How Super Mario Will Save Kids from Financial Disaster

I’m a gamer. Not a hard-core, live-in-the-basement, only-talk-to-my-friends-on-head-sets-during-Call-of-Duty gamer. But I’m nerdy enough to prefer a Friday night playing Settlers of Catan or Mario Kart over an evening out at the bars.

I swear that I regularly see sunlight (well, maybe not enough…).

The Gaming Nerd in Me

I’ve been an avid gamer since the 4th grade when my brother and I got our first Super Nintendo (Donkey Kong Country was my hands-down favorite). I remember spending an entire summer glued to my Nintendo 64 trying to beat Zelda: Ocarina of Time (I did, by the way). And I am proud to say that a few years later, I became a certified Pokemon Master and I did indeed “catch ‘em all.”

My gamer-nerdness followed me to adulthood, and it expanded beyond videogames. Instead of watching the latest episode of Dancing with the Stars or spending a night out at the clubs, I’m playing board games with my roommates (my newest favorite: Ticket To Ride).

So when I’m not nerding out about my budgets and student loan repaying strategies, I’m probably rolling the dice, drawing a card or shooting an Angry Bird across the screen of my smartphone.

Fantasy, arcade, shooters, strategy – I can’t say there’s a specific type of game that I like most; so long as it’s challenging and fun, I’ll play it.

And that’s why I’m incredibly excited for my new job.

My New Job: Making Money Fun

Next week, I start my new job designing financial education videogames.

And yeah, that’s a real, paying job 🙂

I was hired at EverFi, an education tech company that designs educational games for kids on a variety of topics. From teaching freshman about responsible drinking to training 4th graders about navigating the internet and playing safe online, EverFi is tackling tough social topics and bringing them into the classroom in a fun, virtual experience.

My job will be to manage their financial education games and figuring out the best way to teach teens and college students about smart spending, saving for the future and financing higher ed.

I’m a firm believer that money can be fun, and that presenting boring topics like taxes and investing inside a virtual, interactive world is the best strategy to teach kids about what they need to know.

My job will be to balance two some-what competing forces: practical information and fun. I need to design a game as addicting and engrossing as World of Warcraft that teaches kids the difference between money market accounts and CDs.

No pressure. 🙂

Does Zelda Teach Kids about Personal Finance?

But what about the games already out on the market? What are kids already learning about money from games like Zelda or Dungeons and Dragons?

There’s one thing that all of the games I play have in common: a need for currency. Bartering, trading, buying, exchanging. You can’t advance very far into the gaming world without some sort of money.

The games I grew up on have taught me a few things about money. And while I’m not learning the ins-and-outs of a 401(k), money is everywhere in the gaming world. And like the real world, you have to manage, spend and save your resources wisely in order to get ahead.

3 Things Super Mario Taught Me about Money

So if there’s one coin-ridden, goal-driven game out there that’s shaped my gaming career (and possibly my financial beliefs), it’s Super Mario.

Here are three lessons I’ve learned about money management from my favorite Italian plumber:

1. Every Coin Counts

In Super Mario, golden coins are everywhere. There’s so many of them that they’re easy to ignore. “I don’t need that coin on top of the pipe,” you tell yourself. “I’ll get more later.”

But every single one of those coins matters. If you collect 100 coins in the game, you earn an extra life. And that extra life could mean the difference between beating Bowser’s Castle and starting back at the first level in the game.

The same holds true in real life: every penny and dollar matters. You never know when you’ll need that money for something important, so grab all the coins that you can.

2. Don’t Gamble Your Life for a Little Money

There are plenty of coins in the game that look impossible to get. They’re suspended in air off the edge of the cliff, taunting you. Of course they’re technically reachable (they wouldn’t be there if it was impossible to get to them). But there’s a pretty good chance you’ll fall right off the ledge if you try to grab it.

On the one hand, every cent matters. But on the other hand, don’t go risking your life to earn an extra buck. In real life and in the Mushroom Kingdom, every dollar has an opportunity cost, including what it takes to earn it. And sometimes, it’s not worth the risk.

3.    Keep Your Eye on the Prize

It’s easy to get caught up in the little tasks during the game. Grab the mushrooms, collect the coins, stomp the Goombas… You’ll often feel like you’re in survival mode, just trying to stay alive until you can reach the end of the level and walk through that castle.

But remember you have a bigger purpose. Remember your ultimate goal: to save the Princess. So when times get rough, when you don’t think you can make it past the flying fish and fire balls, or when you get distracted by the hundreds of shiny coins in the air, think about the Princess, the reason why you’re going through all of this hassle in the first place.

Like in the real world, it’s easy to get distracted by the short-term goals and obstacles in front of you. Stay motivated and focused by keeping you eye on the prize.

Besides, money is useless unless you have someone you love to share it with (even if it is an 8-bit princess in a fluffy pink dress).

I’m convinced that videogames are the best way to teach otherwise boring-as-hell topics like finance to kids. What about you?

Original photo credits: Nintendo, Nintendorks

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