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Playconcomics - video game for teaching economics

A video game created to teach econcomics, is being used to deliver economics courses to literally thousands of students worldwide.  It was the first gamified course in economics ever created worldwide, and was licensed under Easy Access IP.

In addition, based on initial success of Playconomics, the creators established LionsHeart Studios, in 2015 a start-up company, which developed games such as PlayMacro for teaching macro-economic principles, Playtax for teaching principles of international taxation and Playmed for simulating medical practice environment for medical students. The company has five employees, including the founders.   

Before launching Playconomics, rigorous research and testing was conducted, with startling results, by the inventors, Dr. Isabella Dobrescu and Dr. Alberto Motta from UNSW Sydney.  

'We first tested a prototype version of Playconomics in the field and we found something very interesting,' Alberto explains. 'When we gamified 10% of the course, the final exam marks increased by roughly 10% - all types of students benefitted. These results encouraged us to gamify the entire course. The educational impact has been simply outstanding. We have never seen anything like it,' he says.

Although the research findings have been overwhelming, Isabella stresses the importance of continued investigation into the reasons for the success of Playconomics.

'Why is the game working so well as an educational tool? We believe it has to do with its ability to unlock experiential learning. You cannot get that kind of immersion unless you use a video game. But the jury is still out on this. Much more research is needed to find a definite answer,' Isabella says.

Since its launch, Playconomics has won awards for learning outcomes, has been adopted by other Australian universities, and Isabella and Alberto are now extending the use of Playconomics to outreach programs. Most importantly, students love it. As soon as they receive their course content via Playconomics, students jump ahead of their class material, signalling an end to last minute cramming.

Alberto believes that a large part of the game’s appeal is that it empowers students by making economics more accessible without compromising on the rigorous economic models that are the basis of the game.

'Playconomics is the great equaliser, it makes the economic models super-approachable,' Alberto says.

'Some economists are a bit resistant to this concept because when you see the game in action, it's actually much simpler than looking at a lot of formulas. Now students and lecturers are looking at the same thing - a virtual world that mirrors the realities that lie beyond all the maths we teach in Economics,' he says.

Playconomics is empowering students to be game changers in every sense.

Alberto and Isabella are reinventing the way Economics is taught in Australia and beyond.