Using Gamification to Learn About How People Spend Money


(Engaging different audiences to research)

Joint project by: Expilab Research, London School of Economics and Science Museum (London)


Spending game is a research tool to study economic behavior of kids and adults through gamification. With the original idea coming from Dr. Heather Kappes from London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the spending game was co-designed and developed by LSE and Expilab. The game extends functionality of spending games typically played in laboratory settings, uses engaging visual design while maintaining tight control over experimental conditions and data collected.  The experiment was conducted in The British Science Museum during February 2019


This research aims to study a large and varied group of people of different ages, how choices about spending money are affected by things that are important in the real world, like how much you start off with, how regularly you get income, and how other people around you are spending their own money.

Development and Design Challenges

During the development of the game, different challenges arise in terms on how to translate theoretical concepts to common language. These challenges involved:

  • Young audience attention
  • Manipulation of feelings
  • Economic utility concept
  • Avatar designing for creating connection with a player
  • Monetary subdivisions
  • Providing feedback without signalling
  • Players with different decision-making timings


  • Designing an engaging environment for younger audience
  • Assignment of different endowments and signalling “poverty” or “richness”
  • Concept of score.
  • Multiple-choice features for designing Avatars
  • Gold powder concept for expenditure
  • Rescaling utility and score function for unifying number dimensions
  • Neutral messaging to avoid priming
  • Sequential matching for displaying and comparing feedback


Based on the conceptual frameworks from theories like “Life-cycle Consumption Plans” and “Positional Goods”, the game allowed LSE’s research team to collect an extensive amount of behavioral data about player’s actions and choices. This innovative design allowed different possibilities:

  • Engaging and enjoyable (pre-tested) game to play for kids
  • Adaptation to mobile/tablets devices for field testing purposes
  • Decisions and choices tracing with millisecond precision
  • Random or fixed condition allocation
  • Integration of complex survey instrument/scales

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Using Gamification to Learn About How People Spend Money
Article Name
Using Gamification to Learn About How People Spend Money
Case-study: Developing an engaging game to study how kids and young adults spend money.
Publisher Name
Expilab Research S.L.
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