The name of the game I played is a free game called SPENT developed by McKinney and funded by Urban Ministries of Durham. The URL where the game can be found is http://playspent.org/html/
The learning objective of this game is to help players learn how tough it is to remain financially stable and how tough making decisions are to support yourself and your family. The game aims to teach rational thinking and the importance of decision making. These decisions can range from whether or not you can afford to pay the bills this month to whether you can afford to buy your child an ice cream cone or send them on a school trip or how much groceries you can afford etc. Depending on the decision you make there may be a consequence the player may face. For example, the player may be faced with deciding whether they can afford to see the doctor or not which can result in them either being financially unstable by seeing the doctor or being unhealthy because they could not spare the money to pay co-pay or insurance There is no right or wrong in this game but a simple decision could affect whether or not you’re healthy, living in a home, being a good parent etc. This game affects all the processes. (physiological, cognitive, social and behavioral)
Formal/ Dramatic Elements:
The game is a one player game. There were other characters in the game such as my child and mother but there was no actual interaction with those characters. I was able to ask a friend for help if I needed to but again there is no actual face-to-face interaction with my friend. The game gave me the option to connect with my friends on Facebook if I wanted to when I clicked the “Ask a friend” option but, it was not necessary to connect with my Facebook friends. The primary objective of the game is having enough money (whether it be $1 or $100) to make it through the month despite all the obstacles the player- the player being me- was faced with. Making it through the month depended on the decisions the I made. The game objective reinforces the learning objective. In this game there are no rules which complements both the learning and game objective because both objectives are based on the player’s -my- personal decision. If there were rules the I may not have been able to make my initial decisions which could have resulted in me not making it through the month due to something that was not in my power to avoid or change. Also, having no rules complements both objectives by putting the player in a “real life” situation which allows the player to learn through experience and make the best decision possible to make it through the month. In this game money is the resource that is gained along with groceries and bills. Money is also a resource that was spent. I was able to use my money on rent, groceries, bills, insurance and anything else life may have thrown my way such as car accident. The decisions I made is what governed the exchange of resources. I was able to choose what I wanted to spend my money on in order to make it through the month. The game also gave me the option to apply for food stamps which helped. Conflict in the game is introduced when the player is faced with a problem. For example, if in the game the player had chest pains the player would be given the option to go to the doctor and pay (in my case) a $15 co-pay or live with the pain and save their money. The conflict is either maintained or resolved depending on the decision the player decides to make.
I would say the boundary the game has is that the player has to choose one of the options that the game provides and is not able to manually enter their own option. This limitation can be fun because of the challenges it creates. It contributes to both the learning and game objectives by reinforcing the objectives. The game ends when you run out of money. I played the game about four times and the first time I did not make it past day 10. The other three times I made it through the month twice and the other time I made it to day 23. I do not believe the outcome conflicts with the objectives. The main character of the game is the player of the game, which was me in this case. The motivation of the player is the need to live and survive through the month by maintaining money. The relationship between the character and the player is that they are the same person. The challenge presented to the player/character is making what they believe is the right decision for themselves and their family. A decision could either make a situation better or worse. The character must learn how to use their better judgment and rational thinking skills. The game takes place in a “real world” setting and the general premise of the story in my case was being a single mother who worked part time and was faced with many difficult decisions in order to remain financially stable, a good parent and remain living in a home all while also being a good daughter and friend. The playfulness of the game comes from the challenges the player is faced with. The player could make any random decision just to see what would happen and that is where the game is less serious and more playful. The story creates conflicts in the game because sometimes the player is faced with problems and the solution might not be in the best interest of their kid or their friend. For example, my child did not want to eat school lunch out of fear of being made fun of but it was not in my budget to provide him with lunch money so I chose the option of taking the risk of him starving.
Functionality, Completeness, Balance, Fun & Accessibility:
I believe that the game is fully functional, complete and balanced. Also, the game is very engaging and its elements promote learning. It promotes learning through experience from playing the game. All of the choices in the game are meaningful. Every choice made in the game either makes matters better or worse. This relates to the objectives because the game is meant to teach the player about the consequences of their decisions and how in the real world you are faced with tough decisions that will affect your life positively/negatively. Also, for the game objective, all choices are meaningful because one bad decision and you end up moneyless and the game would be over. The only issue I had with the game was that I felt the game should have asked if I was sure about the decision I was making because I clicked the wrong thing a few times and could not go back. Other than that the game is easy to play. It may take two times to play the game to really get the hang of it. The players learn to play the game by jumping right in and playing. By playing the game once or twice the player will then find out what decisions benefit them the most.