Gamifying the stock market

Written by Ben Townsend (gameplay writer) on 2021-07-02

When I began work on Trading Saga, I was given a straightforward concept of what was wanted. A stock market game where players can learn to become better traders.

Stock maniacs

With that concept in mind, I went away and started my research. There are several stock market trading apps already. Some are very straightforward paper traders that run in real time, use real world stocks, and are simple simulators. Others are more gamified, featuring colourful characters, wacky companies and lean into the chaos of the stock market. A few are educational, but typically just have long articles followed by a couple of questions and are not very enjoyable.

Having seen what was already on the market, I started conceptualizing ideas for our app. My concepts were only a slide or two long each, with big pictures and broad ideas. I kept an open mind and made a variety of different concepts. One idea involved gardening. Each plant in your garden would be tied to a real world stock, and you’d need to harvest them at the right time (when the price was at its highest). Another idea focussed more on social play, where you had to trade stocks against other people and see who came out on top.

Many of the ideas didn't work, but they all helped fuel what three factors we knew we needed to cover. Firstly, the game must be educational. This was part of our original concept and has to be throughout our design. The best way of learning is by doing, so we knew the players needed to trade stocks. The second point was that it had to be realistic. Cartoon graphics and fake data have no place in our game, we need to use genuine stocks and allow the player to trade with any company they want to. Our final factor was the game needs to be enjoyable, as asking a player to wait 5 years to see how their stocks do was quite dull.

This is how we settled on the design of Trading Saga. A game where you can trade years of stocks in under a minute. Players can download any stock they want, and trade on it as many times as they want without limits. They can practice, build their intuition and get to know the stock market. Then they’ll be ready for when they want to start trading for real.