Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Facebook game currently in development will teach young adults financial literacy, while getting them hooked on an addictive online experience.

Kicked Out, the product of developers and social entrepreneurs in Vienna, Austria and San Francisco, strives to train players to intuitively become responsible with money. The group is hoping to raise a major funding round through Kickstarter, with just three days left to reach its $300,000 goal.

Creator Katharina Norton began working on Kicked Out when she realized financial literacy is a universal struggle for nearly all young people. There’s an imbalance between the ease of spending money and the challenge of saving money.

Norton spoke with debt counselors in her native Austria. In the process, she learned that one in five clients is 30,000 euros in debt by the age of 25. The fastest growing group declaring bankruptcy is between 18 and 24 and the number has increased 96% in the last 10 years.

“By going through these levels of tests as teenagers and young adults, they’ll learn to train alarm bells for real life,” Norton says.

Kicked Out’s storyline begins as you are forced to leave your parents house. In order to survive, you must manage your personal finances and make long-term decisions while avoiding debt traps. Players learn how to take a loan, avoid debt, check balances on a regular basis and not overspend on what you earn. Throughout the game, you’ll never hear the word money, rather you’ll learn to manage “resources.”

“Teenagers have a very skewed expectation of their future salaries and costs of living,” Norton says. “They don’t realize that if they buy a cat, it’s not just the cost of the cat, but also the vet visits and its food.”

Though Norton says Kicked Out is not being marketed primarily as an educational game, teens in test groups have expressed excitement about learning to deal with money.

“We’ve found that it’s equally exciting to those who want to learn and those who want to play,” Norton says.

Though Kicked Out’s Kickstarter campaign is yet to pick up significant fundraising steam, it won a Central European innovation prize Ideen gegen Armut (ideas against poverty), sponsored by Coca-Cola. Kicked Out’s supporters include entrepreneurs from Fast Company, National Field and Ashoka.