Common Sense Review
Updated January 2015

Great Depression Simulation

Inconsistent gameplay limits cool concept's impact
Common Sense Rating 2
  • At the game's start, users read about the Great Depression to better understand the time period.
  • Pop-up text further explains key terms.
  • Users then play through six turns, or "years," and make financial choices along the way.
  • Users choose whether to spend their disposable income on luxury items, save money, or invest in stocks.
  • Users can see how their choices impacted their finances at the end of each "year."
Great concept and good (but short) historical content make for an intriguing exercise.
Gameplay is hard to control, and the user's few decisions have unclear consequences.
Bottom Line
A great idea for a firsthand experience with the Great Depression, but uneven in execution.
Patricia Monticello Kievlan
Common Sense Reviewer
Foundation/nonprofit member
Common Sense Rating 2
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 2

Hard-to-read text and hard-to-adjust controls make for a frustrating user experience.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 2

It's hard to understand the exact consequences of students' actions, and uneven opportunities to make choices, study, and reflect limit the game's learning potential.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 2

Click-to-view pop-up text is helpful at the beginning, but it would be even better if there were better ways to track progress and review results elsewhere in the game. More detailed instructions would make gameplay more accessible.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

Since content and context in the app are limited, use Great Depression Simulation as a brief activity as part of a longer discussion about the Great Depression and U.S. history. Use this simulation in an economics class or in a social studies class focusing on a simple discussion of how budgets work and how different financial choices have an impact over time. Better yet, have your class play through and then develop their own Great Depression simulation, focusing on daily expenses like food and housing rather than just focusing on purchasing luxury items. Have your class graph or diagram a fictional family's savings over time, especially as the stock market rises and falls and if their employment status changes. 

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What's It Like?

Great Depression Simulation lets kids get a firsthand glimpse of the decisions ordinary people faced during the Great Depression. First, kids read a short selection that sets the scene and gives some historical context. Kids can click some text (like "stock market" and "bank runs") to get more insight on key terms. Next, kids read the instructions: They're assigned a career (doctor, teacher, or police officer) and a corresponding income, then they have to choose how to split their income each "year." During each turn, or "year," users can choose to buy luxury items, put money in the bank, or invest in the stock market. After each year, users see how the stock market performed and their total cash so far. At the end of six years, users win if they've bought a house or own a car and a fridge. Finally, after gameplay is complete, kids take a four-question quiz that tests their understanding of the experience.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Kids read about the Great Depression, they experience it firsthand, and they answer questions about it afterwards. While the core concept is great, the execution is uneven and disorienting. The app is text-heavy, and the instructions aren't especially clear; with many fonts and inconsistent visual style on every screen, it can be hard to understand what users can move, what they should tap, and where they should look. The sliders on-screen in the simulation section are especially frustrating: Users have a budget on each screen, and they're supposed to balance their annual budget by adjusting the sliders and making purchases (like the fridge or the car). Oddly, the sliders don't adjust well based on user input. As it is, the sliders jump to random numbers, and it's almost impossible to make them land on amounts that correctly add up the remaining funds. Finally, the introduction and quiz questions could be even meatier and more informative.

Overall, Great Depression Simulation is a great idea for learning, but inconsistencies in the user experience make it fall short of its potential. It could be worth a try with your class, but look elsewhere for a tool to teach deeper insights. 

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