Much like skydiving, playing the stock market is not an activity you want to learn through your mistakes. Fortunes are made and lost all the time by people who think (or thought) they had a handle on stock trading. If you have a few million you can afford to lose, or you're investing with someone else's money (you're a bank, in other words), by all means, jump right in. But for the other 99%, we recommend simulating the experience of stock market investing first, to learn what to do and not do with your hard-earned cash. Here are the 10 best games to help you do that.
While some of the games on this list may be more concerned with purveying entertainment than education, WeSeed's No. 1 goal is to teach people about the stock market and take the fear out of investing. From the home page, click the "Learn" tab and you're taken to three levels of instruction, with Level 1's basic lessons like "What is a company?" and "What is a stock?" up to Level 3's advanced lessons on diversification and P/E ratio. Once you're ready to invest the $10,000 of WeSeed cash the game gives you, search for companies by topics that interest you and create a virtual portfolio. The idea is to make you think like an investor on the lookout for the next big thing.
This innovative game can best be described as "Wall Street meets Facebook." Publicly traded companies are replaced by people who sell shares of themselves and buy shares of other people and websites. A player's share goes up based on the number of investors they attract and the Achievements they accomplish for social media activity. While the focus is on building users' social media presences, many of the concepts that apply to playing the stock market apply here, like estimating risk versus reward, and the importance of thoroughly researching a company before investing.
Here's a free investing tip: making cash without spending any is a good deal. With Wall Street Survivor, top scorers can win real-life cash and prizes by investing $100,000 of play money in real companies. What's more, the game offers the tools to help you craft a winning portfolio. There are videos, articles, and tutorials to help you learn the basics, discussion boards where you can ask questions and get answers from more experienced players, and an online support team ready and waiting to help you. And if you crave more competition, the beta version of the site is offering missions for both fun and informative purposes.
From the makers of Wall Street Survivor and How the Market Works comes StockTrak. The game is geared toward college students, and the registration prompts users to pick whether they are a student, professor, or member of the general public. Players have access to real-time stock updates to track their NASDAQ stocks, but the game also features 25 international exchanges like Euronext and TSX. Students have $500,000 to work with that can be used on stocks, bonds, options, futures, mutual funds, and more. It's a great game to supplement a college course or even substitute as one for anyone who wants to learn about investing.
The name could have been a bit more creative, but this is one of the best games for teaching kids about the stock market. The Stock Market Game, created by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, has been used by teachers around the country since 1977 to give grade-school kids a hands-on lesson in investing. As the kids work in teams to create $100,000 portfolios, they learn teamwork and decision-making skills. They also learn about topics like bonds, dividends, investments strategies, and more. If you have kids, ask their teacher about signing their class up for this game.
This game generously puts $1 million of fake money at your disposal to spend and try to invest your way up the member rankings and win prizes. The makers of the game suggest beginners start by searching some companies, which will be called up with a graph on their performance. For inspiration, click on the handy "Stocks" tab to see what stocks are being most frequently bought and sold, plus stocks recommended by other members, with their explanations of why you should buy. If you're still unclear on something, check the A-Z glossary of terms in the Investment Education Center.
Started way back in 2004, How the Market Works is more popular than ever, bringing in huge numbers of visitors to its site this year. Fans must appreciate its ease of use and shallow learning curve. The game offers investment options like penny stocks and short selling, which many other games do not allow. Beginners can start in "fun mode" without the restrictions like maximum number of trades per day. There is also a small collection of helpful articles and FAQs, plus a bookstore with links to recommended reading for learning more about investing.
Don't worry, iPhone owners; we haven't forgotten about you. For stock market simulation on the go, we say your best bet is iTrade. It's got a slick design and up-to-date info on stocks (and your competition's progress). Put your hundred grand to its best use by checking out the Hot Stocks section, or discuss the markets with fellow players on the forums. The graphs, stock info, and news are easy to read and access to keep yourself in the loop. Set up a league with your friends and see who can create the best portfolio before the month's end, when all scores are erased and reset.
Android users are not out of luck either. For your Droids and Galaxies there's Stock Market Simulator, which loads you up with a paltry $25,000 and prompts you to "work your way to the top." The game lets you tailor the graphs showing a stock's history from one day up to a year, lets you view your trades by current, pending, or executed, and allows you to easily see your return on investment. You can't buy penny stocks and the interface is nothing to write home about, but the game's free and one of the best stock market games for the Google operating system.
SmartStocks.com is similar to sites like Wall Street Survivor, but if you want to be a "certified" stock market investor, this site's for you. Under the "Learn" tab, newbies can progress through a series of certification videos, from beginning to intermediate to advanced, to learn about ETFs, options, the Dow, the whole nine yards. The Market View section is loaded with news and press releases from companies across all industries, very helpful for training beginners in market research. All the expected features are there too, with a community section, stock charts, leaderboards for seeing who has the best portfolio, and an individual profile section for tracking your own trade history.
Contacts and sources: