Personal Finance According to Video Games


Most people either justify video games as “entertainment” or vilify them as “time-wasters.” With a few exceptions (the Wii can actually help you become physically fit) they are almost never thought of as a tool for learning useful life skills. And yet even in those games that are not labeled as educational, where the game play consists primarily of blowing your enemy to bits, it is possible to learn some things that are useful in personal finance, often without even realizing it. Plan well, conserve your resources, and form alliances — these things come up regularly and are just the start of what video games can teach you about personal finance:

World of Warcraft



Beyond the fact that spending time at home playing WoW is more cost-effective than going out to bars, clubs and pubs, there are several legitimate lessons to be learned, applicable for both the business world and for personal finance. For one, players don’t level-up without paying their dues, much like in business, where it is also important to forge lasting relationships (alliances). Secondly, it teaches one the value of money (gold), how much time and hard work can go into earning it, and what it takes to manage it — purchase of X precludes or may limit the purchase of Y. Also, in WoW it becomes easier to earn gold as you progress; just as should be the case with the real world, the harder you work at something (play the game), the higher the return you receive.

What did we learn?

Staying-in is the new going-out. People are beating the recession by substituting their world of wasteful spending, with the World of Warcraft. A month long subscription to World of Warcraft can cost less than $0.50 cents per day, which otherwise wouldn’t even cover the cost of a parking meter during a night out on the town. Get creative with your free time. The potential savings are enormous.

The Oregon Trail



Although we probably didn’t realize it at the time, The Oregon Trail provided us one of our very first lessons in the importance of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This “educational computer game” was built to simulate the struggles of a 19th century family as they traveled vast distances in hopes of fulfilling their vision of Manifest Destiny. But the game was unusually difficult for some children to grasp. With very little room for error, The Oregon Trail took ill-prepared pioneers on a journey that would inevitably end in famine, infectious disease, and a long list of equally horrifying scenarios. Not only was The Oregon Trail a game, it was a harsh lesson in the unpredictable nature of life.

What did we learn?

When it comes to personal finances, always hope for the best but prepare for the worst. In a world filled with unexpected downsizings, enormous layoffs, and more competition for few jobs than ever before, preparing for the worst is no longer an option. It’s a responsibility. Create a budget, keep track of your expenses, look for unique ways to save, and do whatever it takes to reach your own financial (manifest) destiny.

Sonic the Hedgehog



At a time when the gaming world was in dire need of a new hero to lead them into the next era of consoles, Sonic the Hedgehog made his grand entrance onto the scene as a flagship title for the Sega Genesis. The Genesis console was SEGA’s first legitimate attempt at proving that they had a brand and a product that was worthy of stepping into the ring with the undisputed heavyweight champion of gaming, Nintendo. And just like that, one of the fiercest console wars in video game history was born. Almost immediately, the world was hooked on Sonic’s distinctive look and radically different spin on Nintendo’s weary approach. One of Sonic’s best tricks was also one of his most unique. Instead of dying like most other characters would, Sonic would first lose all of the golden rings you had collected up to that point. Although it worked out in Sonic’s advantage most of the time, it’s never nice to know that everything you’ve ever worked for is constantly at risk.

What did we learn?

Sometimes the best offense is a good defense. Protect your assets at all costs and don’t be afraid to pull out all the stops when it comes to securing your identity. There are services and agencies which specialize in protecting against cyber-related crimes, and many have developed a flawless reputation for doing so. And if that’s asking too much, at least do a quick search for easy ways to protect yourself from becoming another statistic of identity theft. And, at the very least, make sure you don’t carry all your rings around in your pockets — you could lose them.

Grand Theft Auto IV



When they weren’t busy revolutionizing the gaming industry with groundbreaking new titles, single handedly prompting immediately legislative reform, and exchanging blows with some of Washington’s most influential politicians, the team behind The Grand Theft Auto series taught us that there are only two types of debt-collectors in the world: Those who use a telephone, and those who prefer to take things into their own hands. But as anyone who’s ever been on the wrong side of debt will tell you, actions don’t always speak louder than words.

What did we learn?

Armed with a telephone, a condescending attitude, and the uncanny ability to wake you up early on your only day-off, debt collectors seem to find meaning in making your life hell. If you’re already in debt, the worst possible thing you can do is ignore it. Not only will it be detrimental to your blood pressure, it’s also a good way to ruin your credit for life. Take small steps in connecting with your debt-collectors. You might be surprised how flexible they’re willing to be.

Madden NFL 10


Wikimedia Commons (Madden with friend)

While scouring Madden NFL 10’s labyrinth of leaderboards, stats, financial data, and revenue generators, two things become blatantly obvious. Number One: Terrell Owens might be the most overpriced player in football. And, Number Two: there’s no good reason why we all can’t have detailed breakdowns of our salaries, expenses, personal finances in an easily digestible format. Madden’s Franchise mode allows you to take control of any team in the NFL, which gives you access to data on player salaries, revenue generation, and fund distribution. In other words, it’s like the ultimate digital checkbook you’ll probably never have.

What did we learn?

Luckily, you don’t have to be a professional athlete to keep track of your finances. Websites like are simple enough to be used by anybody and give you an at-a-glance overview of all of your income and spending. It’s all about the data. Further, mobile apps like’s iPhone app have made it possible to track your expenses down to the penny while on the go, all in a sleek, detailed, and easily accessible format.

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial


Let’s face it – video games aren’t cheap. In fact, they never have been cheap and you shouldn’t expect that to change anytime soon. To make matters worse, nearly all video games are sold at the exact same retail purchase price regardless of quality. You’ll fork out the same amount of money whether you’re purchasing the best game ever created, or a heaping pile of dung. That’s where E.T. The Extra Terrestrial comes into play, considered to be the absolute worst game of all time. The game was marketed as the next big thing in gaming, but did little to impress. The game was plagued by rushed deadlines, which caused the developers to release an effectively incomplete game. Before the internet and video game critics came to be, we were left to believe what the marketers told us about their products and not much else.

What did we learn?

Whether you’re purchasing a new car or a loaf of bread, take time to think out the purchases that you make. Sadly, the days of impulse buying are gone for a large percentage of us. Be skeptical of the hype surrounding new trends and gadgets, and make sure you know what you’re getting into when you pull out that credit card. An educated consumer is a powerful consumer. Take advantage of information and product reviews readily available online – take advantage of what consumers didn’t have access to 25 years ago.

Counter Strike


Pal Berge

Counter Strike has long been one of the more successful first person shooters of all time. Long after its release, it continues to be one of the most popular games played worldwide. But upon closer look, it’s noteworthy just how relevant Counter Strike is to personal finance. The game gives each player a budget to start out with in each game. At the beginning of each round, this budget is used to purchase better weapons and upgrades, which subsequently increase your chances of success.

What did we learn?

Strategic financial planning can yield big rewards both in the game of Counter Strike and in life. Sure, you could spend your entire budget in the very first round and see marginal results. But, the players who can manage their budget to withstand the test of time, are often the players who end up with the best weapons at their disposal in the final rounds.

The Sims



They say art imitates life, and perhaps there’s no truer application to this saying than The Sims… the game that simulates real life. The Sims is an example of how one man took a concept so simple, yet so necessary in today’s culture, that it would eventually sell more copies than the population of some small countries. The Sims went on to become the highest selling PC game of all time, and the rest is history. The game was responsible for showing us just how satisfying it can feel to take a blank canvas, help it grow, and then watch it flourish into a masterpiece. Through hard work, patience, and a little financial ingenuity, The Sims taught us all sorts of life lessons.

What did we learn?

Success and failure in The Sims can be closely compared to the successes and failures of your everyday life. Much like the real world, The Sims rarely rewards laziness. So unless you’re banking on winning the lottery, realize that the financial world revolves around hard-working, diligent, and goal driven individuals.

Dungeons & Dragons Online


Ramon Cahenzil

One of the very first forms of geek-culture to infect the mainstream was Dungeons & Dragons, which is a role-playing game that was played by rolling dice, cards, and whole lot of imagination. Thankfully, technology has provided us with a less shameful and more anonymous way of living the D&D lifestyle. Much like World of Warcraft, Dungeons & Dragons Online is an ever-evolving world that gives you the ability to conquer things much bigger than yourself. What many people don’t realize is that D&D Online features a deep-rooted entrepreneurial driven economy, with players using their skills, talents, and products as a means for virtual financial success.

What did we learn?

A trip to one of the many auction houses in D&D Online can allow you to walk away with some killer deals. When wholesalers and consumers directly connect, both parties can benefit greatly from the absence of a “middle man”. A real-world example of this concept can be found on Ebay, Craigslist and many other online services that facilitate and encourage the connection between wholesalers and consumers.

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