Escape From Mom's House

A.G. Silverman - abenah@hotmail.com
Erica Mohr - mohrfish@prodigy.net
Christie Young - cmyoung_73@yahoo.com


| Instructional Objective | Learners & Context | Object of Game | Game Materials |

| Time Required | Rules | Design Process | References |


Instructional Objective
  • to simulate the challenge of managing monthly expenses
  • to illustrate the consequences of accumulating debt and the benefits of investing wisely


Learners & Context of Use

The game is targeted at young adults between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two, who are learning to manage their own expenses. Target students have difficulty mastering basic mathematical concepts, and may lack a positive role model for financial planning.

Prior knowledge must include a basic understanding of the workings of credit cards and investments. This game is intended to supplement a unit on personal financial management.

Game may be used in a public or private school classroom, or used in the military for new recruits.
Multiple games may be necessary to accommodate large groups of students (recommend one game for every four students).

Game should be used after the presentation of credit card and investment content, at the end of the financial planning unit. A debriefing session should follow the game play to emphasize consequences of financial choices.


Object of the Game

The object of the game is to be the first person to accumulate 50 HAPPY points and be out of debt.


Game Materials

List each of the physical objects one would find in the box. For example, the board, each type of card, each type of prize or token, etc.)

  • board
  • playing pieces
  • budget tokens
  • cash
  • budget sheet
  • chance cards
  • life pieces
  • HAPPY points
  • Instructions
  • Interest/debt chart

Time Required

Allow at least 10 to 15 minutes during first play to read instructions and set-up the board. Allow 45-60 minutes of play time to complete game (more time required for more people). Because of small pieces, carrying over game play to second session is not recommended.


The Rules

The Escape from Mom's House is a game that simulates the first years when young adults are on their own for the first time. Players make life decisions such as going to college, buying a house, buying a car, getting married, and having children. Players pay monthly expenses, receive a salary, and earn HAPPY points based on their life decisions and chance cards.

Objective: The first person to earn 50 HAPPY points and be out of debt is the winner.

Read all directions before beginning game.

Set up:

  1. Each player chooses a game piece (HAPPY people) and places it on the Start/Salary square.
  2. One player is the banker, one player keeps track of money tokens, and one player keeps track of HAPPY point tokens and the assorted life pieces.
  3. Place all game cards face down on the appropriately marked space on the game board.
  4. Each player is given an empty budget sheet and $3000 starting cash.
  5. The money tokens placed on the budget sheet help keep track of each player's monthly expenses. As a player's expenses change throughout the game, he/she places the corresponding amount of money tokens in the correct expense category.
  6. Each player begins the game single, living with Mom, with no investments, and riding the bus. Monthly costs include $100 for transportation and $100 for a rent payment to Mom. Therefore, each player places $100 worth of tokens in the transportation column (to represent monthly bus expense) and $100 in the housing column (to represent Mom's rent.)
  7. Each player chooses whether or not they want to attend college. If a player chooses to attend college he/she begins the game with $10,000 of debt. Those players who choose to go to college place $10,000 worth of tokens in their debt column.
  8. Each player rolls two dice to determine their monthly salary based on the following chart. Once the salary is determined, each player puts the corresponding amount of money tokens in the salary column on his/her budget sheet.
  9. Salary

    2

    3

    4

    5

    6

    7

    8

    9

    10

    11

    12

    With college

    2500

    2600

    2700

    2800

    2900

    3000

    3300

    3700

    4100

    4500

    5,000

    Without college

    1200

    1400

    1500

    1600

    1700

    1800

    2000

    2200

    2300

    2500

    3000

  10. Roll one die to determine who goes first. Highest roll goes first; proceed in a clockwise direction.

Playing the game:

  1. At the beginning of his or her turn, each player chooses to make life decisions that will earn HAPPY points: buy a house, rent an apartment, buy a used car, buy a new car, get married, have a child, invest in a CD, or invest in the stock market.
  2. Players advance along the board in a clockwise rotation a specific number of squares determined by the roll of 2 dice.
  3. As a player lands on a square they pick up and read the corresponding card. Based upon their life decisions each card directs the player to:
  • collect or pay out cash and/or HAPPY points and/or
  • alter their permanent expenses or income. The budget sheets are updated accordingly.

Expenses/Salary:

  1. Players keep track of their own cash and track their current expenses, investments, and salary with the budget sheet. Each time a monthly expense changes they update the tokens in their budget sheet.
  2. When a player passes or lands on any of the corner squares he/she must do the following:

Salary square: Player is paid their monthly salary.

Credit payment square: Player must pay 2% (based on a 24% APR) of their current debt in interest charges to the bank. (see chart on board) The player has the option to pay off the principal part of the debt at the beginning of their turn by paying the bank and updating the number of tokens in the "debt" column of his or her budget sheet. If a player only pays interest expense, no debt is removed from the budget sheet.

Housing: Player pays their current housing expense.

Transportation: Player pays $100 in transportation expense (spent on a bus or gas if own car)

 

HAPPY points/Life Pieces:

  1. Throughout the game players will make life decisions that will earn them HAPPY points. At the beginning of every turn players may choose to accumulate life pieces. Possessing each type of life piece affects the chance cards as the players move about the game.
  2. When a player chooses to accumulate a life piece, he/she must pay the bank the amount of cash as designated below, receive the appropriate number of HAPPY points, and place the corresponding life piece at the top of the budget sheet. If a player does not have enough cash he/she may choose to add the amount to their debt column instead of paying cash.

Stock:

  1. Stock prices will change throughout the game as determined by investment chance cards.
  2. When a player draws an investment chance card that dictates a stock price change, the player will update the current stock price on the game board by placing the investment card face up on the stock price square.
  3. When this happens, all players have an opportunity to buy or sell stock at this time, even if it is not their turn. 100 shares of stock must be purchased at a time at the current stock price. For example, if the stock price is $10 per share, then 100 shares will cost $1000 (100 shares X $10 per share.)
  4. When a player buys 100 shares of stock he/she will place one orange stock token on his/her stock budget sheet column to keep track of how many shares he/she owns.
  5. Players may sell off stock only in increments of 100 shares.

Life Pieces

Cost

One-time only HAPPY points

Recurring HAPPY points paid each time you pay monthly expenses.

Spouse

Roll for cost of wedding

5

 

Child

$1000 in diapers and formula

5

 

Used Car

$3000

 

2

New Car

Roll for cost

 

3

Apartment

Roll for rent

 

2

House

Roll for mortgage

 

5

Low risk investment

$1000 invested in CD

2

 

Stock market investment

100 shares X current share price

2

 

 

Life pieces dice roll charts

Housing

Roll 1

Roll 2

Roll 3

Roll 4

Roll 5

Roll 6

Expense Type

Live with Mom

$100

$100

$100

$100

$100

$100

Monthly

Rent

$400

$500

$600

$800

$900

$1000

Monthly

Mortgage

$800

$900

$1000

$1200

$1300

$1400

Monthly

 

Transportation

Roll 1

Roll 2

Roll 3

Roll 4

Roll 5

Roll 6

Expense Type

Public Trans

$100

$100

$100

$100

$100

$100

Monthly

Used Car

$3000

$100

$3000

$100

$3000

$100

$3000

$100

$3000

$100

$3000

$100

Initial

Monthly

New Car

$8000

$100

$10000

$100

$12000

$100

$14000

$100

$17000

$100

$20000

$100

Initial

Monthly

 

Family

Roll 1

Roll 2

Roll 3

Roll 4

Roll 5

Roll 6

Expense Type

Spouse (for wedding)

$500

$1000

$2000

$3000

$4000

$5000

Initial

Child (for diapers)

$2000

$2000

$2000

$2000

$2000

$2000

Initial

 

Alternative Play:
Simple Rules:

  1. If you intend to use this game in a classroom setting and want to simplify the rules you may choose this option. Notice with simple rules the game becomes more of a demonstration of how different aspects of your life affect your personal finances by chance, rather than a simulation of how your choices impact your personal finances.
  2. Option 1: Follow the rules and roll charts above, but instead of giving players the option to obtain life pieces, start the game with $10,000 for each person and require them to earn the married, with a child, living in an apartment, and driving a used car life pieces before the game begins.
  3. Option 2: Follow the rules and roll charts above, but instead of giving players the option to obtain life pieces, give each player a specific profile at the beginning of the game. Some example profiles are 1) married with 3 kids living in a house with a new car and no college, 2) single living in an apartment with college and a used car, 3) single with 3 kids living with Mom riding the bus. This becomes a demonstration of how different lifestyles affect us financially. This type of play should be followed by a discussion of each profile and how the game progressed depending on the player's circumstances.

Alternative Play:
Difficult Rules:

  1. If you have played the game once and you are now ready for a greater challenge, these options are for you.
  2. Option 1: Follow the rules and roll charts above. Before starting the game, each player gets to add or subtract two HAPPY points from the published value on the life pieces chart. For example, a player may choose to change having a child from five HAPPY points to seven HAPPY points because they contend that having a child should be worth more HAPPY points than buying a house. This change affects all players for the entire game.
  3. Option 2: Follow the rules and roll charts above. Before starting the game, each player adds two chance cards to the game in the categories of their choice. Use the blank chance cards provided and write appropriate the chance that includes paying or owing cash money and earning or loosing HAPPY points.


Design Process

On a white board in one of the dungeon conference rooms of the library with an assortment of SME texts for spurring ideas, our team threw out about two dozen financial terms. There seemed to be a slight disconnect between this initial brainstorm and our attempts to then classify the terms into game parts (chunking) The chunking process actually generated almost twice as many terms which formed much of the "meat" of the game. Perhaps we can attribute the bounty of new ideas to the subconscious "incubating" period.

First thoughts centered on narrowing our audience. Erica and Christie envisioned a distinct audience- older teens and young twenty-somethings in a home economics or military life-skills training class. Focusing on their immediate concerns ruled out excessive discussions of retirement and stock portfolios. This group has more pressing concerns like how to use a credit card responsibly. Additionally, the team unanimously envisioned a simulation where players can observe the consequences of their financial choices.

At this early stage the ideas considered and rejected tended to consist of fundamental shifts. After rejecting the possibility that the protagonist would be a financial planner, there was little doubt that our players would move through the "path" of financial time. We weren't sure whether the time would be a function of a week, a year, a month… what? Would the characters move in a hub and spoke configuration where each terminal end of the spoke represented some desirable asset? What about moving around a ring in a series of concentric circles where progression to the next ring represented moving to a different stage in life (age or wealth?) where the choices and chance cards shifted accordingly? No, that was slipping back into a longer life scheme than we wanted to throw at our players. Would an 18-year-old really be interested to evaluate decisions of a 65-year and her portfolio? No, probably not.

We found great value in disbanding and coming back together after we visited Game Empire, solicited input from a credit counselor and people who work with this age group and played some old board games with friends. Regrouping we shared, reflected, picked, and chose from ideas we had independently developed. Convention seems to be the point of convergence. For example, Erica had something kind of funky with her spiral layout but in the end we went with Christie's Monopoly-istic board.

This dynamic, we believe, worked pretty well in helping us to enhance our ideas. Each time we came back together, we reassessed whether the game's content was developing accurately and consistently with the learning objectives and, with Bernie's feedback <ahem>, whether this was going to be fun.

Ah yes… fun. Elusive fun. Our challenge was to try to be faithful to the content (some of which is described in a following paragraph) and learning objectives but also be fun. How do you help young adults appreciate the implications of their financial decisions without grinding the game to a trickle while players crunch numbers? If number crunching was important, why not throw the game onto a computer? Oh, no computer? Well, what to do?

Additionally, Erica rousted A.G. from his stupor for number charts and equity and liability charts in favor of TANGIBLE play-money, chips and counters. "But," A.G. countered, "who deals with several thousand dollars in hard cash to pay their rent?" Paper money is a LOT more fun he was assured and the players will still get the point. Paper money and other tangible tokens, it was.

Tokens such as happy points. We could have, for example, the game be about accumulating money but that wouldn't be consistent with an accurate simulation. On the other hand, we can't be entirely sure that our 'happy point' currency is a very accurate way to represent life. Who decides worth? Well, let the players argue that- they'll learn something in reflecting the comparative worth of the possessions and decisions the simulation suggests!

After we demoed the game for 5 hours, A.G. conceded it was a lot more with the tangible tokens. Playing the game revealed a number of additional insights. For example, for a game whose learning objective was to teach the implications of financial choices, were there really that many choices in the game-especially in the Chance cards that would continue to allow the player to make choices aside from the initial BIG life decisions. Additionally, could the Chance cards seek to involve the players in more direct collaboration or competition? For example offering players the opportunity to go in on purchases together for mutual benefit could keep players interested in the game while their opponents played and made considerations.

The final refinement came after feedback from classmates showed the need for more flexibility within the rules. We added a simple and difficult rules option. Simple, so that teachers could use the game without a long learning curve for students. And difficult, for second-time players who want to add a new challenge.

Reflecting on lessons learned, we have affirmed

  • the importance of making sure that the learning objectives remain clear
  • that we must try to simplify the game as much as possible by seeing if principles can be taught without immersion in "grinding" details
  • that tangible items (with this group and possibly others) are a useful tool for keeping things light and fun.


References

Books & Journals

  • Biatore, B. (2000). The complete idiot's guide to online personal finance. New York: Que.
  • Fisher, Y., S., & Shelly, S. (1999). The complete idiot's guide to personal finance in your 20s and 30s. New York: Que.
  • Orman, S. (2001). The Road to Wealth. New York: Penguin Putnam, Inc.
  • Rouse III, R. (2001). Game Design Theory & Practice. Plano, Texas: Wordware Publishing.
  • Fisher, Y., S., & Shelly, S. (1999). The complete idiot's guide to personal finance in your 20s and 30s. New York: Que.

Electronic

 


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Last updated November 7, 2001