Sep 30, 2017

NGPF Podcast: Tim Talks to Jenny Nicholson, Creator of College Simulation Game, PAYBACK

I am excited to welcome Jenny Nicholson, Creative Director at McKinney, back to the NGPF podcast (here was our earlier discussion about the game Spent). I have gotten to know Jenny quite well over the past six months as we collaborated on a game called PAYBACK (check out the NY Times article about the game here). The goal of this online simulation is to immerse students into the college experience so they can hone their decision making skills to successfully navigate the challenges they will face (spoiler alert: I don't want to spoil your game experience by giving too much away:) 
I feel fortunate to have had a "front row seat" to the passion and creativity that Jenny and her team brought to the development process everyday. I think the best games are those that students learn from without realizing that they are learning. Payback is exactly that kind of game. While it may only take 10-15 minutes to play, it will generate classroom discussion that could go for hours (here's the worksheet with reflection questions). Listen to this podcast to get the "behind the scenes" look at the game development process and learn about the in-depth research that went into creating such a realistic simulation. Enjoy!
  • 0:00~1:15 - Introduction
  • 1:15~4:02 - Background
  • 4:02~4:53 - How the social worker mindset has helped Jenny in her current role
  • 4:53~6:37 - Elevator pitch for Payback 
  • 6:37~11:50 - Different factors the game measures  
  • 11:50~13:30 - What are the challenges that college students face today?
  • 13:30~17:15 - How the college experience has changed in last 20 years
  • 17:15~20:15 - Payback as a conversation starter
  • 20:15~20:35 - A word from our sponsor, Next Gen Personal Finance
  • 20:35~24:50 - Creative process
  • 24:50~26:52 - Research that went into the game
  • 26:52~29:07 - "Right amount" of student debt
  • 29:07~30:03 - Goals of the game
  • 30:03~35:02 - Advice for teachers on how to use Payback in the classroom
  • 35:02~36:29 - Conclusion
Notable Quote:
  • "It's not about the coolest thing I can do, but its about what can I do to connect with someone in a powerful, meaningful game."
  • "With PAYBACK, students can make mistakes but make mistakes in a safe virtual environment so when they apply to colleges they have made mistakes the easy way and not the hard way." 

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.

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