How to make educational games gripping? Try using the loyalties of sports fans

I stumbled onto an interesting educational game from a site aimed at teaching children about managing money. The site,, has a whole variety of games that teach money lessons. Most are fairly simple flash games and probably have a limited chance of engaging kids in the long term.

But the latest game has a lot more going for it. Financial Football is simple: As in real football games, you get to choose a play for your team and then see how it works out. You don’t get to control the players directly. The educational part is that you have to answer a question about personal finance before the play is run. And the way you answer appears to determine how your team performs. Get the question wrong and the quarterback could get sacked. Do well and you may get a first down.

This is no replacement for Madden NFL 12, the insanely popular football video game, as the game play is very hands-off. But there are a couple of things I like. One, you get to choose which team you want to coach and which you want to play against. And the developer somehow got licensing rights from the NFL. As a long time Detroit Lions fan, I quickly chose the Lions and faced off against the evil San Francisco 49ers. This gave me a pretty intense desire to get the questions right—I didn’t want my team to lose.

Another interesting aspect is the ability to choose among easy, moderate and tough questions. I have no idea how that choice affects the on-the-field results, but it did help when I found some of the questions too difficult. I could choose some easy questions for a couple of defensive stops, or when I needed just a yard or two to get the first down.

In the end it didn’t matter. The questions were fairly tough and my Lions lost a quick game—by a field goal. If I hadn’t had work piling up, I would’ve queued up a replay, for pride’s sake. And that might be this game’s greatest asset.

(The site also has a similar game for soccer, in which you can pit different countries against one another in World Cup-style matches. Not sure if that’s going to be as appealing in the United States as football, but it’ll surely be very popular in much of the world.)

POSTED BY Davin McHenry ON January 30, 2012

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