A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Groove Nation is a free financial literacy game published by the non-profit Doorways to Dreams Fund as part of a series to help kids learn strategies for managing and saving money to reach short- and long-term goals. Despite having aspects of gameplay that resemble titles like Guitar Hero or Dance Dance Revolution, the majority of players' time is spent managing the money that a dance team earns while on a national tour. The game is played from a web browser but doesn't feature advertising or player-to-player contact that should concern parents, but be aware that creating an account for the game's leader boards (which is optional) does require an email address and basic personal information, including age.
What's it about?
GROOVE NATION is a financial literacy game set in the context of a dance competition. Played from a first-person perspective, the main character is a choreographer who holds a day job in places like ice cream shops for the majority of her income as she starts out, and manages extra earnings from dance competitions along the way. As players achieve savings goals from city to city, earnings and expenses grow, leaving them to maintain a balance between income and spending.
After each of six cities, progressing in difficulty as game levels, players reach a panel of \"judges\" who give a \"pass\" or \"fail\" rating to determine whether the player has reached their goals, almost all of which are related to paying down debt and investing in both short- and long-term savings accounts. While the skin of it feels like a casual game with a hip-hop dance backdrop, most gameplay happens after the dance is over through a series of clicks and slider-drags where players manage savings and spending.
Is it any good?
Groove Nation is part financial literacy simulation and part casual game, but unfortunately it falls a little flat in both categories. The promise of the game as a hip-hop dance battle is quickly undermined by its unengaging mechanics - "steps" triggered by the spacebar that don't really correlate to the beat. The dance portion of the game lacks luster, and sadly the most challenging aspect here is realizing -- without any on-screen directions -- that it's the spacebar that you should be hitting in order to earn points (and money!).
As a financial literacy simulation, the game fares better. It helps players learn the relationship between income, expenses, and debt within a narrative that's more compelling to tweens and teens than the frequently analogized lemonade stand or general store. It's not a game that will keep real gamers coming back, but in a setting supported with further discussion to offset some of the unclear goals and missed "teachable" opportunities in the game, it could work well to underpin the basic vocabulary and a few of the essential concepts related to financial literacy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of financial savings and its impact on short- and long-term goals. What's the risk of spending too much hard-earned money without planning for the future?
Parents and kids can also use the game as an opportunity to talk about ways that the game connects to current economic and financial news and topics. What recent news stories relate to savings and expenses for people and small businesses like the choreographer in the game?
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