The Gamification of Financial Education


A hot trend in financial education (and elsewhere) is gamification. Make it fun and they will come, and (hopefully) learn and change! 

What is gamification? A PEW report defines it as "interactive online design that plays on people’s competitive instincts and often incorporates the use of rewards to drive action--these include virtual rewards such as points, payments, badges, discounts and 'free gifts'; and status indicators such as friend counts, re-tweets, leader boards, achievement data, progress bars and the ability to 'level up.'" The idea is to apply the fun and excitement of games to non-game activities. The explanation from the VP of one gamification consulting firm is explicit: "'It's using the dynamics and mechanics of psychology that make games so addicting, so sticky, so engaging.'"

Gamification can be used to encourage simple habit-formation (e.g., hand-washing in hospitals) or major scientific efforts (e.g., modeling a protein important for developing retroviral drugs). When used with an intent to teach information and skills rather than an intent to motivate particular actions, it is sometimes called "edutainment."

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