Video games that exist purely for entertainment are a dime a dozen. It can be harder to find a game that's not only educational, but that's good at teaching its players things about the real world. Sure, you could probably name a few that are "school approved," like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, The Oregon Trail and Math Blaster, but we could always use more.
Transformance (previously known as Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas, which is a bit more of a mouthful) agreed. Specifically, they were looking for more games that could teach children and young adults about financial responsibility.
So they hosted the Pocket Change Game Design Challenge. They offered a grand prize of $10,000 and opened the competition to any developer (be they a full-fledged game studio, and independent developer or students) worldwide, though they primarily courted entries from the Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin areas. The goal? "The game should introduce the basic concepts of savings and outline what players need to start overcoming debt and building their wealth."
Five finalists got together for an award ceremony in Dallas on March 18, where Saving Pennies was given the grand prize.
Created by Rajee Jones, a full-time developer at Bottle Rocket (an Addison-based mobile development studio), Saving Pennies was inspired by Candy Crush. The arcade-style puzzle game is "focused on teaching players to build wealth and overcome debt through saving strategies and repayment plans. Time-based interactions allow users to see real-world scenarios that inspire financial literacy and independence."
The game is expected to launch -- for free -- at the end of April as part of the Transformance's learning hub Pocket Change and in the accompanying app.
According to a PR rep who was at the event, when asked what he planned to do with the prize money Jones said that his first child was just born the week before. I understand diapers can get expensive, but thankfully Jones probably has at least some idea of how to spend wisely.
In addition to the $10,000, Jones has the opportunity to work with Dallas-based Istation, an e-learning program that has a lot of experience making educational games for children and young adults.
The competition's runner-up, San Antonio-based Parking Lot Studios (Once Upon a Knight) was also given an opportunity to be mentored by the developers at Istation. Their pitch was "a resource management game here players take on the role of a young serf who is impoverished and in debt. Through good financial planning, turn him into a hero of legends. Even heroes need to plan for their financial future!" One juror described it as a "Medieval Oregon Trail," which makes me very curious to play a finished version of the game.