Teaching the Value of Money with Games

371924 Teaching the Value of Money with Games

Today I am literally ripping a transcription out of one of our recent blogs – all about how I used Roblox to help get my daughter to understand the value of money. The podcast in question can be found here – https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episode/e1hr3lp

Lots of people have used gamification around banking and around money, but it’s always about how to save, how to invest, and how to essentially make sure banks have more of your money. It’s safe to say that most banks when they release something about gamifying finances, it’s about learning how to put more money in a bank and how to live off that money. Read More ...

Love, Death, Taxes and Gamification: Episode 4 of The Andrzej & Roman Show

Spot Love Death Taxes and Gamification Episode 4 of The Andrzej 038 Roman Show

Man, episode 4 was a lot of fun to record! Roman and I discussed our dream gamification projects. He wants to take on the Tax system in some really cool ways – some that could definitely work as well! I want to work on a project that uses games to teach the value of money to kids – not how to save, but how to appreciate money. I spoke about my own efforts with Roblox and my kids.

Then we discussed some of the things we definitely would not try to gamify – Funerals being one of them. This led to some fun, if dark, conversations about what a gamified funeral might look like… Read More ...

Teaching the Value of Money with Games

Roblox Teaching the Value of Money with Games

We don’t give our daughters pocket money. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is a concern about their understanding of the value of money. This is especially true for our eldest daughter who has dyscalculia. This means she struggles with, among other things, understanding magnitude.

This, added to the fact she is 11, means that money is a very abstract concept for her. As soon as she has it, it needs to be spent. This is not much different from any other kids if we are honest, but it is particularly bad for her as she just doesn’t get the value of money at all. Numbers are pretty meaningless to her!

This is where games come in.

She likes to play games such as Roblox and Animal Jam. Both of these have a two-tier virtual currency system. One currency can be earned via in-game activities, the other needs to be bought with real money.

When she first started playing, we would get daily requests for money to buy virtual currency. She wanted a new top in the game, she needed a new pet, her house needed a new sofa etc etc etc. It was relentless. It made us hate the games beyond all reasonable emotions!

But eventually, we saw it as an opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, we still hate Roblox, but for many other reasons!

The Teaching Moment

One of the mini-games that the eldest was playing in Roblox had her earning in-game currency doing menial jobs (limbo competitions…). She wanted to be prom queen and needed to earn 30,000 credits to buy the best dress. Of course, the game offered another option. You could buy 30,000 credits for about £10. Of course, she asked me if I would buy her the credits. I refused. She then asked if she could do a deal. If she earned most of the credits, would I boost her with maybe £2 of credits? That way she had to earn some and I would be rewarding her for that. I refused.

She took it well, she understood and started to earn the credits. Every night she spent an hour doing limbo to earn the money!

The Eureka! Moment

After a few nights, she was just 1000 credits away from earning her. The pride she was feeling at this stage was very gratifying to behold. I then secretly bought her the rest of the credits. She was over the moon. But now she had a dilemma. It had been hard work to earn those credits and did she really want to spend them all at once. Suddenly, she had an understanding that the credits represented effort. She had not just been handed them on a plate, so they had meaning to her. It was a true Eureka moment!

The Lessons

That was when it struck me. Games like this can help kids start to understand the value of money, without as much risk of losing real money. If they have to “work” and show commitment to earn the money to get the things they want, then they start to see the value. It is similar to giving pocket money based on chores, however here still there is a slight detachment from the value. It begins to feel like a habit and a right, rather than earning the money.

The Sting in the Tail

This all hit home for my daughter when her account was hacked and she was afraid she had lost her hard-earned prom dress! She was in pieces, all that work and someone had the ability to just take her stuff without putting in any effort. As painful as it was, this was a strong lesson for her – one that seems to have stopped her just asking for me to buy her credits for games. Now she comes to me with a slightly more business-like approach to it all. It is progress!!

Never underestimate the learning power of games!

3 Layers of Motivation (Updated for 2018)

Layers of motivation 2017 3 Layers of Motivation Updated for 2018

The more I consider motivation, the more I realise it is one of those things we in gamification use as a catch-all. It’s a bit like how we treat the term “game mechanics” and, well, gamification!

Generally speaking, you will hear the terms intrinsic and extrinsic when motivation is spoken about. You will hear Deci & Ryan, Dan Pink, Maslow and more spoken about. However, when it comes down to it our argument is always the same. Intrinsic motivation is always better than extrinsic rewards. At times you will also hear a further comment that a balance of extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation will yield the best results.

I myself bang on about RAMP; relatedness, autonomy, mastery and purpose. I talk about supporting these motivators with well planned and thought out extrinsic rewards and nudges. However, It seems to me that motivation has several layers and we only seem to speak about one or two of them. There is a more fundamental and base level of motivation that we all seem to ignore. I have spoken about it before here, but I wanted to make my case more clearly!


Let’s think about your job for a moment. Most go to work for one reason, to earn money. Money leads to security. It provides you shelter, it keeps your family safe, it provides food for you all. Before money and jobs and the like, this was all much more primal. You secured your family by physically protecting them. You hunted for food and you built shelters. Now, this is all handled for most by getting money. We don’t need to hunt or build huts for ourselves, we buy all of those things. If we extrapolate that and take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs again, we see the most base motivations for humans are physiological needs and safety/security.

Having just shown that in this day and age, money is what provides the majority of security (including food) for most, it stands to reason that money is actually now one of our most base needs. I am not talking about being rich – rather having enough to guarantee physiological needs and safety.

Many people enjoy their job, which is great. But even those who say “I would work here if they didn’t pay me” are generally talking bollocks. You need to survive and in our world work gives you that opportunity.


Once these base needs and motivations are satisfied, then we can focus on the other more emotional motivations, which this is where RAMP starts to come in. Our need for relatedness, autonomy, mastery, purpose, status, friendship etc.


Finally, we can look at the trivial things. More money than we need to survive, bonuses and other types of extrinsic rewards. In gamification things like points, badges, leaderboards, competitions, prizes etc.

Adding Some Clarity (2018 Update)

As linear as this all seems, satisfy the bottom layer, then the middle, then use gamification, it isn’t that simple. Short term engagement using extrinsic gamification can work fine, whatever the other needs may be, but it will have no sustainability. Also, what one person finds extrinsically motivating, others may find much more intrinsic.

The other key one to look at is Money in the base layer and Excess Bonuses being in the trivial/extrinsic section. Money is a base need these days, it is what helps us to guarantee security. Having more than we need is also not a terrible thing, money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy a lot of stuff that can go towards making you happy! However, there is a point where money is no longer the biggest interest. In a job you hate, you don’t tend to leave because of the money, it is other factors. If you are then offered more money, it rarely makes you change your mind as the rest of the environment is the same! If you have enough money to be at least comfortable, then excess bonuses are not going to provide long-term motivation to do good work.

Excess bouses can also lead to terrible behaviour, with overjustification effect being a massive issue. If you are just working for the money, quality can be affected as can decision making. Did you make the decision because it was best for the customer, or because it helped you get your bonus?

Anyway, if you are going to use my 3 Layers of Motivation, please use this image from now on ?

Using this in Gamification

The question becomes, how can we benefit from this knowledge in gamification? The answer is, by understanding what people actually need. Forget motivation for a moment, and look at base needs. If a person feels they cannot support themselves and guarantee the security and safety of their family – no amount of emotional or trivial motivation is going to actually motivate them, at least not in the way you are probably hoping it will.

This is obviously focused on Enterprise gamification. It is not the job of an advertising company using gamification to sell a product, to ensure the base needs of their target audience. This is the job of the individual and their employer. However, if their target audience does not feel they have their base needs satisfied by work or other means, it is pretty unlikely that the advertising will work on them, gamified or otherwise!

In the enterprise, be aware that if your employees are struggling financially and it is perceived that you could improve this, gamification could seriously backfire. The money you spend on that could be seen to be spent on improving the lives of the employees at a base level rather than a trivial one!