“Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services.” Wikipedia
You might be thinking to yourself, “What in the world does toilet paper, racing porta potties and touring the world have to do with economics!?” Well, let me tell you a little bit about this particularly interesting potty game.
Potty Racers IV World Tour is unveiled as TP trails across the screen. The first thing that comes to mind is microeconomics. Ok, not at all, but that’s exactly what’s happening as the premise of this game rolls out, quite literally. A narrow focus of economic concepts are applied as decisions of opportunity cost are made based on the supply and demand for consumable goods. I would even take it a step further and say that the very specific concept of this game is applied economics.
In applied economics, general principles of political economy “ascertain the rule of action of any combination of circumstances presented.” Wikipedia
This application of economic theory and analysis plays out on the micro level with a narrowed focus, allowing for external distractions to be lowered and the core theories of economics to come into play. Children are exploring the various outcomes of dabbling in the art of economics but in an entertaining ‘is/is-not’ fun world of flying porta potties making their way to prominent geographic locations across the globe.
Potty Racers IV World Tour offers simple mechanics – the arrow keys on the keyboard control the movement of the porta potty racecar. Earnings are gained with each try, varying with the success of the race. The goal for the racer is to arrive at set destinations, which are a fun but extremely limited lesson in geography.
I can appreciate the way this game caters to a young crowd with potty humor. Rewards are given in poo orbs and stars and the monetary system can be used to purchase upgrades which, in turn, help the porta potty travel further and earn more money. It’s important to keep the gas tank full and make appropriate upgrades to the potty racer to help travel progress. This simple system of working toward a goal – a travel destination on a map – helps children understand a very basic concept of applied economics.
I was impressed when my son gave advice on playing the game. He said, “Just be smart with your money like in real life.” Playing Potty Racers had helped my nine-year-old understand that when he made poor purchases, not only was he left with a dwindling account, he couldn’t get to where he wanted to be. He had recognized the opportunity cost of buying the fancy wheels early on, and demonstrated how he could spend less on base model wheels and still afford to keep gas in his tank. Then, after earning more money with successful flights, he could upgrade if he felt it would benefit his racer more than a different purchase.
Playing to beat my son was fun but a bit humbling. While I do believe I have more of a grasp on economics than my elementary student, ha! – I am apparently lacking motor skills that good ol’ fashioned practice brings about. I was continually impressed at the many ways this game met its objectives of simplifying economics and delivering a true applied economic lesson…potty humor included. The geographic component was also beneficial, even while lacking in many ways. There was a proximity issue that might leave a player to think that some major monuments are located right next to one another rather than spread out across the country, and the cartoony nature of the game left some reality to be desired. However, with this being an inferior lesson to the game, it’s not a deterrent from playing and remains an entertaining touch (less imaginative than flying a porta potty through the air though!).
I found the progressive nature of this game motivating. I can’t say that I actually experienced progression first hand, but living vicariously through my game master son, I could see the increase in reward as he invested his money in his racer. He showed me how spending more on a nice pair of wings (once he could safely afford to do so) allowed him to soar higher, collect more points, do tricks and end up with a higher ROI. It also meant that his new power in wealth could take him further across the map and get him to the end goal quicker. He did end up conquering the game and had a full understanding of how he utilized the monetary system to do so.
I really enjoyed the way this game narrowed its focus, eliminating many complicating real-life factors involved in economics to take an applied economic approach to demonstrate simple but vital lessons on supply and demand and the many ways economic principles could affect the outcome of overall probability of success. Did the fact that I had enough money in my account mean that I would automatically succeed? I proved that one false. There were other aspects to getting that porta potty a sorin’ and my skills just weren’t cutting it. However, by utilizing my finances wisely, I was able to practice several times until I did get that pooper in the air…and I did it without using the theme language I wanted to, ugh.
I think many adults in our country could benefit from a lesson in applied economics. I don’t know if this theme is right on, but attention getting no doubt. The delayed gratification of saving money for a future purchase was an excellent lesson, as was the opportunity cost involved in upgrading too quickly and then running out of money for gas. It made me wonder what U.S. economics might look like today if our citizens had traveled around the globe on a flying porta potty when they were young. Poo for thought.