The Credit Crunch at Play

(graphic obtained here, by enrevanche)

I’ve subscribed to The Economist for 22 years.  IN my opinion, it is the best English language newsweekly in the world.  Every now and then they toss a game into the magazine.  This time, the Internet aids the game, in that you can download cards, money, pieces, and rules.

This evening, three of my eight children said they wanted to play the game with me.  How it happened: I had printed out the money, cards, pieces and rules, and I had The Economist open to its centerfold, and the one who recently scored well on the National FInancial Literacy challenge saw it and asked what it was.  I told him it was a game from The Economist, and that if he made the effort to cut the pieces of paper and get the pieces together, we would play the game.  Two other children joined in, and we started the game.

Now, ay my house, you learn about the markets atmospherically.  As one of my kids said, who is not markets-oriented, “Yeah, in school neither the teacher nor the students understood what was going on in the economy, but I was able to explain it.”  (That floored me.)  As for the children that played with me this evening, it was filled with “Dad, what does it mean by…?” and laughter over the concept of naked short selling, especially given the graphic on the board.  There were a lot of “teachable moments” from a home schooler’s point of view.

The board and cards are filled with the clever humor of KAL, The Economist’s main cartoonist.  The kids picked up the copious easy humor, while I smiled at the nuances that they missed.  We have not finished the game yet, and two of my other children have said they want to play the next game.  One more aspect of the game: it starts in an intensifying boom cycle, and moves to an intensifying bust cycle.  The business cycle concept is definitely taught.

The length of the game seems to be an hour at minimum, and I’m not sure what the maximum could be.  Already the children are learning aspects of negotiation.  After one child went bankrupt for the second time, she received a buyout offer, a contingent debt offer in exchange for a “Get out of Chapter 11 free” card, and a free offer of money with the condition that if she went bankrupt again, she would sell out for a price fixed now.  She chose the contingent debt offer, and we all said she made the right move.

It may not be Monopoly, but it’s a fun game, and it is free.  Give The Economist and KAL credit for a clever game that sheds some light on the current crisis in a fun way.