Mar 04, 2023

How to Incorporate Arcade Games in the Classroom: SHADY SAM

This week we are taking a look at the Arcade Game Shady Sam. In Shady Sam, the player/student plays the role of the lender, and the objective is to make as much money from unsuspecting customers as possible (hence the name.) It is a great review of all the loan terms and how they impact the total amount paid by the borrower/earned by the lender. And the students really enjoy the old-school graphics!


This series is designed to give teachers new to Arcade Games some tips from teachers who have lots of experience and excellent suggestions on how to use them in class. Even if you have used a game with your students, a quick read of this post might give you some new ideas.


The best place to start preparing to use Shady Sam in class is to first play the game a few times, and then watch Amanda Volz’s teacher tip video. Amanda suggests using this video, along with the reflection sheet, toward the end of your unit on loans, but certainly once you have introduced loan terms and the students have an idea of how they influence the total cost of the loan. Amanda suggests adhering to the suggestion that calculators not be allowed, and that you jot down the reactions you hear from the students to recap with them later. Between a brief introduction, students playing the game and filling in the reflection sheet afterwards, this should fill a 40-55 minute class period.


Kerri Herrild uses the game and worksheet in her classroom as an introduction to the topic and suggests it can take roughly 30 minutes to complete.  She makes the following suggestion:

“Play the game once on your own so that you understand how it works. Then I like to demo the first part of it on the screen before students play. I do so with excitement and curiosity. I find that when I model games with some enthusiasm, students generally approach them with more interest.”


Brian Johnson uses the game after using the NearPod lesson on predatory lending.  He also runs a competiton with Shady Sam.

To build excitement I project the screenshots of the profit on the screen so the kids can see the amount to beat. The kids save this to the reflection sheet. Preface the reflection sheet by telling them they have to take the screenshot before the close out of that screen. 

Brian awards the winner with a Shady Sam sticker. Back in 2019 when he first used the game, he commented that “It’s a hit with the kids! Quoting one of my students, ‘I know it’s a game, but I feel dirty lending this money.’


On FinLit Fanatics, several teachers mentioned that students feel bad or dirty earning money this way. Amanda referenced this in her video as well. 

  • Jane Klir Vau (3/9/2020): “Playing Shady Sam today. Fascinating to see the reactions. Some students feel bad for the borrowers. Some feel no compassion. Some say they are just doing their job. Some say they would never do a job like this. But they ALL agree that they never want to end up with no emergency fund and end up taking out a payday loan.”
  • Gini Nichols (3/27/2020): “So my kids just played Shady Sam and they feel really bad because they made lots of money. Life lesson.”
  • And Nikia Williams on 10/15/2022 posted that she awarded the “Shadiest Sam of All Award” to the student who made the most money playing the game and included a template for the “certificate” in the Files section of the FinLit Fanatics page.
  • Brian Johnson also runs a competiton with Shady Sam. He tracks the students’ results and awards a Shady Sam sticker to the “winner.” Back in 2019 when he first used the game, he commented that “It’s a hit with the kids! Quoting one of my students, ‘I know it’s a game, but I feel dirty lending this money.’


There is an NGPF Virtual PD offered this week (March 7) on the Ethics of Shady Sam. It would be a great way to get some added info and motivation to incorporate this game into your classroom, and probably some other handy tips from teachers in the session!



Resource Recap


QOD’s that might be good to use to introduce the game.

  • What is the most popular credit product for GenZ Consumers QOD 1
  • What is the average credit card debt held by GenZ QOD 2
  • How much will Americans who only make minimum credit card payments end up paying in interest charges this year? QOD 3
  • Excluding home loans, what are the three largest debts for American Consumers? QOD 4


FinCap Friday


Articles/Other resources


Professional Development

Virtual PD THIS WEEK on the Ethics of Shady Sam

About the Author

Beth Tallman

Beth Tallman entered the working world armed with an MBA in finance and thoroughly enjoyed her first career working in manufacturing and telecommunications, including a stint overseas. She took advantage of an involuntary separation to try teaching high school math, something she had always dreamed of doing. When fate stepped in once again, Beth jumped on the opportunity to combine her passion for numbers, money, and education to develop curriculum and teach personal finance at Oberlin College. Beth now spends her time writing on personal finance and financial education, conducts student workshops, and develops finance curricula and educational content. She is also the Treasurer of Ohio Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy.

Mail Icon

Subscribe to the blog

Join the more than 11,000 teachers who get the NGPF daily blog delivered to their inbox: