Budget Hero – Sequester Edition

Contact: Angie Andresen, Director of Communications

Email: aandresen@americanpublicmedia.org

Budget Hero – Sequester Edition
Popular game updated in anticipation of fall fiscal debate

Aug. 28, 2013, WASHINGTON – The creators of “Budget Hero” have updated the popular news game to reflect the budget impact of decisions related to the ongoing spending cuts known as the “sequester.”

The latest edition, created by American Public Media (APM) and the Wilson Center and made possible by funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, also includes updated cost projections of federal spending in 2014 and beyond. In addition, it features new policy options to overhaul U.S. immigration policy, expand states’ Medicaid programs and reverse the effects of the sequester cuts on defense and non-defense spending.

The update comes as Congress and the president are framing the fall debate over the budget and debt ceiling, an acrimonious and partisan process that previously paved the way for this year’s sequestration cuts.

Budget Hero experienced big spikes in play during past budget debates. Even when the attention of pundits and politicians is focused elsewhere, the game garners upwards of 40,000 plays a month, according to Linda Fantin, who directs APM’s Public Insight Network and the development of Budget Hero.

“Clearly the American people haven’t forgotten about the budget, and they still crave the kind of credible, non-partisan information about the nation’s finances that Budget Hero delivers,” Fantin said.

Budget Hero launched in May 2008, four months before Lehman Brothers collapsed, triggering the worst U.S. financial crisis and economic downturn since the Great Depression. Five years and five versions later, the interactive game continues to engage and educate people of all ages about the trade-offs involved in the budgetary process, drawing praise from economists, educators, lawmakers and the public – regardless of political persuasion.

“Players have told us that playing Budget Hero has benefitted them – and that its benefits are shared both by people interested in ‘the big picture’ and those who like nuance,” said Diane Tucker, director of the Wilson Center’s Serious Games Initiative. “Played more than 1.7 million times, Budget Hero has made many feel more equipped to participate in, and make decisions about, national policy debates. It brings surprises even to those who consider themselves well informed.”

Read What Budget Hero Players are Saying About the Game

How it’s Played
“Budget Hero” invites players to explore the financial and social impact of proposed cuts and expenditures as they create, test and compare their own federal budgets. Players can earn “badges” by “playing” policy cards that correspond with their values.

Player Data
Since its 2008 launch, Budget Hero has been played more than 1.7 million times, with 75 percent of players finishing a complete game. Demographic data from the game shows wide support among players across age, household income, gender, and party affiliation for reforming and simplifying the tax code and increasing the amount wealthy seniors pay for drugs.

Some of the most frequently played cards in the past year include:

 Rapidly cut troop numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan
 Reform and simplify the tax code
 Slow the increase of Social Security benefits
 Raise the eligibility age for Social Security
 Increase drug costs for wealthy seniors

Players across all demographics – including those in the 65+ age range – demonstrated a willingness to reduce the benefits going to the elderly including increasing the cost of drugs for wealthier seniors, raising the Social Security age, and slowing the increase of Social Security benefits.

More Analysis of Budget Hero Data available upon request.

Media Contacts:

Aaron Lovell
Science & Technology Innovation Program, Wilson Center

Angie Andresen
Director of Communications
American Public Media

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Source: Data are copyright Arbitron, Inc. Arbitron data are estimates only.

The Wilson Center provides a strictly nonpartisan space for the worlds of policymaking and scholarship to interact. By conducting relevant and timely research and promoting dialogue from all perspectives, it works to address the critical current and emerging challenges confronting the United States and the world.