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Online Spending Game as a Behavioral Research Tool. Experiment at the Science Museum (London)

“Game of Life”, an interactive spending game played at Science Museum (London) build by Expilab investigates how and why we spend our money the way we do

Daniel Guerrero

TL;DR “Game of Life”, an online interactive economic game played by the visitors of Science Museum in London, aims to understand how and why we spend money.

Designed by Dr. Heather Kappes (LSE) and developed by Expilab, the game extends functionality of spending games typically played in laboratory settings, uses engaging visual design while maintaining tight control over experimental conditions and data collected.

Since January 2019, kids and grown-ups visiting Science Museum (London) have a chance to play an interactive online spending game ”Game of Life” developed by Expilab in the “Who am I?” gallery. Designed by Dr. Heather Kappes from London School of Economics and Political Science, the online spending game aims to shed some extra lights on understanding how and why we spend money.

Read more about the story behind creation of the game at Science Museum blog here (external link)

Distressing fact is that many people across the world are living from paycheck to paycheck without saving enough not only for the future but also for emergencies. Earlier research shows that neither abundance of information nor financial training have impact on people’s financial decisions. Hence it is valuable to understand how and, particularly why this is happening.

We want to know, in a large and varied group of people of different ages, how choices about spending money are affected by things that are important in the real world, like how much you start off with, how regularly you get income, and how other people around you are spending their own money.               Dr. Heather Kappes (LSE)

Visitors of "Who am I?" gallery of the Live Science event playing "Game of Life"

Online Spending Game as a Research Tool

As a research tool, the game developed by Expilab allows LSE scholars scientifically study spending behavior under controlled conditions with people ages 8 and up. The choice of the game format among other things was defined by the limitations of the field data where it can be difficult to identify the causes of the spending behavior(1) as well as by the opportunity to engage younger audience roaming around different galleries and events at the British Science museum during January and February of 2019.

It also needs to be noted that studying spending behavior using economics games is not new in academic research. Earlier studies (1, 2) explored such behavior in laboratory settings.

The “Game of Life” experiment was created and developed by Expilab team using our digital platform for behavioral experiments. Original research idea required implementation of the classical game not only in a new, visually more engaging format in online settings but also adapted for field testing using tablets. So during several months of 2018 Expilab’s researchers, graphical artists and web-developers worked on the design of the game characters (game avatars), visual styles, animations, sounds and game interactions.

Screenshot of the individual condition of the "Game of Life"

From academic perspective, created game allows LSE’s research team collect extensive amount of behavioral data about player’s actions and choices (with millisecond precision), have a full experimental control of variables (e.g. income streams, timings, group feedback, randomization formats and more), support condition randomization as well as integrate complex survey instruments.

If you would like to learn more about our behavioral research tools and experience in designing and running behavioral experiments, games and decision simulations, get in touch with by sending us an email / a Tweet. If you are around Barcelona and interested to chat, we are happy to invite you for a cup of good coffee!

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