Abstract Details

InvestNuts: Enhancing Financial Literacy

In the PISA study on financial literacy from 2015, the OECD concluded that “far too many students around the world are failing to attain a baseline level of proficiency” when it comes to financial literacy (p.5, OECD publishing 2017). Among other things, the study recommends using extracurricular and after-school materials (p.48, OECD publishing 2017). Serious games fall into this category. However, even though the global serious games market was valued at $2,731 million in 2016 (Sonawane 2020), serious games in the field of financial literacy are still underrepresented. This is especially problematic, because serious games have been proven to be a great teaching medium for younger people – a group that is particularly likely to refrain from investing in the capital market (Frey 2017). Since a major reason for young people’s reluctancy to invest in the capital market is a lack of knowledge about its mechanisms (AXA Group 2017), we chose to design a game targeting 15- to 35-year-olds in which they playfully learn what investing means.

The game’s design, including gameplay, narrative, and aesthetics, aims at several key objectives. First, players are supposed to understand that investing liquidity that they do not need today can yield increased liquidity in the future. Moreover, players should get an intuitive understanding of the risk/return profiles of different investment possibilities. As a constraint, this imparting of knowledge should take place with the absolute minimum of cognitive load on the part of the player.

Financial knowledge is very abstract. To make it more accessible and understandable, we first focused on finding a suitable, easily accessible metaphor to set the game in. We aimed for a setting with low complexity, that our whole target audience understands and finds appealing, regardless of their gender or age, and independent of their gaming experience. Thus, a squirrel represents players in our game. The squirrel lives in a forest. During the summer, it buries nuts that it does not need for consumption. Over the winter, planted nuts grow into trees which themselves yield nuts in the following years.

Within this setup, we devised a core gameplay that represents simplified interactions with the capital market. The players can choose between three different tree types representing three risk/return profiles (low, medium, high). The first has low returns but is stable against fluctuations, the second has medium returns and medium fluctuations while the last one can deliver high returns but is the most volatile. Furthermore, financial crises are implemented as a frost mechanism that will occur with a certain probability during the winter and especially negatively affect the yield of high risk/return trees. After 10 years the squirrel goes into retirement and the game session ends.

We further enhanced this core gameplay by adding a variety of game goals for which the players receive badges when they achieve them. We implemented 20 different game goals in order to expose the players to a variety of possible investment strategies.

Both the methodology of using a metaphor-based game design process as well as our reasoning for choosing and discarding additional gamification elements are relevant to other researchers and practitioners.

Name: InvestNuts

Format: Mobile App, Web

Language: German

Platform used for development: Unity 3D


  • AXA Group. 2017. “Fokusbefragung: Geldanlage in Deutschland.”
  • Frey, Gerrit. 2017. “Aktionarszahlen Des Deutschen Aktieninstituts 2016,” 1-12. https://www.dai.de/files/dai_usercontent/dokumente/studien/2017-02-14 DAI Aktionaerszahlen 2016 Web.pdf.
  • OECD publishing. 2017. “PISA 2015 Results (Volume IV) – Students’ Financial Literacy.” https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/pisa-2015-results-volume-iv_9789264270282-en.
  • Sonawane, Kalyani. 2020. “Allied Market Research – Serious Games Market Outlook: 2023.” 2020. https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/serious-games-market.

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