BizWorks combines business simulation of a bakery, a robust character support system and mini-games to teach financial concepts to 8-10th graders.
TYPE: Business simulation for iOS/Android
TIME: 3-5 minute interactions
PLAYER: 1 Player
ROLE: Game Designer, Lead 2D/UI Artist, Supporting Writer
DURATION: 4 months | Spring 2018
ADVISOR: Tom Corbett
TEAM: Kimberly Anne Huang, Adela Kapuścińska, MinSun Park, Toya Rosuello
00 — CONTRIBUTIONS
As Game Designer, I devised the pitches for our client and the gameplay mechanics. Additionally, I headed the narrative design of BizWorks: designing the narrative arcs for Lila, Bruno and Sue based on interviews with college students, and supporting our lead writer in the writing process.
As Lead 2D/UI Artist, I decided on the art direction for the project. I worked on character design, environment art, animation, branding and UI/UX design. I set development goals and optimized the pipeline with our two programmers.
01 — THE CHALLENGE
The lack of personal finance education is a critical issue in American high schools. According to the 2018 Survey of the States: Economic and Personal Finance Education in Our Nation’s Schools, only 17 states require students to take it. Studies show that students without a financial education are more likely to have low credit scores and other financial problems (2014 Federal Reserve report). Educational games offer an engaging solution to help alleviate these concerns. However, even they tend to fall flat with their target demographic: they are usually predictable in their aim to educate and players usually end up deriving no real enjoyment or learning from them.
Our team was compelled to create a game prototype that would teach financial literacy to 8th-10th graders: to inspire learning specific to chosen career paths, explore budgeting and consequences of financial decisions, as well as create compelling narratives that the players could feel invested in or relate to.
02 — RESEARCH
GENRE RESEARCH & INTERVIEW
We did a round of landscape research: analyzing a variety of educational finance games targeted at teens to understand their appeal, successes and failures. These included: outwardly educational games as well more complex initiatives such as SPENT or Game Dev Tycoon.
We also reached out to Michael Eagle, Post Doctoral Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University and educational games expert, to discuss our project and the strengths of synchronizing educational games alongside school curricula. His feedback included:
Setting clear learning goals
Designing for replayability, including: immediate engagement vs. sustained engagement over real-time, in-game day/night shifts, assigning tasks to employees and playing mini-games to decrease task times
Establishing personal investment in the NPCs, before revealing their roles in the player’s education.
Simplifying economic models, so that they are still representative of the financial concepts but so they remain accessible.
Shaping genre to wants of demographic
We conducted several sessions of paper playtesting: targeting desirability and understanding of game concept and features. We then had playtesters fill out a survey that specified target demographic, taste-making in games, understanding of financial concepts and questions about game mechanics.
We collected data on all university students but focused on freshmen - the most available and closest to our target demographic.
03 — DESIGN GOALS
Through our weekly check-ins with our client, we were able to specify our design goals:
Financial actions and their consequences
Immediate vs. Delayed Gratification
Specifics of various professions
04 — GAME DESIGN
We identified 3 main design components that would be key in introducing financial concepts, supporting material retention and be engaging to play! These are: Customization, Exploration, Progress.
1. Business Simulation
The player manages resources for their business by buying stock, assigning work, dividing earnings and deciding on short and long term financial goals. Their ultimate goal is to pay off the loan they took out at the start. Players have all of the tools to make their business thrive, and it matters that they run it well!
2. Role-playing Element
The player can interact with their employees: to progress their story lines and advise them when needed. We found that building narrative investment and a sense of community incentivizes the player to learn and offer sound financial advice. Apart from that, it adds to the replay value!
Fast-paced mini-games speed up the shifts and break up the pace of the game. As proof of concept we implemented a Match-3 game, where the player gets hands-on experience in creating the baked goods that they're selling that day.
05 — CORE LOOP
For more details:
06 — VISUAL DEVELOPMENT
Creative Tools: Adobe Suite (Ps, Id)