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Guest blog: What if a game could get people addicted to saving?

  • Contact: Anonymous
  • Created date: 08 October 2019

SM53.pngAhead of this week's BSA Digital Mutual event, speaker Mark Warrick, Chief Design Officer at Thought Machine shares his thoughts on using gaming to help people to save.

Originally published in BSA Society Matters magazine.

About eight years ago, I made a statement along the lines of, “Let’s get people addicted to saving – there is no better addiction than saving money!”. At the time, I was told to be careful about saying “addicted”, and I get it. The definition of that word is ‘a strong desire or need for something’, and it brings to mind powerful emotions about being unable to stop doing a particular thing.

Well, many years down the line, I am now using an alpha version of a game-like savings app we’ve developed called Nestlings that features virtual characters who tuck away money for me every day and I have to admit I am close to being hooked.

3.pngSaving has parallels with gaming It is not easy saving money and it’s usually something that causes a fair amount of stress. I have been convinced for a long time that saving money – as well as many other aspects of digital banking – could actually be made fun by drawing inspiration and harnessing technology from other genres, like gaming, music, fashion and art.

Why not have a game world on your phone based on your financial transactions in the real world? Why not create a bunch of compelling critters who keep trying to save money for you and who get sad if you refuse their help?

If it takes the pain and admin out of having to watch your spending and put money aside manually, it must be worth doing.

Levelling up as the money grows I have been using the Nestlings app for the last six weeks and it links to a pre-paid debit card which I use for my general spending.

The app characters pop up based on my behaviour or from events occurring in the real world.

I discovered a character called Shroomo very early on, who offered to round up my purchases, while a beautiful Nestling called Lumin materialised when there was a full moon, offering to tuck £2.00 away for me. After a while, I had a team of five active Nestlings characters all competing to save money for me in different ways. None of them took too much, as I always had the option to say no.

Within one week, I had progressed through two levels of the ‘game’ and my nest egg had £15 inside it. Not bad for doing hardly anything besides letting them get on with it!

A new way to manage finances4.png

Am I the only one who wants to save in this way? I don’t think so – I work with people who are equally excited about being “different in the realm”, not to mention the fact that 718 strangers have already signed up to the waiting list for Nestlings.

A challenger digital bank in the UK wants to provide this experience for its customers and by doing so will engage with a vast community when it does.

In our increasingly cashless world, people of all ages want clever ways to handle money and save with zero effort.

Revolut has a round-up savings feature in its app that lets you ‘accelerate’ the change on every transaction by up to ten times. This simple game-like mechanism is joyous, and shows how fun it can be to challenge yourself to do the most mundane of things – to save.


Last few remaining tickets for this Thursday's Digital Mutual event are available here.

Read the Society Matters autumn 2019 edition here.