Q&A: Jason Young, Co-founder and CEO, MindBlown Labs

Jason Young, Co-founder and CEO, MindBlown Labs

MindBlown’s strategy/life simulation game Thrive ‘n’ Shine aims to help students gain financial skills using real-world scenarios, from budgeting and saving to credit score management and debt management.

NEFE: What makes a successful game?

JY: There are many pieces to that question. From a fun, engagement standpoint, one thing that games do well is a fantasy element. Generally a lot of games basically give you an opportunity to disconnect from your real life.

NEFE: Financial education games are not super fun fantasy material.

JY: It depends on how you envision it. For instance, the Stock Market GameTM has been around for a very long time and it’s very engaging for students. It’s not that money is inherently boring. It’s the way we think about teaching it. Generally the people who make those types of games don’t know anything about making games.

NEFE: If I were an organization intent upon building a game, where should I start?

JY: The first thing I did was to find people who had experience making games. Making games is a craft, like any other craft. You wouldn’t just say ‘I’m going to go build a rocket ship today.’ That’s a craft that takes years to master. If for some reason you needed to build a rocket, you would find people who really are experts in that field and you would learn about the ins and outs—even if all you learned was how to hire people to build the rocket.

NEFE: How do you envision your game being used?

JY: In the classroom as well as in other informal education settings such as after-school programs and nonprofits. Eventually we’ll look at parents as well. Games are very powerful experiential learning tools. A big piece of experiential learning is reflection and abstract conceptualization. The games are great at teaching students how to do things, exposing them to ideas, engaging them, getting them to see how things work together versus individually. But in terms of the abstract conceptualization and reflection piece, that’s where having reinforcement from a teacher or parent can help tremendously.

NEFE: How do you know if it’s changing people’s behaviors outside of the game?

JY: Right now the evidence we have is anecdotal—people saying they’ve actually changed their savings behavior or that they’ve learned things through playing the game. But that’s just a start. We are partnering with financial institutions to look at providing students who play our games with savings and checking accounts, as appropriate, to make sure that they have the opportunity to put what they’re learning into practice. We’re actually conducting a rigorous research study funded by the Treasury Department to measure the efficacy of our game and curriculum.

NEFE: There is this notion that technology will make financial education scalable for a much larger population. What’s going to make this any different from prior efforts?

JY: I hope our game will have a tremendous impact, but it is not going to solve America’s financial illiteracy problem by itself. If we really want young people to have these skills, it’s not just about scalability; it’s about ongoing exposure. We need major support well beyond K-12, into people’s careers, as they’re making financial decisions. Games in general can add a whole new layer of tools that can be very valuable, but they’re not going to do it by themselves. As with any skill, there’s always going to be a human component. Even with all the math games out there, there’s no expectation that math teachers are going to go away. The approach that we and others are taking is to use games to empower instructors rather than replace them.

NEFE: What’s your take on companies or organizations having this knee-jerk reaction, ‘Let’s make a game because it’s the silver bullet’?

JY: Technology is really a great communication tool and games are an elaborate form of communication. You can make really terrible technology, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, that is more likely than not. Just as with any tool, it has to be respected.

NEFE: Is it pretty common for people to think it’s going to be cheaper to make?

JY: Yes, a lot of very well-meaning organizations shortchange the technology. I’ve seen projects where they’re doing a technology project, essentially, but they only want to dedicate 10 percent of the budget to building the technology. Technology generally requires a large upfront investment, but can be scaled at a much lower per-person cost.

See the full Summer 2015 Digest or download the PDF

Contacts

  • Paul Golden

    Media Relations Director

    Direct: 303-224-3514
    Cell: 303-918-3620
    [email protected]

  • Patricia (Pat) Seaman

    Senior Director of Marketing and Communications

    Direct: 303-224-3538
    [email protected]

Contacts

  • Paul Golden

    Media Relations Director

    Direct: 303-224-3514
    Cell: 303-918-3620
    [email protected]

  • Patricia (Pat) Seaman

    Senior Director of Marketing and Communications

    Direct: 303-224-3538
    [email protected]