Financial Basics Foundation provides free financial literacy resources to educators and students through classroom activities. One of its products, ESSI Money, is Australia’s most successful financial literacy game and is played in more than 30% of all secondary schools. In 2016, we began the process of redesigning the product originally developed in 2007 by Liquid Interactive for a different technical landscape. Although it was extremely successful, the technology was unsustainable and inaccessible. Our goal of the overhaul was to meet all technology, accessibility, content and education requirements, while retaining the essence of what made the original game so successful.
ESSI Money combines proven learning design principles with a simple and engaging user experience to drive powerful educational experiences for students. There are five complementary layers to the learning design: simulation, content, game and play, teacher administration, and social learning. Students engage with the game world through virtual OS in-game apps within a web-based mobile-responsive experience. This is a unique design where the team created a world that was consistent and unified, while still feeling rich and diverse. The virtual world is designed to feel authentic and relevant to our audience, while being playful enough to be fun and engaging.
The longest-term impact from ESSI Money should be seen in reduced rates of financial distress and debt among the Australian public. This is obviously too complex and long-term to measure, so as a proxy, our success measures are based on uptake, engagement, and teacher feedback. Since launch in March 2017, over 16,000 students have registered and played more than 31,000 games, a testament to ESSI Money’s replayability. We’ve received extremely positive reviews from teachers, saying that they are finding it hard to stop students playing the game in their own time (including on weekends) and progressing too quickly.
What’s exciting about this product is that its simple execution on the surface is supported by an innovative technical architecture. It’s a game platform which allows for scalability and customisation. The modularity allows for the creation of multiple versions of the game for different levels of financial literacy, localisation for international markets and scenario layers to simulate real-life situations (e.g. inflation, unemployment). Designers collaborated with experts to align ESSI Money with the Australian school curriculum, with direct links to mathematics, economics and business, and personal development program areas. Within the game world, ESSI Money exposes students to financial concepts in a familiar setting, simulating the kinds of choices they will encounter in the real-world. From opening bank accounts and credit cards to finding a job and paying bills; the simulation progresses through 26 levels. Much like real-life, a sophisticated randomised game event engine ensures each game experience is different. Since the most effective learning takes place within a social context, the game takes advantage of social dynamics and teacher facilitation. The combination of student leaderboard and teacher reporting encourages discussion about challenges and strategies, celebrate achievements, and even compete against one another - encouraging active learning.