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NextGen Magazine


Oh, the accounting games we play

Michael Kraten, CPA, Ph.D.
Published Date:
Oct 1, 2015

Second Life Office SceneDo you remember how you first learned to tie your shoes? Your parents probably made a game of it. Cross the strings and over the top, then pull the ends and tighten them up!

You can make a game out of just about anything. Believe it or not, you can even make a game of learning about accounting standards and audit practices—various educational games about the profession are now available for college credit and are being included in CPE courses. Although some can be very expensive, others have been developed as freeware that can be accessed online at no cost.

Two years ago, for instance, I won the Innovation in Teaching Award at the 17th Annual Symposium on Ethics Research in Accounting for creating a live, multi-player online video game entitled “Audit Experience!” (See above for a screen shot.) Situated on the Second Life virtual world platform, the game challenges professional audit staff to investigate the disappearance of organically grown grain at a flour mill during a year-end inventory count.

In order to account for the missing inventory, and therefore win the game, players must navigate their way through a series of obstacles, including rude and evasive client personnel, impatient partners and senior managers, sloppily maintained inventory tracking systems, and a number of visual clues that either reveal critical information or lead to abrupt dead ends. As is true for most video games, the levels of difficulty of the tasks can be adjusted to match the experience levels of the players.  

I worked with colleagues at Southern Cross University (SCU) in Lismore, Australia to design and develop the game. Although it’s necessary to identify and schedule actors to inhabit the various roles and thus play the full version of the game, a solitaire version is available on a 24/7 basis as well. Moreover, the flour mill itself (as well as the offices of the accounting firm that employs the professional audit staff within the game) is open to the public on the Second Life platform.

You’re welcome to contact me, or to visit Commerce Town in the SCU2 region of Second Life, if you’d like to take a tour of the factory and offices within the video game. We’re creating different types of accounting games on a continuing basis, so if you have any interest in the design and development of such products, I’d be delighted to chat with you about them.

 Michael Kraten, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the accountancy program at the Providence College School of Business in Providence, R.I.  Follow him on Twitter at @mkraten.