May 14 2012

Get in the Game: How Credit Unions Can Engage Members, Solve Problems, and Improve Skills with Game Thinking

Worldwide, three billion hours are spent playing video games each week. The five million “extreme” gamers in the United States play an average of 45 hours per week, more than the average worker spends earning a living. In contrast, consumers spend only 2.6 hours per month on financial planning and budgeting.

Why? Games are fun, while personal finances are boring or overwhelming. Games are engaging; personal finances are simply unwelcome chores. Games help people escape reality; personal finances force an outright confrontation with it.

As credit unions struggle to improve member financial behavior, skills, and capacity; engage audiences; and optimize organizational performance, a key question should be asked: Should we be thinking more like game designers?

The Filene Research Institute has spent considerable resources over the past decade studying, piloting, and researching ideas that leverage game thinking. Our work with Save to Win uses the appeal of lottery-type games to encourage low-wealth consumers to develop positive savings habits. The i3 Idea Savings Challenge took advantage of game dynamics to encourage families to reduce debt and increase savings. A 2012 pilot with Save to Win is studying how game thinking can encourage better financial behaviors.

This innovation brief puts the theory and practice of game thinking to work for credit unions. You will learn how game designers approach solving problems and engaging audiences, the psychology of game players, and practical examples that your credit union can implement right away.

Report Number 273