The Prodigy Game Doesn’t Deserve This Treatment

Hey there!

An article decrying “edutainment,” the concept of ad-supported and in-app purchase supported education products for our kids in school, caught my eye. I was ready to be righteously indignant that any school would allow this to happen.

Turns out no school did.

And it illustrates why you should be ready to question anything. Even me.

Here’s a link to the article:

And here’s a link to the Prodigy game itself:

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Raw YouTube Captioning

hey there it’s David H Lawrence the 17th
and I recently saw an article kind of
caught my eye on edutainment and if
you’re not familiar with the phrase
edutainment it means education products
that are also entertainment products and
often what it means is education
products that cost money that are ad
supported that have a sponsorship
associated with them
happens all the time because schools are
strapped for money right and so instead
of paying for something a sponsor pays
for it we talked about that in another
in another video but here’s the thing
I was ready to be righteously indignant
by what I read because what I read was
in an article on one zero by a guy by
the name of Jeff wise who says he’s a
science writer a technology writer and
he was talking about this game called
prodigy and you can find it a prodigy and the headline was the
ethically questionable math game taking
over US schools now with a title like
that it’s like wait a minute we have to
keep our kids safe what’s going on who’s
who’s attacking them why is it ethically
FFF ethically questionable you know how
are they taking over the schools are
they are they using mind control what’s
you know what’s going on so what it
turns out is that prodigy is a game
that’s kind of like a cross between
world of warcraft and pokemon and it’s
quests and it’s battles and it’s
monsters and it’s all the stuff that
kids love in games but to get to those
things you have to solve math problems
you can’t get anything done in the game
unless you solve math problems so you
know the article which is again on one
zero spent a lot of time talking about
ad-supported software and screen time
being way too much for our kids and
again I’m all for making sure the kids
don’t have too much screen time right so
then there was all these comments from
people who were activists and and so on
and this is what Jeff wrote he wrote and
then there’s the issue of prodigy games
business model which relies on kids
making in-app purchases of virtual goods
with real money to augment their
characters such freemium models have
helped turbocharged the growth of
popular video games like fortnight but
critics and parents questioned its place
in software and that is meant to be
educational couldn’t agree more really
you’re gonna you’re gonna like sneak it
in there and you have kids by like
special magic Kay
since stuff like that with actual cash
that doesn’t seem right
so I was gonna go find out what it was
all about and I went to prodigy Gamescom
and I saw that they had an app for the
iPhone so I went to the App Store and on
the App Store there was no label that
said in-app purchases and I was like
well if it hasn’t have purchasing Apple
requires you to label it as such you
have to say it in the actual page that
your your your app is offered for
download on it was a free download it
wasn’t didn’t cost any money and so that
was kind of weird and so I downloaded it
I’m like okay I’ll play the game for a
while and I’ll see how they sneak in
there those those offers to buy stuff
with real money and I downloaded the
game I created both a student account I
called myself David
oddly enough and I created a parent
account because you have to create a
parent account along with the student
account and to be fair there was
something for sale but it wasn’t to the
kids it was to the parents and that was
a monthly or yearly subscription that
was anywhere between 5 bucks and 9 bucks
per month and that did get kids extra
stuff but it could only be purchased by
the parents not by the kid and so I
played the game for a good hour and a
half two hours cuz you know I’m doing
research just because I’m playing games
I’m doing research and I was never
presented at any point in time with
anything but math problems math problems
that’s it and so I’m like this is really
weird and I googled prodigy game in-app
purchases and I got nothing back I got
back the subscriptions that you could
purchase that gave the kids some extra
stuff to play with in the game so I
couldn’t find anything and I ended up
calling tech
support at prodigy games and asking them
questions you know what how do you guys
make money what what is it that you know
that you do to make money and they said
well we make our money from the parents
who purchase subscriptions for their
kids and I said well what about the
in-app purchases and they said we don’t
have any in-app purchases well how else
do you make money she said well we had
some toys some actual real toys that we
sold they didn’t sell all that well but
we still sell them they’re called epics
and if you buy them there’s a little
code on the packaging that you can put
in the game but to be honest it doesn’t
they don’t sell all that well so we
don’t sell that many of them and I said
can kids buy those are those promoted to
kids in the game and she goes oh no no
no it has to be the parents that buy it
I said so let me make sure I understand
this even though it was said and then
there’s the issue of prodigy games
business model which relies on kids
making in-app purchases of virtual goods
for real money you’re telling me that at
no point in time in playing the game can
kids actually do that because in-app
purchases don’t exist and she said yeah
absolutely so I posted a comment because
this kind of struck a chord with me
here’s this article with an alarming
headline and an alarming concept and I
wanted to come to the kids defense and I
would have I would have done a video and
I would have said oh this game is you
know it’s it’s it’s you know
masquerading as a math game but it’s
actually you know trying to get kids to
get used to doing with what happens to
parents with slot machine games you know
you pay real money for for coins and
slot machine get you know I was ready to
go to town but instead I highlighted
that section that I read to you and I
left this comment and that sex
of course and then there’s the issue of
prodigies prodigy games business model
which is in-app purchases etc I’m afraid
I can’t find any information that
corroborates this claim parents can buy
a subscription that cost between $4.99
and 895 per month and only parents can
not students unless they somehow acquire
and use their parents login credentials
out of course a very different problem
but the app is not labeled in the Apple
App Store as having in app purchases and
it would be required to be labeled as
such if it did and I only know this
because I happen to have an app and I
know the rules I you know I put my stuff
up in the App Store every time we update
it and they always ask me do you have
any in-app purchases no can you please
point me to examples of this I ask you
because you got me really concerned
about this kind of model so I downloaded
and installed the app and created both a
student and parent account I then played
the game as a student on the app and
also on the website and managed that
student account with the parent account
like the parents see how well the
students are doing as a student I was
never presented with an in-app purchase
opportunity and I was never encouraged
to get my parents to subscribe I also
called prodigy game comms tech support
line and confirmed that students have no
ability to purchase anything at all and
no such in-game virtual goods exist they
do offer parents the ability in addition
to purchasing subscriptions to purchase
physical toys called epics that have
codes on the packaging that unlock
unlock battle scenarios in the game but
again children are never presented in
the game with the opportunity to
purchase them either in the app or on
the web you can play it in both places
only parents can do that with a separate
login and on the website only can you
please clarify the statement that I
highlighted which was the business model
question it’s certainly fair to question
ad-supported games although this game is
not ad supported as you state its
optionally subscription supported
and of course excessive screen time
issues you know you want to talk about
that but I would think you would want to
be accurate about your claims about this
particular game and as I was thinking
about this I wondered how many times
we’ve seen things online that got us all
bent out of shape and turned out to be
click bait or link bait or just simply
false or let’s just be fair let’s let’s
be generous and say it was a
misunderstanding but this guy positions
himself as a technology writer
technology writers do know the
difference between subscriptions in-app
purchases and ads they’re all very
different and sometimes you buy a
subscription to get rid of the ads and
sometimes you make an in-app purchase to
subscribe to something you know I get it
but this idea that the schools are being
taken over by an ethically questionable
app game that teaches kids math you know
I’m thinking to myself for all the games
that teach kids math and all the
services that are out there like like
you know tutoring services and stuff
that cost hundreds of dollars per month
to have your kids involved
gosh five bucks a month sounds like a
bargain to me I don’t know I just it
just really struck me as odd and I
wanted to share it with you and I’m
wondering if you’ve ever experienced
something like that where you saw
something on the web or you heard
somebody say something or you caught
kind of half of a news story on the
television or on radio and you’re like
what bye this is horrifying you know I
think we should question everything and
I’m wondering if there are things that
you question I even think you should
question me when I tell you something I
want you to be uninformed viewer I want
you to be as well equipped to handle
things as possible so you know I I
question everything and I’m wondering if
you’re the same way or do you just sort
of say look it’s on the internet it has
to be true I don’t know let me know in
the comments below would you let me
think of this story I think about this
by the way it’s prodigy Gamescom if you
want to go check it out if you have kids
maybe your kids are already using it in
the school that they’re in if you would
like to subscribe to this channel to get
these videos on a daily basis all you
have to do is click on my head over
there and if there’s no head over there
then there is a subscribe button
somewhere on this page hopefully you’re
watching it on vo to go go comm you want
to see the latest episode click on that
frame YouTube will play it for you cuz
they’re awesome that way I’m David H
Lawrence the 17th I thank you so much
for watching these daily videos and I
will talk to you tomorrow.

8 Responses to The Prodigy Game Doesn’t Deserve This Treatment

  1. Chris Ansoff March 6, 2019 at 8:52 am #

    Great video David! I bet your math skills have improved since the research ;-). This subject does speak to a real issue we have today with the internet and information. There are many times I that I have read an article on the internet and feel there is a lack of factual data provided to support whatever position is being presented. It feels that is all to easy for folks to post things without the need to have strong supporting data. And sadly, I think too many people are willing to accept whatever they read on the internet as truth, especially if it fits what they ‘think’ is truth.

  2. Paula Faye Leinweber March 6, 2019 at 8:53 am #

    Thank you David. This is an excellent lesson in checking the “facts” on everything we read or hear!

  3. Nikki March 6, 2019 at 8:54 am #

    Ok, yes, I have had an experience like this; I pointed out a highly inappropriate headline a national news company posted on Twitter and emailed the editor stating the problem and my action. The feed was deleted and reposted with my suggested caption within ten minutes. I emailed the editor my thanks (whether she had seen my email or not.)
    Most times I do not engage as I may have to do much more research or don’t want my name attributed to that topic, or want to get involved with a spin doctor that has more shady skill than I. Generally, I have other/better things to do.
    You did say something in a video recently which I thought about mentioning and chose not to.
    I had an experience with using the word you used, decades ago. I was waiting on a table and asked a group “Is everything kosher?” and found out by one of the people at the table that using that word did not make sense in my question, and the proper word could be “copacetic” as Kosher refers to a dietary law. I thanked him and never misused that word again.
    Enjoying your one a day’s.

    • David H. Lawrence XVII March 6, 2019 at 9:38 am #

      And what if you’re of Jewish descent and choose to use Kosher instead of “copacetic” anyway? Because you’re so, so tired of explaining to non-Jews what copacetic means?

      • Ed March 6, 2019 at 10:36 am #

        I grew up in Detroit and used both Kosher and copacetic since I was a shaygetz. Even though there was food present the schlump should never have upbraided you. He knew what you meant. I know what you meant and our family is pure goyim.

  4. Paul H Rothfuss March 6, 2019 at 9:31 am #

    Hi David. Yes, yes arid yes. Also how about the blatant yet seldom-supported-by-citing-sources claims made by various politicians and agenda-driven talking heads. The communication business today is a real mess. I agree. ‘Question everything.’

  5. Curt Bonnem March 6, 2019 at 2:16 pm #

    It is such a shame that there are so many poorly researched, or flat out slanted, misleading or false click bait articles about almost everything. Even articles that cite studies can be completely misleading. You have to actually look at the studies they cite to see if they are well done scientific studies. Many times they are not peer-reviewed, have very limited scope or participants, have no control groups, etc. and the authors of the articles citing them never mention that and pick and choose what they present in order to get the reaction they want. Sometimes these things become ‘fact’ for decades and presented as common knowledge. Take MSG, for instance. I mean, we all know that MSG is terrible and causes all sorts of health problems, right? Wrong. There were corporate interests,. as well as racist reasons for all the incorrect information used to scare everyone about MSG. It’s actually been quite a while now that those things have been debunked, except no one knows about it and we all continue on believing what we’d heard. A simple search about MSG will bring up the Mayo clinic site where it states “However, researchers have found no definitive evidence of a link between MSG and these symptoms. Researchers acknowledge, though, that a small percentage of people may have short-term reactions to MSG. Symptoms are usually mild and don’t require treatment. ”

    Do your own research folks!

  6. Sheila March 7, 2019 at 7:44 am #

    Very interesting topic. Well explained!

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