A personal financial education game for students 7-18 years old.

The global fiscal crisis has proved that adults are pretty rubbish when it comes to managing money. The news is full of the mess grown-ups have made of their economies and so children have few role models to which they can look for inspiration. Preparing children to make wise financial decisions in adulthood has never been more important. What we need is a complete solution for personal financial education – and Bamzonia reckons it has one. Let’s take a look at the idea first conceived in a Sainsbury’s car park.

So, welcome to Bamzonia. It’s a bankrupt island in the middle of the Pacific that desperately needs our help. It’s not a nice place to be. Crime and pollution are rife, businesses have gone bust, folks are losing their jobs left, right and centre and odd purple mushrooms are growing in unexpected places. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? (Except for the purple mushrooms? - Ed)

Then, out of nowhere, a Yoda-like figure called the Guru appears. He has chosen us to help him get the island back on track and return it to its former glory. To do this, children need to complete challenges, gain knowledge and, step-by-step, get the island bouncing with prosperity and success once again. If only it was that easy!

Is it suitable? Yes, it’s an online 3D gaming platform divided into three levels aimed at building the functional skills of children from 7-18 years. The Foundation level is called Discover and is a 15 unit phase. In total there are three levels containing 47 lessons linked to a city regeneration game. It makes money meaningful and something for which we all share responsibility, not just adults.

The lessons consist of reading factual information slides with the odd activity here and there, after which children take a quiz that awards them with Zonian credits (currency) if they do well. The credits can then be used to play a game to rescue the island by skilfully utilising their Zonian credits. The game has two key elements: mini arcade games and ‘home squares’ - for which children can purchase various items. The idea is that the more credits you can earn the more you can build and invest to transform your Bamzonia island by buying items that will impact on health, wealth and happiness. There are plenty of opportunities for budgeting and planning here and pupils learn quickly that things aren’t cheap.

Children can also earn credits from the Guru. There are leader boards that can be seen by friends to show everyone how well they are progressing and certificates for achievement. There is also a very handy Dashboard through which teachers can regulate access to the lessons, assign pupils to classes and keep a beady eye on progression. Pupils can use the dashboard to access their unlocked lessons, chart their own progress and print off their certificates.

Does it do the job? Yes, it’s fun and engaging and it’s a little bit different so it stands out from the crowd. There is plenty here and there’s no doubt that, by working through the lessons, children will become familiar with money as a concept, where money comes from, the value of money, financial terms, and the importance of saving. There’ll also gain useful knowledge for later life concerning good and bad debt, credit cards, mortgages, pensions and investments.

The characters you meet along the way all have a lot to say. Their thoughts are displayed in speech bubbles, but it would be better if these were also spoken out loud as not everyone will be able to read them. In fact, all the Knowledge slides could do with being read aloud and supported by a highlighted text feature to help all abilities access the wealth of information. (The good news is that audio files will be included in the version released later this year).

The games are fun, challenging and take place in a realistic, 3D, SimCity-style environment with a real sense of atmosphere.

Points to ponder? I’m not so sold on the idea of having the island in total chaos run by criminals and arsonists with doom and gloom on every street corner. It’s depressing! It looks like an apocalyptic Los Angeles. A bit of hope would be nice. I would also say the website needs updating to include some current news about financial education and the Government’s Financial Capability Programme.

And then there’s the cost. There are many free financial websites out there aimed at primary children. At £375 for a school site license for one year, Bamzonia is a considerable investment and one that requires a degree of financial acumen to discern whether or not it represents good value for money for your school.

Our Verdict

Financial sense

The Personal Finance Education Group has given this resource a thumbs up as a quality teaching resource and, on the whole, I’d agree because it has clearly been well developed and it is extremely well intentioned. Joking aside, this programme would be ideal for plenty of adults to engage with to help focus their financial behaviour. Bamzonia is currently offering free trials, so it’s well worth signing up.

Pie Corbett