Could freemium games teach today's kids better budget-management?

Could freemium games teach today's kids better budget-management?
The topic of "freemium" games has been the reason for a lot of heated debates - particularly when you have in-app purchases and children in the mix. Many fear and accuse the developers of such games to be devilish tricksters, looking to cash in an easy buck off of a child's love for gaming.

Mark Sorrell, a freemium game design and behaviour change consultant, contributor to "The Children’s Media Yearbook" - a comprehensive guide to children's use of media, has an interesting viewpoint on the topic.

First, he explains that nowadays, freemium apps meant specifically for kids are few and hard to come by, "thanks to a number of high profile missteps", and are probably not going to expand anytime soon. He does not point fingers, but says that the EU and OFT are now giving the industry a long, unyelding "I am watching you" stare, to make sure that all is fairplay in the kids-game department.

So the "freemium" model has been contained to the "adults" sector, but does that help? Doesn't seem so. In reality, Sorrell says, children not only love games, but get into them and learn all the mechanics inside out faster, than an adult can say "What do I press now?". So, having a game labeled as being more complex may make us think that the youngsters would stay away from it, but fact is that kids rarely turn down a challenge. And thus, the "freemium" problem persists.

Well, in Mr. Sorrell's eyes, it is more of a "responsibility" issue than a real "problem". He does point out that we now live in a time and age, where money is more of a digital notion, than a real-life thing. A world where the paycheck is just a number on the screen, not possible to touch and smell, but fully capable of paying the bills, buying dinner and yes - even buying other unreal and untouchable "possessions" – a green helmet for your in-game avatar, for example. A world with a future that we will probably find hard to comprehend, yet we insist on teaching our kids the "old ways" of money-handling.

So what exactly is this "responsibility"? Well, the way children learned in the past was by spending their allowance on "useless", colorful, over-the-top toys that they quickly grew tired and disappointed of. These disappointments, believe it or not, slowly but surely led to the budget-conscious adults that we all are. Mr. Sorrell hereby asks - why not prepare today's children for a future of invisible and untouchable cash by helping and guiding the way they spend their funds in-game? Instead of condemning the industry as the Evil Man's business – why not take advantage of this learning tool?

What do you think of this standpoint?

source: The Guardian

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