Product Review of Great Depression Simulation
Great Depression Simulation lets kids get a firsthand glimpse of the decisions ordinary people faced during the Great Depression. First, kids read a short selection that sets the scene and gives some historical context. Kids can click some text (like “stock market” and “bank runs”) to get more insight on key terms. Next, kids read the instructions: They’re assigned a career (doctor, teacher, or police officer) and a corresponding income, then they have to choose how to split their income each “year.” During each turn, or “year,” users can choose to buy luxury items, put money in the bank, or invest in the stock market. After each year, users see how the stock market performed and their total cash so far. At the end of six years, users win if they’ve bought a house or own a car and a fridge. Finally, after gameplay is complete, kids take a four-question quiz that tests their understanding of the experience.
Since content and context in the app are limited, use Great Depression Simulation as a brief activity as part of a longer discussion about the Great Depression and U.S. history. Use this simulation in an economics class or in a social studies class focusing on a simple discussion of how budgets work and how different financial choices have an impact over time. Better yet, have your class play through and then develop their own Great Depression simulation, focusing on daily expenses like food and housing rather than just focusing on purchasing luxury items. Have your class graph or diagram a fictional family’s savings over time, especially as the stock market rises and falls and if their employment status changes.
Kids read about the Great Depression, they experience it firsthand, and they answer questions about it afterwards. While the core concept is great, the execution is uneven and disorienting. The app is text-heavy, and the instructions aren’t especially clear; with many fonts and inconsistent visual style on every screen, it can be hard to understand what users can move, what they should tap, and where they should look. The sliders on-screen in the simulation section are especially frustrating: Users have a budget on each screen, and they’re supposed to balance their annual budget by adjusting the sliders and making purchases (like the fridge or the car). Oddly, the sliders don’t adjust well based on user input. As it is, the sliders jump to random numbers, and it’s almost impossible to make them land on amounts that correctly add up the remaining funds. Finally, the introduction and quiz questions could be even meatier and more informative.
Overall, Great Depression Simulation is a great idea for learning, but inconsistencies in the user experience make it fall short of its potential. It could be worth a try with your class, but look elsewhere for a tool to teach deeper insights.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Hard-to-read text and hard-to-adjust controls make for a frustrating user experience.
Curriculum and Instruction
It’s hard to understand the exact consequences of learners‘ actions, and uneven opportunities to make choices, study, and reflect limit the game’s learning potential.
Click-to-view pop-up text is helpful at the beginning, but it would be even better if there were better ways to track progress and review results elsewhere in the game. More detailed instructions would make gameplay more accessible.