. Well, the masses are not in great financial shape, despite all the financial information available online or otherwise. So it’s clear we need to change how the information is presented and thought.

First thing’s first

You can’t teach what you can’t demonstrate, and as parents, if you do not have a healthy relationship with money the best tools in the world will not out teach a bad example. Reading blogs like this blog is a great start, and Melissa has some great resources to help you improve your finances.

As parents, I think that there are 2 critical topics to teach kids about money.

  1. The difference between a want and a need
  2. Its ok want something as long as you’re willing to do the work to earn it.

I see parents routinely teaching their children the difference between a need and a want. This is a great financial lesson to learn; however, it’s important to not overly rely on frugality and delayed satisfaction. Imagine if you were trying to teach a child about healthy eating. Would you solely focus on calorie restriction? Or would you choose to focua s on balanced diet coupled with activity and, yes, even occasional rewards, like the occasional cookie as a treat? What approach do you think would develop the healthiest relationship with food?

Hopefully, you choose the latter, as research suggests, diets based on a combination of increased activity and healthy balanced eating are more successful than dieting alone.

So, when we are trying to help our kids have a healthy relationship with money, we want to utilize a similar approach. Giving children the opportunity to earn something they want is the financial version of exercise.

Tip: When taking you children shopping, don’t tell them you can’t afford something. It’s important you the come from abundance. Instead, point out that it’s not in the current budget, as you are prioritizing other things that is of greater value to the family. Let your children know, they can work, save, and budget for these wants if these choose.

Using video games to teach kids about money

If you grew up playing Atari and have not played video games since you have a regular Nintendo in grade school, you must be wondering what any of this has to do with finances.  Well, video games have evolved since the 8-bit era of jumping over pipes or rescuing Princess Peach. Todays, games are massive multi-faceted worlds that are a microcosm of modern society. Most even have in-game economies.

Many Modern games allow players to complete tasks to earn in-game currency to purchase upgrades, enhancements, or skins. Some video games, go so far as allow you to set up markets earn in-game loot, or even craft items to sell to in-game merchants.  The game Skyrim, for example, affords players the opportunity to collect ore and gems and turn the raw materials into jewelry that can be sold to in-game merchants. Your child’s very first business venture could end up being an in-game virtual one.  Use this as a teaching moment, discuss with them that what they are doing when turning ore into profit is “adding value” and explain how that’s done in real life.

Caution: some games may be to mature for your child, it’s important that you understand what games your child can handle. Observe, them playing the games and if you see them engaging in any questionable behaver be prepared to intervene.  Keep in mind most modern games have a social element and your children may be speaking with people online.

A discussion about the best video games to teach kids about money is beyond the scope of this article. Although it would be fun to do, I couldn’t recommend a game because I do not know you or your family.  A game that one family may find mild, could offend another family. Additionally, children mature at different paces.  As an example, the youngest can handle some more advanced games, because he grew up watching his big sister playing games and she always will to lend a hand when he gets stuck.

Tip:  If your looking milder games or in particular games for younger children, Nintendo tends to cater to the casual and family crowd. Nintendo prides its self on maintaining a safe and family-friendly standard.  

Caution: Some companies such as EA attempt to monetize games by selling randomized, that are effectively barely legalized gambling.  

Even a relatively simple game like Candy Crush can be used to impart financial wisdom. Mobile freemium games usually sell extras to speed up playing the game. This is actually a great opportunity to teach your children about work and money. If your children want to buy a five dollar pack of “lives” give them the opportunity to earn the money, doing work that’s over and above any choirs that are expected of them.  Set a timer and record how much time it took them to “earn” the money, and how long it took them to spend it.

Then sit down and have a discussion with them. Was the effort worth it? Would that have saved up and bought something real instead of the in-game currency? Did the work take more time then what it takes for the lives to refresh in the game?

It might be a bit cheeseball and geeky, however down the road they will look back and remember when you used Fortnite to teach them about money.

If you enjoyed this post and are looking for ways to teach your teenagers or young adults about how to land and land their first job, check out my e-course (FREE for a limited time)! Life Skills 101 is for high school or college students who want to learn how to create a resume, nail a job interview, and manage finances (including what to do with those paychecks to set them up for the future).

Republished with the permission of MelissaBlevins.com.

Steve handles the operational side of Rockstar by keeping the systems running smoothly, social media accounts active and curation buttery smooth. He also answers to the name “Do-It-All Boy”.

Steve is also the founder of ThinkSaveRetire.com – a site where he shares ideas and techniques on how to retire from your 9-5 job and start to enjoy the virtues that life has to offer outside of full-time work. Life is about more than fluorescent lights and gray cubicles!

Last modified: August 25, 2018

One Response to :
How to use video games to teach kids about money

  1. Nathan says:

    Good read, the act of story telling is a powerful tool for anyone to use. It’s why fiction sells better than nonfiction. People want to hear a story, not just facts.

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