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Gaming the System: Finding Investment Lessons in Video Games

If you ask kids what the best part of summer break is, many will answer with two simple words—video games.

But instead of having kids sit in front of a screen for hours at a time playing Minecraft, Roblox or Animal Crossing and begging parents for money to purchase new clothing or weapons for their characters, parents can turn the moment into a stock market learning opportunity.

These games, and many other popular games kids tend to play, are created by investible companies like Microsoft, Roblox Corporation, Nintendo, Ubisoft, and Activision Blizzard.

Get them talking about gaming (it shouldn’t be hard).

This might seem crazy to parents who have endured countless hours of being “talked to about games”, but ask your kids about the games they are playing. Go beyond game play so that they start thinking about the bigger picture.

Some example questions are: What company makes the game? Does the company make more than one game? Is the game free, free with upgrades? How do you think the company makes money if they don’t charge for the game?

Digital Economies.

Many of the modern role-playing games have quite complex economies, often with in-game currencies for buying and selling items, and items that may have real money value as collectibles. Many of the video game companies even hire “Directors of Economics” to manage in-game economies. Time will tell the long-term value of these items, like any collectible.

Is there a pattern?

It’s amazing the real time market information you can get from kids and teens. Companies pay good money to get into the minds of young people, we might as well tap into that resource too. By talking about the games, the machines they play the games on, and what their friends are doing, you can learn a lot about one of the fastest growing entertainment industries in the world. Is something new taking the world of “eSports” by storm? You might be one of the first to find out! You can help your kids understand the business implications of the games they play.

Death by A Thousand Robux.

Video game companies are very clever at making you want to keep spending “just a little more money” to get that next upgrade. They are so clever, it can be a big problem for many families whose kids begin to spend money like a drug addict would spend money. It’s an incredibly important conversation to have with our kids about responsible vs destructive spending habits and the addictive nature of gaming.

Imagine being on the other side of the cash register.

Many of the companies in the world of gaming are publicly traded companies, meaning anyone who can afford to buy shares can become a partial owner. If your kids aren’t familiar with the concept, this can be a great chance to have a conversation. You don’t have to buy the stock to talk about the company – you can simply use it as an opportunity to learn another perspective. It can be a fun exercise while you are out and about to ask your smart phone whether such and such is a publicly traded company. If you feel so inclined, sites like Yahoo Finance make it easy to compare the sales and expenses for the companies they looked up.

·A new way for kids to get their gaming fix.

Before trying it out with real money, it can be fun for kids to invest “paper money” or to simulate investing. You can even turn it into a fun summer challenge for the whole household. Have all the family members pick their favorite video game stock (or any stock!) and keep track of the progress over the break. The family member whose stock is doing the best by the end of summer wins. You even make it an annual event so that the bragging rights carry year to year. There’s nothing like a friendly competition to help create a great memory and also teach valuable lessons at the same time!

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