Sunday, November 09, 2008


Karma Tycoon is game in which players choose a city's population to serve and the type of non-profit organization to open within it. Players earn Karma points by attracting their target population to the site. How can you improve your site to attract a larger number of individuals? Should you pay cash or use your credit line to fund your site's expenditures? Do you qualify for a grant? Keep your balance sheet in the black and earn a 100% Karma score to advance the next city.

Karma Tycoon's web site offers a comprehensive, 34 page teacher's guide that includes pre-and post-game lesson plans, vocabulary resources, and worksheets. Resources for instructors adds value to this game and increases it's potential for use.

Karma Tycoon's Web Site Description

"It has cool, splashy graphics and is fun to play, but instead of trying to make a million dollars, users are making the world a better place by running nonprofit organizations (homeless shelters, animal shelters, youth centers, senior centers, and performing arts centers) in different cities across the United States. Players apply for grants and loans (and learn the difference between them), outfit nonprofits with the basic necessities, and watch the news ticker to make sure a hurricane doesn’t interfere with plans. With successful management of funds, players are given additional grants and donations, enabling their organization to grow in scale and offer more services to further help the community. The goal of the game is to serve as many people (or animals) as possible, which will maximize karma, so players can move on the next city and make a difference there, too. Simply put, the more people helped by each player, the more karma is gained. "

One Round of Game Play
Players choose to open the non-profit in one of several cities across the continental United States. Each city is marked with one of three icons to note level of challenge non-profiteers face in the city. Karma Tycoon presents each city and it's population realistically.

Once a city is chosen, players must determine which type of non-profit to establish and operate. Players can view authentic demographic information relating to the target population for each type of organization and links to real organizations by clicking "learn". The information in the "learn" links provides insight into the city's unique social challenges.

I chose to open a Youth Center in San Francisco and was presented with a map of the area. Each red dot represents a youth than can be served by my center. I was able to place my center in any location of the city.

I began play with with a $45,000 start-up grant. I was immediately faced with difficult choices for the features of each center. Choices for the Youth Center include a study hall area, computer lab, indoor games, dining hall, kitchen (complete with chef), basketball court, skate park, and swimming pool. I decided to purchase two buildings and then equipped each with different big-ticket items, a skate park and basketball court respectively, to eliminate competition between the two sites. I provided a kitchen, dining area, and computers at each site.

The pace of the game picked up after I opened my centers. There was constant movement on the screen. Each month I was presented a billing notice for expenses. Operating costs were deducted automatically from my balance sheet's total. I was excited to watch the red dots on the map move to each center and my Karma points increase. During play, the Karmmeter keept track of my expenses and funding sources. My excitiement waned as I ran out of cash and needed to find more money to keep the centers in operation. I stubbornly stuck to my non-credit funding strategy. I applied for and received several small grants, however, was denied larger grants. After a few months of operation (about 15 minutes) my non-profit's bottom line was in the red.

Players advance to another city when 100% Karma points are earned by a non-profit whose bottom line remains in the black. My play ended after my balance sheet was in the red for two months in a row.
My cumulative progress is tracked in a score card. The need for social support organizations in a particular city is again emphasized through the organization of cities into categories.

Karma Tycoon is a challenging game that could be used to enrich or supplement curriculum in several content areas. The resources for teachers provide comprehensive materials that teachers can implement easily. Karma Tycoon offers authentic data and descriptions of social issues faced by particular populations, both human and animal, in cities across the continental United States. Players engage in activities that increase social awareness and develop a myriad of managerial skills.


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