The Sims and Minecraft are teaching Aussies financial literacy

Games aren't only for entertainment – they're also very educational, and teach practical skills.
the sims 4 money tips

New research from ING has revealed younger Australians are increasingly turning to non-conventional methods for learning about financial responsibility, gleaning information from sources like video games. In a study, around 76% of respondents indicated that gaining a better understanding of their finances was confusing, and 69% found it boring. But through video games, many found an avenue for developing their earning and saving skills.

Around 38% of Australian gamers believe they have gained valuable financial knowledge from video games, which has positively influenced their saving habits. Of those respondents, the majority learned their skills from The Sims, with Minecraft, Financial Football, Animal Crossing, and Call of Duty also teaching financial responsibility.

The vast majority of those games – barring Call of Duty – have unique economic systems that require player investment and understanding. Animal Crossing is a unique example. As soon as you arrive in the game, you are saddled with debt and must work it off by taking on menial tasks like fishing, bug catching, crafting, collecting items, and pulling weeds. It’s also got a light introduction to shares, in its turnip market – players must learn to buy turnips at a low cost, and then sell them when the purchase price is high.

The Sims is arguably the most complex game of the bunch. It tasks players with guiding digital humans through a semi-realistic virtual world, taking on jobs to make ends meet. The economic system of The Sims is not particularly robust, and it can be broken easily, but still it teaches players about the value of saving – even if it’s to buy cute virtual furniture.

Read: Living the dream of home ownership through The Sims

Of the survey respondents who indicated they’d learned financial lessons from video games, around 28% said they’d learned general saving habits from games, 27% learned about profit and loss, 25% understood the value of budgeting, 20% learned more about investing, and 15% learned about debt management.

In its study, ING highlighted the value of The Sims to a young teacher named Emma, who learned saving habits at a young age and grew to be financially independent by 19.

“ I moved out of my family home into my first rental apartment as an 18-year-old with AUD $12,000 in savings, which I’d like to think The Sims prepped me for as a young woman,” Emma said. “Not only did playing video games teach me how to budget better, but how to be more patient when tracking towards my financial goals, too.”

Based on ING’s study, it’s clear that while video games tend to lean more towards entertainment, even the brightest, most abstracted games teach important lessons that can be put into practical use, beyond the digital world.

You might play The Sims with a view to create interpersonal drama between your virtual humans, but while you’re brewing rivalries and inflicting chaos, you’re also learning a lot about the world of finance, and the benefit of hanging onto your Simoleons. Likewise, you might find yourself in debt on a semi-deserted island in Animal Crossing, but between the turnip market and menial labour, you’re also learning the value of hard work and careful thinking.

Video games are often fun and entertaining, but they’re also so much more.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.