Every autumn the City of Rijeka (Croatia) updates its online game Proracun(ajme)! with data from the public budget proposal and invites its citizens to play. Proracun(ajme) is fun, yet an educational game for participative budgeting. I once talked to the manager of finances of the City of Rijeka Mr. Ante Madjeric about how the city uses the game and got quite an enthusiastic view that it not only helps the budget department but others too, as it generates new ideas from the citizens. The mayor enjoys it as well.
At the start of the game, each player gets a chance to prioritize from among more than 30 projects and learns about the competencies of the city financed by the budget. What to choose? How about education? If yes, then free lunch for all pupils in the city or building a sports hall? Or maybe something else: fast city railway to help with the traffic jams, especially in tourist season? Cleaning the city with double frequency?
The choices are many. To stand behind a project means that the player must find funding – and this is the moment when the struggles of decision-making intensify. The available options are an increase in local taxes and fees or a decrease in spending on other useful projects. Take some money from bus transport – an alarm pops up, as this calls for an increase in the prices of bus tickets. If the cut is made in social inclusion – the game notifies again – the most vulnerable will be left behind and protests take place in front of the city hall… Proracun(ajme)! takes the player to an exciting journey of learning through personal experience.
This game opened my eyes for environments where game mechanics are applied in a non-game context to promote a social change. The principle is called gamification. It is meant to be fun and friendly, oriented toward awareness raising, problem solving and decision-making. Since then I’ve seen game applications in urbanism, tourism, public health, management, learning foreign languages etc.
I’m curious how we could use more gamification in other areas, especially public finances. I’m under the impression that gamification is an inevitable area to step into because games come as a natural part of the life of younger generations who are the future adult learners in public finances. Could the knowledge brokers like us at the CEF surf that wave and what would it take to do it?
The opportunities lie in simulations like Proracun(ajme), segment of gamification trend in adult learning specific for public finance officials or translating the mobile apps for managing personal finances for the context of public ones. Why not promote apps for increased financial inclusion of vulnerable groups of the society?
Surely opportunities are numerous but this path requires efforts in design, funding and delivery of the games. If going into it, gamification of public finances must be relevant in content and personify the real-life, daily and practical challenges of the players as learners. It needs to be fun. Could we do it?