Viral Video Game to Promote Financial Responsibility

Apr 23, 2009

Online Game "Debt Ski" Challenges Students to Navigate a Pig through  Rough  Financial Waters while Maximizing Savings, Limiting Debt and Maintaining Happiness

New York, NY · April 23, 2009 — mtvU, MTV’s 24-hour  college network, and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation today unveiled "Debt Ski," an online flash-video game that spotlights the dangers of excessive debt, challenges young people to avoid destructive financial behavior, and spurs fiscally responsible action. Embeddable and designed to spread virally, "Debt Ski" leverages the power of online gaming to reach young people everywhere online — from social networks to blogs. "Debt Ski" is part of the "Indebted" campaign, an ongoing effort by mtvU and the Peterson Foundation to encourage students to help stop the fiscal crisis in the United States.

News Facts

"Debt Ski" is a side-scrolling video game where  players must maneuver the game's central character, Piggy Banks, through  a series of obstacles to maximize his savings, limit his debt and maintain his level of happiness — all while making payments for necessities like housing and food. Reflecting the choices young people face every day, Piggy Banks has the option to purchase discretionary items like electronics and clothing, which can boost his happiness but also plunge him deep into debt if not purchased in moderation. Spending tsunamis are the biggest threat  to Piggy Banks' future as they represent unexpected life events — such as health expenses or cost of living increases — and have  the potential to significantly dent savings and/or increase debt.

25-year-old Brian Haveri of Milburn, NJ, a graduate of Lehigh University, secured the $10,000 prize in the Indebted Digital Challenge for his video game concept, which served as the inspiration for "Debt Ski." The Indebted Digital Challenge called on young people nationwide to submit a creative idea for a video game that would raise awareness of the dangers of spending too much and saving too little, and the urgent  need for citizens and government to make  responsible choices about  their finances.

"Debt Ski" players have  the chance to win money  to put toward debt, boost their savings, or use in any other way they see fit. Each  week from now through  June 25, 2009, one winner will be chosen to receive $250 by simply playing the game and then entering to win.

The hub of the Indebted campaign, [1], provides information for students to get informed, check  out the acclaimed documentary I.O.U.S.A., and take action through  personal budgeting and government advocacy.

On-air, mtvU is featuring the game together with themed music hours and a special episode of the popular music video countdown show "Dean's List," hosted by student activists from their schools. Additionally, Indebted will hit the road alongside the hottest artists — including Fall Out Boy, Cobra  Starship, All Time Low, Metro Station, 50 Cent and Hey Monday — at mtvUss Movies & Music Festival, where  attending fans can check  out "Debt Ski" and get informed about  the campaign.

The soundtrack of the game features an eclectic mix of top college bands from around the country, selected from mtvU's Best Music On Campus, including The Bride Wore Black, students at New York University; Acadia, students at SUNY College at Oneonta; Aston, students at Northeastern University; Show  Me Action, students at Lehigh College; Rudy and the Rhetoric, recent graduates of the University of Washington; Stella by Starlight, recent graduates of Duke University; and The Rocketeers, recent graduates of the Art Institute of Chicago.

"Debt Ski" is the latest in a line of award-winning, student-created games launched by mtvU to promote social action, including "Pos or Not" and "Darfur is Dying". Together, these games have  been played online over 12.7 million times. "Pos or Not" challenges the stereotypes and stigma that prevent people from openly talking about  HIV/AIDS, getting tested, and using protection. "Darfur is Dying" is a narrative-based simulation where  the user, from the perspective of a displaced Darfurian, negotiates forces that threaten the survival of his or her refugee camp.

"Debt Ski" is also the latest effort by the Peterson Foundation to use innovative means to reach younger Americans and make them aware of the threat  that personal and government fiscal irresponsibility poses to their economic well-being. In 2008, the Foundation supported the feature documentary "I.O.U.S.A.," which tells the story of our national debt and was nominated for a Critics' Choice Award and short-listed for an Academy Award nomination. Hundreds of campus screenings of the film have  been held since its release. The Foundation also supports the development of another game, Budgetball, which is a physical game similar to Ultimate Frisbee that teaches students about  the difficult trade-offs involved in budgeting.


Attributed to Ross Martin, Senior Vice President of Development and Production for MTV360

"By joining forces with the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, we have  the unique opportunity to educate and inform our audiences about  how the fiscal crisis affects them, and what they can do to protect  themselves," said Ross Martin, Senior Vice President of Development and Production for MTV360. "College students have  always been an engine for social change. 'Debt Ski' is a simple, compelling way to empower students to take action and prepare themselves to change the course of the world they’re inheriting."

Attributed to Dave Walker, President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation

"College students and recent graduates don't need more grim news about  their futures, but they do need to be informed of the challenges they face," said Dave Walker, President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. "'Debt Ski' will entertain them while taking them through  the trade-offs involved in being fiscally responsible and the consequences of being fiscally irresponsible. The game is the centerpiece of our effort with mtvU to inspire young people to take control of their financial futures and call on their government to do the same."

Fast Facts:

College students today have  to spend more than double what the previous generation spent on tuition — and tuition costs keep going up.

15 years ago, half of college students graduated with student loans — now two-thirds of them do, with the average student loan debt reaching approximately $20,000.

On top of individual debts, every American is carrying a burden of about  $184,000 in government debt and unfunded obligations. Tax rates will have  to more than double in our lifetimes for our country to get by.

With increasing government and personal debt, young people today are set to be the first generation that won't enjoy the same growth in standard of living as their parents.

Aboutt mtvU

Broadcast to more than 750 college campuses and via top cable distributors in 700 college communities nationwide, mtvU reaches upwards of 9 million U.S. college students — making it the largest, most comprehensive television network just for college students. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, mtvU can be seen in the dining areas, fitness centers, student lounges and dorm rooms of campuses throughout the United States, as well as on cable systems from Charter Communications, Verizon FiOS TV, Suddenlink Communications, AT&T u-Verse and nearly 70 others. mtvU is dedicated to every aspect of college life, reaching students everywhere they are: on-air, online and on campus. mtvU programs music videos from emerging artists that can't be seen anywhere else, news, student life features and initiatives that give college students the tools to advance positive social change. mtvU is always on campus, with more than 250 events per year, including exclusive concerts, giveaways, shooting mtvU series and more. For more information about  mtvU, and a complete programming schedule, visit [2].

mtvU also owns and operates the College Media Network, the largest interactive network of online college newspapers in the United States, and, the Internet's largest listing of collegiate professor ratings. The College Media Network comprises nearly 600 campus publications that serve institutions including Brown University, the University of Illinois, the University of Southern California, the University of Texas at Austin and Duke University, with a combined enrollment of over 5.5 million students, reaching an average of 5 million unique users each month. reaches approximately 2.9 million college students each month, via the site's more than 6.6 million student-generated ratings of over 1,000,000 college professors.

About the Peter G. Peterson Foundation

Founded by the chairman emeritus of The Blackstone Group with a personal commitment of $1 billion, the Foundation is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the nature and urgency of key fiscal challenges threatening America's future, and to accelerating action on them. To address these challenges successfully, the Foundation works to bring Americans together to find sensible, long-term solutions that transcend age, party lines and ideological divides in order to achieve real results.


Janice Gatti mtvU

212.846.8852 [3]

Myra Sung

Peter G. Peterson Foundation

212.542.9200 [4]

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