While searching for various games that focus on teaching young adults about financial planning, I came across a simulation built in Flash called “Celebrity Calamity.” In this interactive video simulation, the player assumes the role of Financial Advisor to a celebrity of their choice. This job entails balancing the cash in the checking account and managing all lines of credit, while also shopping for clothes needed by the celebrity, managing income from various gigs and other expenditures. Each round, the Financial Advisor has a limited amount of time to “collect” as much cash, and also buy certain items that come falling out of the sky.
The purpose of this game is clearly explained in an article on Employee Benefit News website http://ebn.benefitnews.com/news/vider-games-use-stealth-learning-to-teach-financial-planning-2681044-1.html . Some employers who have expressed interest in the game said, they would like to integrate “the game into their employee education strategies to help reinforce financial planning messages.” Originally designed to encourage young women to learn how to manage finances, the fun navigation and topical relevance to general public makes this game applicable to a broader audience demographic.The game is an effective tool for reinforcing financial planning messages because it grabs the learners attention, the material is relevant, the learner can quickly gain confidence in their abilities, and the learner will finish with a sense of satisfaction that they did well and “earned,” or gathered, money and goods for their celebrity employer. These four components make up a popular motivational learning theory defined by John Keller known as “ARCS.”
Attention, the first component of the learning theory, is the element in the game that engages and arouses the learner. Celebrity Calamity uses what Keller would call “perceptual arousal” to gain the attention of the learner. There is an element of surprise or uncertainly to gain the interest of the learner. There is not an instructions section that the learner reads before playing. The learner must discover how to play the game as he/she goes. This creates an element of surprise that keeps the learner wanting to explore more. The game also requires the learner to “actively participate,” which is another factor of the attention component. The learner roleplays as a Financial Advisor, gaining hands-on experience with the subject matter.The learner is motivated to continue on with the game because the content is relevant to him/her, which is the second component of Keller’s learning theory.
Relevance is critical for a learner to feel the game is worthwhile to spend their time playing. Keller says that learning is relevant when it relates to the learner’s experience, possesses present and future worth of the content, the content matching the needs of the learner, the learner is able to model the behavior, the learner has a choice in their method of learning and organizing the information. “Celebrity Calamity” includes present and future usefulness, needs matching, and choice. The aspects that have both present and future worth in Celebrity Calamity are the application of basic financial principles such as budget balancing and staying within a budget. As I played the game, I found the content helpful in the way I think about budgets in my everyday life. The game is dynamic and has elements of “needs matching” because there are elements of risk and potential for power. The player has to quickly try and grab as much money and “goods” within the allotted time period, but there might be some consequences depending on what items the grab. If the player collects a lot of money, then it’s a positive risk. However, if the player grabs too many clothes or other “expenses,” then the player looses money out of the budget. The final aspect of relevance that the player has in this game is choice. The player can choose which items they go after which will affect the outcome of the game. They can move wherever they want to on the screen, and they can go to any location they want to. This allows the learners to use different methods to pursue their work or allowing s choice in how they organize it.
The final two components of the ARCS model that are used for learning motivation in this game are confidence and satisfaction. Confidence helps the learner understand their likelihood for success. If they feel they cannot meet the objectives or that the time or effort is too high, their motivation will decrease. This game time limit was very reasonable, and there are many opportunities for success. The goals are relatively easy to accomplish, as well. Additionally, if the learner makes a lot of money for their celebrity, they can see the positive effects because their celebrity client is pleased. What better satisfaction is there than knowing that you’ve made someone like Brittany Spears’ day?? As the player goes through the game he/she experiences small steps of growth and feedback during the learning, which helps build confidence in he/her ability. We see this after each round when there are little lessons that reinforce financial principles that pop up on the screen that also show the learner how he/she is doing. Learner Control is also an important aspect of confidence. Learners should feel some degree of control over their learning and assessment. They should believe that their success is a direct result of the amount of effort they have put forth. This is definitely the case in Celebrity Calamity because the learner is responsible for gathering the goods and money and making decisions about whether to pay for expenses by credit or debit.
The satisfaction component of the ARCS theory is also found in the Celebrity Calamity game. It is similar to the confidence component in the motivational theory, as Learning must be rewarding or satisfying in some way, whether it is from a sense of achievement, praise from a higher-up, or mere entertainment. This game makes the learner feel as though the skill is useful or beneficial by providing opportunities to use newly acquired knowledge in a real setting, i.e. making purchases and choices with the celebrity’s money as they would with their own money in real life. Shopping is a great context for learning about financial management because when learners appreciate the results, they will be motivated to learn. Shopping can be a very gratifying scenario for learners and it’s something they can easily understand, as opposed to balancing the books of a multi-million dollar company. A final aspect of the satisfaction component of the ARCS model is that the learners are not patronized by over-rewarding easy tasks. The learner has enough challenges and stumbling blocks in this game that he/she probably won’t feel as though they’ve been overally rewarded.
Attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction are all motivational tactic that make Celebrity Calamity an interesting, informational, and enjoyable game to play. It would be a great game for young and more mature audiences to experience to strengthen their financial acumen.