Website review by Carrie Garges, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2020

$ky: Money Matters

Soar or sink in gamified, goal-oriented life choices simulator

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Grades
9–12
Subjects & Skills
Character & SEL, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Goal-setting and choices put students in charge, and they can easily see their progress.

Cons: The mechanics may mar the message, and students might miss key ideas if teachers don't help them make connections.

Bottom Line: It's an entertaining way to experiment with life choices and decision-making that requires more approaches and discussion to leverage learning.

$ky: Money Matters is a solid tool to help create life experiments. Before each level, players must set goals for their finances and education as well as spiritual, fitness, and family goals. Next, they face questions to determine how much of a priority each goal is to them. Teachers can start with conversations about what should be prioritized in order to reach certain goals. Players can then set goals accordingly and use the game as an experiment and reflect on the results as a group using the graphs and goal menu, which they can view and share.

The real payoff will come during the conversations students can have after playing these games. And then you can go beyond the game itself and connect it to off-screen life: In terms of the events and choices, what's realistic? What's not? Have students come at the information in other ways, like taking the data they collected and creating a narrative or flowchart of their avatar's progress. Then, have them do the same thing for their own lives in more personal terms so that the learning can transfer more directly.

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$ky: Money Matters is a game-based experience allowing teens and young adults to practice decision-making and learn financial skills. First, students choose their avatar's appearance. Then, players are set upon their own customizable "sky island" where altitude is a necessity for the island to soar through various levels of atmosphere. They set a variety of required and optional goals around education, finance, social interaction, and more. Using point-and-click, students fly their island back and forth across the screen as symbolic bubbles fall from the sky. They have to navigate the falling events -- like debate team, hanging out with friends, or eating all the groceries! Some events are helpful and earn players altitude, while other items, like accidents, cause damage and lower altitude points. 

Goal-setting and focus help players earn precious altitude points to keep them afloat while avoiding accidents, or taking on debt, which weighs them down. Other islands exist in the sky as well. Players can visit islands to earn an education, get a job, purchase household items, or buy a car. There are also Safe Zones where work bubbles fall and Danger Zones. Smart flying might help avoid any accidents at first, but challenges increase with each level. At any time, students can click on their avatar to review their goals, check their expenses, or decorate their house with items they've bought.

$ky: Money Matters definitely has some elements that mimic how goals, choices, and unexpected events can impact your life. And the game insures that players can't just hang out in the Safe Zones earning altitude points: Students will get a prompt to leave that zone to visit the bank to manage investments, or find the education badges along the way, which will help students widen their focus and learn to balance their tasks. However, without some reflection and direct connection to off-screen life, a player can miss valuable lessons.

For some students, the mechanics and presentation of their progress will make sense, and they'll benefit from the visual representation of how "flying" toward your goals can help you rise, while choices and unexpected expenses can set you back. That said, the mechanics of the game and the lack of explicit connection to off-screen life bring down the experience. For instance, flying back and forth, up and down, is simple, but it's not accurate, so running into balloons that are actually choices -- like taking a trip or sleeping all day -- is too easy to do. Since going to Europe isn't usually an unexpected expense, it doesn't seem to fit if a student accidentally runs into that bubble. Also, instead of just a line graph showing the trajectory of certain choices, students might be able to make more connections with other visuals, a narrative, or other clear dots connecting the game to the messages. So, while $ky: Money Matters might be a solid way to illustrate concepts, you'll likely want to deliver its messages in other ways to help students transfer the learning to their lives.

 

 

 

Overall Rating

Engagement

Students get to make their own decisions and feel in control of the experience.  The game gets complicated as it progresses, which adds challenge, but the clumsy mechanics might dampen the fun.

Pedagogy

It offers goal-setting, planning, and learning from consequences of unavoidable life-changing events and choices. But, while stats after each round could offer a moment of reflection, the messages aren't very clear.  

Support

Tutorial and reminders are helpful. But more explicit explanation about the results of choices would guide students through next levels. Also, offering different languages might open this opportunity to more students.


Common Sense reviewer
Carrie Garges Classroom teacher

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