Product Review of Night of the Living Debt
In Night of the Living Debt, zombies have taken over running the town, and it’s up to players to keep their credit rating high while making enough money to pay off the zombie creditors. Players need to pay rent, cover medical emergencies, and make credit card, car, and student loan payments, all while saving a bit of money for future expenses. Players start out with $1,000 in savings and a credit card balance of $400 (with a $750 limit), along with a credit score of 600, which goes up or down throughout the game depending on their choices. On-time payments and credit usage increase the score, while missed payments and not using their credit make it go down.
Players start the game with no car and living in a shack, and must increase their credit rating to be able to rent a nicer (and more expensive) house with a garage. Along the way, they gather supplies from abandoned buildings to sell at the co-op, which gives them cash to make payments. Nicer houses give players nicer buildings to explore, and cars give players more energy to move around. Players also have the option to take out a student loan to get an education (which increases the money they get when selling supplies) and to pay for insurance (which covers a portion of their medical emergencies from accidents during supply gathering).
The game includes 10 rounds, with bills due at different intervals, but always between rounds. Each time a bill is due, a zombie comes calling, expecting payment either by credit card, in cash, or through a payday loan (which incurs an astronomical interest rate). Players can also choose to not make a payment, but that brings down their credit score significantly. Money put in their savings account accrues interest each round.
Use Night of the Living Debt in high school classes to teach financial literacy and the importance of keeping one’s credit rating high and healthy. Start with the teacher resources on the app’s website, which include a program overview, talking points for lectures and discussion, and a handy instructor’s guide with plenty of ideas to use the app in your lessons.
After an introductory lesson about what credit is, how it’s used, and what factors go into your credit score, have learners play the game. If your classroom has enough iPads, have each student work independently through the game — ideally more than once — so they can see how missing payments or not saving enough money for emergencies can affect their financial situation. If your classroom has fewer iPads, have learners work in small groups competitively or cooperatively, or work through the app as a class, projecting it onto a screen.
Night of the Living Debt helps learners learn how and why to build and maintain a good credit rating. They’ll learn what credit scores are, how their credit score and history are used, and why they should care about their credit. They’ll also learn the things that go into building a good credit score and what things count against them, such as how fast their credit can decrease when they miss even one payment, but also how it can increase when they make on-time payments and use their credit regularly (by borrowing money and using their credit card). Students will learn that using sub-prime lenders and payday loans may help in the moment, but will cause bigger problems down the line.
The game is engaging to play a few times, and learners will get the idea that having good credit is important to getting ahead or even remaining solvent. Once the inherent lessons are learned, however, learners may lose interest. Ten rounds go by quickly when trying to significantly increase credit or savings, which can make it hard to rent a nicer place or buy a nicer car. Repeat players may just try to make the most efficient progress while missing the message of credit health.
Overall User Consensus About the App
The zombie theme of the app is enticing, and learners will want to jump in and explore. But the game loses its luster after the lessons are learned.
Curriculum and Instruction
Students learn about credit by borrowing money, charging expenses, and making payments, but one wrong move and there might be no recovery.
In-game help is more than sufficient to learn how to play, and helpful teacher resources are available on the website for creating a larger lesson.