Dan Scherlis

User Experience, Info Security, Health Games, Linguistics

Archive for February, 2009

Celebrity Calamity: game that actually teaches financial literacy

Posted by scherlis on February 18, 2009

Today sees the release of Celebrity Calamity, a browser-based game that has already been shown to improve financial-literacy skills. The game comes from the Doorways to Dreams Fund (D2D), and is inspired by the research of D2D’s founder, Harvard Business School Professor Peter Tufano. D2D plans other games to target an endemic lack of financial skills and knowledge, particularly among low-income single mothers.

Here’s the best part: it seems to work. Preliminary testing results by D2D show:

  • financial skills & confidence up 15% to 30%
  • financial knowledge up 55% to 70%

I’m pleased to have had a small role in the Celebrity Calamity team. At the request of Prof. Tufano and D2D’s Nick Maynard, I assembled a few local game designers into a small brainstorming group.  Nick and I had hoped to conclude with a few high concepts and general principles, but the team exceeded all our hopes, and quickly converged on a core vision. After a huge amount of work by Nick and his development teams: it’s a game! From that initial brainstorming team, Jason Booth stayed with the project as advisor and designer.

Celebrity Calamity got a write-up by Anya Kamenetz on Fast Company’s blog. You can see the press release, or view the trailer on Youtube, or check out interviews with the test users.

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Nerdly sub-cultures and their humor

Posted by scherlis on February 17, 2009

One joy of the internet is that, no matter how narrow your niche, you can surely find blogs to support it, comics to self-parody it, and communities to squabble about it.  These examples crossed my desk (er, desktop) this morning:

(1)  For philosophy nerds: Advanced Dungeons & Discourse

Bayesian Empirimancy: prior spell-efficacy

The rewarding Mind Hacks blog highlights this philosophy-themed D&D role-playing quest.

And there’s the original Dungeons & Discourse, also by Dresden Codak.  (The 8th-level positivist is immune to metaphysics, but has low charisma.)

(2) For language nerds: worst pun ever, with analysis

My own favorite guilty nerdly pleasure, Language Log, reports this appalling pun (an 18-second video). The pun is ‘good’, but it’s the comments below that got my attention, rife with linguistic-style categorization-squabbles, with duly-offered comparables and counterexamples.  (That said, Karen is right: it’s not a mondegreen; it’s not like “Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames.” And I’m always happy to see a Hendrix reference in any thread.)

Of course, I can’t mention nerdly humor without this modern classic:

(3) For comp-sci/math nerds: XKCD

If you’re this kind of nerd, and you didn’t yet know about XKCD, well, then, you’re welcome. This recent favorite captures the full XKCD mandate of “romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”

The culture of the XKCD forums (excuse me: fora)  are worthy of their own examination.  Later.   The various emergent behaviors include a variety of forum games.

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