Budget Hero

Website review by
Susan Yudt, Common Sense Media
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Game challenges players to balance federal budget.

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Educational Value

Kids can learn how the federal government's budget is allocated in Budget Hero, a simulation game that challenges players to take a shot at balancing the budget. Different policy areas are represented by buildings that grow or shrink as players decide to increase or decreasing spending, and the pros and cons of each issue are presented. Budget Hero is an engaging, educational, and frequently frustrating game; an accurate reflection real world struggles.

Positive Messages

Encourages people to seek out factual, nonpartisan information so they can be more informed about fiscal issues.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this simulation game provides factual, nonpartisan information on fiscal issues and encourages players to attempt to balance the federal government's budget. Most kids will probably find BUDGET HERO challenging, but there's no inappropriate content.

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What's it about?

Produced by the nonprofit organization American Public Media, in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson Center's Serious Games Initiative, Budget Hero uses data from the Congressional Budget Office to illustrate how the federal budget is spent. Players can decide where to increase or decrease spending based on their own values and priorities and can see how their decisions affect America's fiscal future. Each expenditure that's up for debate is explained on a policy card that lists the pros and cons of increasing or decreasing funding. Players can also raise or cut taxes in an attempt to balance the budget.

Is it any good?

Budget Hero succeeds as both an educational tool that offers factual details about how taxes are spent, and as a simulation of the challenging, frustrating experience of balancing a budget. Presenting the pros and cons of each issue illuminates perspectives that may be new to players and provides a refreshing alternative to partisan politics.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the media's coverage of politics. How do you know if a source is trustworthy?

  • Budget Hero instructs players to choose "badges" that reflect their values and priorities when it comes to spending. Which badges did you choose, and why?

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