[what is it]
FAKE MONEY is a concept for an edutainment fintech game that engages young people with their financial futures. By removing fear and complexity from finances, the game is able to confront big topics like career, savings, credit systems, investments, and social capital in a fun, accessible gamified way.
Professors: Gerardo Herrera, James Meraz
Team: Nicole Wang, Toby Yu
"elevated kindergarten"
Extended adolescence is a big theme in today's world and this project purposely grabs the idea and runs with it. The aesthetic we ultimately chose was one that a professor described as "elevated kindergarten"; which actually pairs very well with what we are trying to accomplish—teaching the basics of finances in a fun, playful way.
gameplay concepting
While the focus of the class wasn't around the game mechanics, we found it important to lay out the basic flow of a user's on-boarding and growth over time throughout the game. We also wanted to establish a baseline understanding of which game components we would feature as central and how they would fit into the larger game as a whole.
long-term journey
This map explores how the game's different key features work together to segue a player from being a casual gamer to an individual with the foundational knowledge needed to make financially sound life decisions. The game by no means attempts to turn novices into experts, but rather the goal is to give all young people (with access to mobile devices) equal opportunity to become First Republic clients. By becoming a client, they then have access to the expertise and mentorship resources that First Republic offers, differentiating themselves from the majority of other banks.
building personas
We carefully crafted personas to imagine how our service could be a game-changer across different key milestones. We learned about the commonalities of these groups, and specifically designed for the changing values of younger generations.

Studies show that Gen Z gives high priority to independence and self-expression, while struggling to obtain *financial* independence in our rapidly-changing world.
fake linkedin, kinda
Our "Connections" feature is basically a baby LinkedIn, allowing users to connect in a way that emphasizes self-expression through interests and goals, rather than selfies and tweets. The idea is that by casually networking within the game, users can begin to build real connections locally and regionally with peers of similar interests. Security features could verify identity, while in-game accomplishments serve as a mini digital resumé.
fake money @ coachella
What better place to celebrate all things "fake" than at SoCal's most infamous festival, Coachella? Beyond simply the financial aspect of this project, part of the brief was about exploring the role of physical locations in our rapidly digitizing world. Research points to the fact that while individuals may opt out of driving to the grocery store, or movie theater, they will still prioritize purely experiential adventures, especially when they have major opportunities for inciting a "fear of missing out".
walk, chill, drink, splash
The space is divided into a casual food and retail space, plus four areas that require game membership. The areas each serve a different experiential purpose, and serve needs of festival attendees, with the most exclusive experience being a much sought-after wading pool. This physical space gives users an opportunity to be fully immersed in the game, as well as turn their fake money and digital connections REAL. Visitors are able to spend fake money on real items and gain access to FOMO-inducing spaces based on their in-game achievements.
The building is highly elaborate and its ability to be easily popped-up at a remote location like Coachella could certainly be debated.

I believe that with special attention to materials the imaginative, artistic language of the environmental design could be preserved while making transportation and fabrication much simpler. I would advocate for a wider use of fabric in place of certain walls, and (as shown above) an eco board (like EAGLECELL) for rigid walls.
visual components
The aesthetic is playful and irreverent. Getting a bit of edge by disregarding traditional expectations through scale and layering. The header typeface is one I quickly created—I needed something bold and graffiti-like, yet geometric. Taking this project forward I would plan to do more user-testing around not only the functional aspect of the flow, but the visual components as well. It would be important to attract as wide a range of users as possible.
foundational interviews
At the beginning of this project we spent two weeks doing interviews (30+ min each). We sampled each generation so that we could begin to see  connections and differences.
kj method
After completing our interviews and reviewing transcripts, we came together and started talking about our findings. We wrote down quotes, references and key ideas that encapsulated the financial mental model and associated behaviors of our participants. As we expanded our 15 interviews into many, many sticky notes, we began to see patterns. We organized the sticky notes into groups, both by generation and by theme, then looked at how the themes connected across generations.

1) Financial services was of course a big theme. People want to get the most our of their money (interest rates, fees, etc), while also receiving the best customer service and digital experience every step of the way. This was no surprise.

2) Insecurity around lack of knowledge was a less obvious theme. Boomers felt unsure that they had taught their children enough, while younger generations felt they should be taking more responsibility to self-educate. We used the term "on-boarding" to represent the issues since they really have to do with being introduced to the complex financial world.

3) Community was another theme that wasn't obvious to us before. Money is inherently social, if only because trust is such an important component. People rely not only on articles or promos to drive their decisions, they ask friends and family for advice because the topic is so crucial and personal.
pivotal moments
After synthesizing our primary research, we turned to the whiteboard and started mapping out milestones over a lifetime. This approach allowed us to pick out key moments that would be opportunistic for a bank like First Republic to get involved.

A big area that we saw opportunity in was roughly the range of 16 - 25. We coined this period the time when "money becomes real".

This is what laid the groundwork for the rest of our project. We wanted to help young people understand the financial basics in a safe, fun, un-scary way. The rest you have already seen!

say hi