Financial Video Games: A Financial Literacy Tool for Social Workers

Kristin Richards, Jaclyn M. Williams, Thomas E. Smith, Bruce A. Thyer


The purpose of this article is to describe a new approach to practice for social workers, providing financial education services to their clients through the use of personal-finance video games. Addressing the financial concerns of individuals and families has long been part of social work practice. However, video games designed for educational purposes (i.e. digital game-based learning) provide a new interactive teaching method which emphasizes experiential learning. Some technological advantages to using video games for educational purposes are: interactivity, accessibility, individualization, low cost per user, the ease of updating the content, and the attractiveness of the graphics. Educational video games support and strengthen: school achievement, cognitive abilities, motivation towards learning, attention and concentration. Overall, the literature indicates that digital game-based learning is a viable and promising method for social workers to provide financial educational services to their clients.

Full Text:



Agarwal, S., Driscoll, J. C., Gabaix, X., & Laibson, D. (2009). The age of reason: Financial decisions over the lifecycle (Working Paper). Boston, MA: Harvard University and MIT.

Ariely, D. (2009). Predictably irrational. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., & Tice, D. M. (2007). The strength model of self-control. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 351-355.

Beale, I. L., Kato, P. M., Marin-Bowling, V. M., Guthrie, N., & Cole, S. W. (2007). Improvement in cancer-related knowledge following use of a psychoeducational video game for adolescents and young adults with cancer. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41, 263-270.

Beverly, S., Sherraden, M., Zhan, M., iam Shanks, T. R., Nam, Y., & Cramer, R. (2008). Determinants of asset building. Retrieved from

Bingaman, J. (2011). Summary of the Automatic IRA Act of 2011. Retrieved from

Birkenmaier, J., & Curley, J. (2009). Financial credit: Social work's role in empowering low-income families. Journal of Community Practice, 17, 251-268.

Boshara, R., Gannon, J., Mandell, L., Phillips, J. W. R., & Sass, S. (2010). Consumer trends in the public, private, and nonprofit sector. Retrieved from

Caskey, J. P. (2002). Bringing unbanked households in the banking system. Retrieved from

Center for Financial Security. (2011). About us. Retrieved from

Center for Financial Social Work. (2011). About. Retrieved from

Center for Social Development. (n.d.). Overview of savings theory. Retrieved from

Christelis, D., Jappelli, T., & Padula, M. (2008). Cognitive abilities and portfolio choice.

Cole, S. A. & Shastry, G. K. (2009, February). Smart money: The effect of education, cognitive ability, and financial literacy on financial market participation (Working Paper 09-071). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Finance.

Collins, J. M. (2011). Integrating financial capacity building into public programs. Retrieved from

Despard, M. R., & Chowa, G. A. N. (2010). Social workers’ interest in building individuals financial capabilities. Journal of Financial Therapy, 1(1), 23-41.

Dorman, S. M. (1997). Video and computer games: Effect on children and implications for health education. Journal of School Health, 67, 133-138.

Duan, W., Ho, S., M. Y., Bai, Y., & Tang, X. (2013). Psychometric evaluation of the Chinese virtues questionnaire. Research on Social Work Practice, 23, 336-345.

Duan, W., Ho, S. M. Y., Bai, Y., Tang, X., Zhang, Y. Li, T., & Yuen, T. (2012). Factor structure of the Chinese Virtues Questionnaire. Research on Social Work Practice, 22, 680-688.

Engelbrecht, L. (2008). The scope of financial literacy education: A poverty alleviation tool in social work? Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk, 44, 252-262.

Fox, J., Bartholomae, S., & Lee, J. (2005). Building the case for financial education. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 39, 195-214.

Hung, A. A., Parker, A. M. and Yoong, J. K. (2009). Defining and measuring financial literacy.

Johnson, E., & Sherraden, M. S. (2007). From financial literacy to financial capability among youth. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 34, 119-146.

Jump$tart Coalition. (2011).

Kahneman, D. & Deaton, A. (2010). High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107, 16489-16493.

Laibson, D. (1997). Golden eggs and hyperbolic discounting. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112, 443-477.

Lapp, W. M. (2010). Behavioral models for driving prosperity for low income people: EARN’s model of financial self-efficacy. Retrieved from

Lyons, A. C. Chang, Y., & Scherpf, E. M. (2006). Translating financial education into behavior change for low-income populations. Financial Counseling and Planning, 17, 27-45.

Maton, C. C., Maton, M., & Martin, W. M. (2010). Collaborating with a financial therapist: The why, who, what, and how. Journal of Financial Planning, 23, 62-70.

O’Donoghue, T., & Rabin, M. (1998). Procrastination in preparing for retirement. Retrieved from

Papastergiou, M. (2009a). Digital game-based learning in high school computer science education: Impact on educational effectiveness and student motivation. Computers & Education, 52, 1-12.

Papastergiou, M. (2009b). Exploring the potential of computer and video games for health and physical education: A literature review. Computers & Education, 53, 603-622.

Prensky, M. (2001). The digital game-based learning revolution. In M. Prensky (Eds.), Digital game-based learning (pp. 1-19). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Prensky, M. (2003). Digital game-based learning. ACM Computers in Entertainment, 1(1), 1-4.

Richards, K. V., & Thyer, B. A. Does individual development account participation help the poor? A review. Research on Social Work Practice, 21, 348-362.

Richmond, M. E. (1917). Social diagnosis. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Rosas, R., Nussbaum, M., Cumsille, P., Marianov, V., Correa, M., Flores, P., … Salinas, M. (2003). Beyond Nintendo: Design and assessment of educational video games for first and second grade students. Computers & Education, 40, 71-94.

Rupured, M., Most, B. W., & Sherraden, M. (2000). Improving family financial security: A family economics--social work dialogue. Retrieved from

Sherraden, M., Laux, S., & Kaufman, C. (2007). Financial education for social workers. Journal of Community Practice, 15(3), 9-36.

Simon, H A. (1994). Behavioral economics. Retrieved from

Simon, H. A., Egidi, M., Viale, R., & Marris, R. (1992). Economics, bounded rationality, and the cognitive revolution. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.

Smith, T. E., Nelson, R., Richards, K. V. & Hamel, V. (2012). Financial therapy:Five steps to financial freedom. Tallahassee, FL: Southeastern Professional Books.

Smith, T. E., Nelson, R., Richards, K. V. & Hamel, V. (2012). Guide to financial therapy: Handouts and forms. Tallahassee, FL: Southeastern Professional Books.

Snow, N. E. & Trivigno, F. V. (Eds.) (2014). The philosophy and psychology of character and happiness. New York: Taylor & Francis.

Squire, K. D. (2008). Video game-based learning: An emerging paradigm for instruction. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 21(2), 7-35.

Suiter, M. & Meszaros, B. T. (2005). Teaching about saving and investing in the elementary and middle school grades. Social Education, 69, 92-95.

Thaler, R. H. (2000). From homo economicus to homo sapiens. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 14, 133-141.

Thaler, R. H., & Mullainathan, S. (2008). How behavioral economics differs from traditional economics. In D. R. Henderson, (Ed.). The concise encyclopedia of economics (pp. 34-37). Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund.

Tufano, P., Flacke, T., & Maynard, N. (2011). Project: Better financial decision making among low-income and minority groups. Retrieved from


Tuzun, H., Yilmaz-Soylu, M., Karakus, T., Inal, Y., & Kizilkaya, G. (2008). The effects of computer games on primary school students’ achievement and motivation in geography learning. Computers & Education, 52, 68-77.

Watson, W. R., Mong, C. J., & Harris, C. A. (2011). A case study of the in-class use of a video game for teaching high school history. Computers & Education, 56, 466-474.

Way, W. L., & Wong, N. (2010). Harnessing the power of technology to enhance financial literacy education and personal financial well-being: A review of the literature, proposed model, and action agenda. (CFS Research Brief FLRC 10-6) Retrieved from Center for Financial Security website:

Van Wormer, K., & Besthorn, F. H. (2011). Human behavior and the social environment: Groups, communities, and organizations. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.

Vitt, L. A., Anderson, C., Kent, J., Lyter, D. M., Siegenthaler, J. K., & Ward, J. (2000). Personal finance and the rush to competence: Financial literacy education in the U.S. Retrieved from



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c)

International Journal of Social Work  ISSN 2332-7278  E-mail:

Copyright © Macrothink Institute 

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the '' domains to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', please check your 'spam' or 'junk' folder.