Q&A: Nick Maynard, Senior Innovation Director, Doorway to Dreams (D2D) Fund

Nick Maynard, Senior Innovation Director of Doorway to Dreams Fund

D2D introduced Celebrity Calamity, its first “financial entertainment” game, in 2009. In addition to other initiatives, D2D has since added four other titles: Groove Nation, Farm Blitz, Bite Club and Refund Rush.

NEFE: How does D2D measure the effectiveness of its games?

NM: We started by identifying a set of outcomes we wanted to see and then broke those down into questions we wanted to answer. First we asked, ‘Can we build a game that works?’ It turns out, our first game, Celebrity Calamity, worked—meaning it communicated the concepts while keeping users engaged. The next was, ‘Can we get any low- to moderate-income folks to show up to play financial education games?’ We partnered with the military, community colleges and others and found that with the right amount of marketing and advertising support, there was a market for these types of games. The advantage being that the offer of playing a video game was a win-win because it was not what the users expected and these folks are already playing video games. Overall, we were asking ‘Can games build financial capability?’ Games are action oriented. Because of where the brain is at mentally after playing a game, you might actually be able to get people to take action right there in the game. That’s what we’re very interested in—these types of video games actually change the brain’s chemistry. They reduce stress; they reduce anxiety and there are these dopamine hits coming at the user. That presents a tremendous amount of opportunities, especially for financially vulnerable Americans who are generally too stressed out to even take a first step.

NEFE: Do you think that people would play these types of games on their own time?

NM: Absolutely! And we know that they are. We’re reaching the employee who plays Candy Crush and does not read a thing you send them about their 401(k). Many people just get that packet about their retirement plan and toss it, but when they get an offer from their employer that has creative, game-like marketing, they go home and play it, because they play video games and they want to see what’s up. In contrast to adults, youth present a distinct challenge.

Whether students will go home and play a financial education game or even read traditional financial education content, I’m not sure. We do know that teachers are using our games in classrooms across the country and students greatly enjoy the experience in that setting.

NEFE: What do opponents of gamification in financial education say?

NM: I wouldn’t call them opponents, I’d call them skeptics. There’s still the general critique that video games are bad, they make kids fat, and things like that. Gamification is such a popular topic right now, but the financial services space is way behind. Just go to your app store: There’s a proliferation of tools—both video games and gamified tools—to help change behavior in the health care space, and there is very little in the financial services space.

NEFE: What do you think about the idea that technology is the one key to reaching Millennials?

NM: I’m of the mindset that there’s no silver bullet. As with anything, there are many different ways to engage large, diverse audiences such as Millennials or financially vulnerable Americans. Some folks are going to want to play video games to learn about financial topics; others won’t. It turns out that it’s a pretty large number who will because so many people are playing video games in general. The field needs to continue to innovate in a cost-effective way to determine what types of investments will benefit consumers. For example, if gamified tools and apps can help arrest the savings crisis for American consumers, what is the overall social return on that investment?

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]