About Celebrity Calamity
Celebrity Calamity is a free-to-play, single-player, simulation game created in Flash. It is designed to help young people explore money management concepts such as spending money, credit cards, debit cards and interest rates.
The player takes on the role of a celebrity’s assistant. The player has to assist the celebrity to earn money, help the celebrity spend his/her money wisely and use banking products such as credit and debit cards wisely.
Play takes place across a series of rounds. Each round the player helps the celebrity earn and spend their money. The player has to catch desirable objects and avoid catching undesirable objects that fall from the sky. Objects fall from the sky at different rates. The player has to catch those which are useful (such as large sums of money) and avoid those which are not (expensive items that the celebrity did not ask for). The celebrity will ask you to buy particular items at the start of each round. It is up to the player to decide whether to give the celebrity what they ask for. At the end of the round, a total of all of the money the player collected is given and each item that was “bought” appears. The player has to decide whether to pay for it using the debit card or the credit card. The player also has to decide how much to pay off the credit card each round. Just to make things interesting, every few rounds or so, the celebrity makes huge extravagant purchases that they really cannot afford (I suspect, probably not dissimilar from real life!). As the rounds progress, both the player and the celebrity progress up their occupational leader. If the celebrity is dissatisfied with the performance of the player, he/she may fire the player (although the game always gives you another shot).
For more information on the game, check out this short Youtube Video the creators of the game have made.
Above: Youtube video promoting Celebrity Calamity
At first, I thought this was going to be another piece-of-fluff educational game… but I found myself getting engrossed in the game. I found myself playing the game right through from beginning to end. To play the whole game probably took about an hour. The game itself will not replace teaching students about interest rates but it is a great stimulus for starting/continuing discussions around using credit cards, spending within your means, etc.
Whilst it is not in the same league as something like Zoombinis Island Odyssey, I found it superior in quality to drill-and-practice games. What I believe makes it superior is that the learning is not an add-on. The learning is the mechanism of the game.
Rules, Challenges and Rewards
The rest of this review will examine 10 major uses of rules, challenges and rewards within the game. Throughout the game, the player discovers some of the unwritten rules of the game. These unwritten rules are the mechanism used to teach the player about managing finances. Some of these unwritten rules are listed in items 1-4 below. The game’s challenges are what keeps the game interesting and give the player the opportunity to make decisions. Items 5 – 8 list some of the key challenges the player faces. If the player faces up well to these challenges, the game contains rewards. Items 9 and 10 list the two main rewards used to keep players motivated.
1. Unwritten rule – not paying off your credit card is costly
If the player does not pay off the celebrity’s credit either because they choose not to or because they do not have enough cash to cover it, the player gets a hefty bill the next month. If the celebrity pays too many fees, they get upset with you and you risk getting fired.
Above: This celebrity is angry because she paid too many bank fees.
2. Unwritten rule – going over your credit card limit or overdrawing your account is costly
If the player goes over the credit card limit or overdraws the debit account, they are charged a huge fee and the celebrity starts to get anxious and upset.
3. Unwritten rule – things happen that are beyond your control
Sometimes, the celebrity will buy something really expensive on a whim. This can really throw your finances out! This introduces an element of uncertainty to the game. Also, as the earning capacity of the celebrity increases, so does their credit limit. As it increases, the celebrity’s whimsical buys become more and more expensive and sometimes will more than max out their credit card and the player can find themselves in financial distress.
Above: This celebrity loves extravagant purchases!
Above: Why is the money manager always to blame?
4. Unwritten rule – on the way to the top of the career ladder, the player will be fired at least once
Each time the game is played, it purposely gets the player to bring the celebrity to financial ruin. This demonstrates to the player how people can get themselves into bad financial situations. In this game, your character gets fired; although the celebrity always gives you an opportunity to redeem yourself. Your character does not run out of lives. This would be counter-productive to the learning.
Above: Getting fired for the first time in this game. Lucky she decided to give me another chance!
5. Game challenge –balancing what the celebrity wants with their earnings
At the start of each round, the celebrity tells you what she would like you to buy for her this round. If you get nothing on the list, the celebrity is likely to be displeased with you. However, if you get all of the items on the list, this could affect your earnings and savings negatively. As the celebrity’s assistant, your job is to decide when to do what the celebrity wants and when to hold back. If you give the celebrity everything he/she wants it is likely that they will become bankrupt and you will be fired.
6. Game challenge –collecting money whilst avoiding unwanted things
During each round of play, the player has to catch items falling from the sky. The aim is to collect as much money as possible and any other items that you wish to purchase for the celebrity. Sometimes in an effort to catch the money or other items, the player may accidentally purchase some unwanted items. This challenge provides a great metaphor for impulse buying.
Above: You have to be careful to only collect desirable objects. The list of what the celebrity wants you to buy is across the top of the screen.
7. Game challenge –working out the best way to use debit and credit
The game provides the player with the opportunity to pay for each item purchased using either a debit facility or a credit facility. Items that cost more than the debit limit must be purchased using a credit card. The player can also choose how much to pay off the credit card each round. The player has to balance the credit card payments with the interest the money can earn in the bank.
8. Game challenge –prioritising
When the player is catching items that are falling from the sky, too many items fall at once (especially in the later rounds) to be able to catch everything that you would like to catch. The player has to choose which items are worth catching. For example, if there is $100 falling from the left hand side of the screen and $1,000 falling on the right hand side of the screen and the player could only get to one, it would be better to choose the $1,000. However, if the $1,000 falling on the right hand side of the screen was falling beside a piano that costs $1,000 and the player would be bound to collect the piano if they collected the $1,000, then the player may choose to catch the $100 instead.
Above: Competing interests – the player must prioritise them.
9. Game reward –climbing the career ladder
After each round, if the celebrity is happy with your performance, the player character will proceed one more rung up the career ladder.
Above: The player’s career ladder
10. Game reward –the celebrity’s progress
As you help the celebrity manage their finances, they receive new job offers. The player decides which job offer the celebrity will take and watches as the celebrity progress up their career ladder.
All images used in this review are screenshots taken from the game Celebrity Calamity. These were used for review purposes. If you are the copyright holder of these images and wish for them to be removed, please leave a comment on this blog entry.