Archimedes — become a better investor

Simon Gu
Simon Gu
Jun 26 · 10 min read
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Hey folks,

I am super excited to be announcing the start of Archimedes’s closed alpha. Archimedes is an investment literacy application focused on helping everyone become better investors through play. Start learning today by playing Paper Chase by Archimedes — a fun text-based role-playing game of life — with and against your friends.

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Why am I excited?

Recently, it’s been more apparent than ever that we need improved investment literacy as a society. The economic fallout from COVID-19 has taken away jobs and further weakened our already fragile Social Security pension. There’s a very good chance that for Millennials and Generation Z, Social Security will not be around and we have to be ready to provide for our own retirement. Unfortunately, while pension managers have the benefit of relying on professional investors to earn the returns required for retirement, we will have to do much of this ourselves.

Finance and the management of our financial resources touches all parts of our lives, starting from early adulthood, through retirement, and years beyond. Yet, so little real-world financial information is taught in schools today — unless you end up becoming economics majors or working in finance, understanding how to plan and invest for the future is largely unavailable or inaccessible.

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Fortunately, the inaccessibility of Wall Street and better access to financial products is changing. The rise of Robinhood, Acorns, Stash, and Webull has empowered everyone to be able to take control of their own financial future by removing cost and usability barriers. At Archimedes, we view such technological improvements to be a monumental step towards addressing the wealth gap between the top 1% and the rest. Having direct access to the financial markets and being able to invest and compound returns are what have enabled previously well-off individuals and families to continue to build up bastions of wealth over the years. Now that mobile platforms and trading tools have democratized access to markets, everyday people can benefit from the same advantages.

On the flip side, great tools can also be dangerous to use without training, practice, and the proper education to use them. With the rise of /r/wallstreetbets, first-time investors are encouraged to speculate on stocks and hold tremendous amounts of risk while not knowing what they are getting themselves into — with, sometimes, truly tragic consequences. Recently, a young man took his own life after thinking he owed over $730,165. He left a note and was angry at Robinhood, saying he had “no clue” what he was doing.

We believe that this simply is unacceptable and want to propose an alternative outcome where first-time investors can enter the market with confidence.

Gaming, a better way to learn

We are a team of gamers and we believe that learning through play is much more effective than traditional learning. In 2009, a study published in Elsevier showed that game-based learning was 23% more appealing to students than traditional digital learning courses. Additionally, the students who learned through play received an increase of 15% in educational value compared to those that learned through traditional digital courses.

Intuitively, this makes sense to us. As humans, we start learning through play at a young age — whether it’s social skills, better coordination, or basic physics — providing skills that we hold on to and carry with us for the rest of our lives. How many times have we read something out of a textbook and forgot it as soon as the exam was over? Yet, everyone remembers to not shoot too much meat to carry nor to ford the river in Spring in Oregon Trail.

Paper Chase, the text-based RPG we embedded into the Archimedes learning environment, allows us to play through different real-life examples that directly impact our financial well-being. It teaches us finance by providing a safe place to explore options, make mistakes, and succeed or fail—with no risk whatsoever. Furthermore, the learning is real and the game is supported by hundreds of bite-sized lessons relevant to the game decisions. The best outcome our team can hope for is that players start signing up for brokerages, applying for credit, and taking actionable steps in real life, as they get more comfortable going through Paper Chase.

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Paper Chase

Here’s a fun example: the choice of whether or not to finance one’s college education with a loan. This is something most young adults face, with the consequences of their decision having lasting effects on their future. Before we turn 20, how often do we really identify that this is one of the largest investments we can make at that time? The cost of the loan for our education is the cost of our investment. The outcome of graduating with a degree is an investment in ourselves and should improve our marketability or earning potential. As long as our outcome is greater than the cost, this is a good investment.

Investment literacy is arguably equal, if not more important than knowing what the hypotenuse of a triangle is; however, schools today fail at teaching basic finance. Instead, what exists to try to fill the gap are YouTube videos, expensive courses offered by professionals, and some get rich quick scams out there. The format of learning is still largely indigestible, requires prior knowledge to find the right content, and is transactional at best. The lessons are very situational to the examples provided and are very difficult to apply and map to real-world complexities.

At the same time, Robinhood, Stash, and other trading platform’s core competencies are moving money, being a good brokerage, executing trades, and keeping track of your money. The education these platforms are able to provide is how to best use their products—not what your investment strategy should be.

Archimedes is taking a real-world-first approach to learning. Instead of following a list of lessons to read through, we can learn within context and decisions by playing Paper Chase. Play and learn alongside friends, coworkers, and other players in the investment community and benefit from seeing how other people are approaching managing their own futures.

You owe it to yourself to start today.

Your pals at Archimedes

As a team, we have all, at one point or another, encountered defining moments in our lives where game-based learning has sparked magic✨ for us. Those moments, while fleeting, were truly delightful and we’re passionate about sharing the same magic we’ve felt with you.

I would love to take a brief moment to introduce the team behind Archimedes.

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Games have always been a big part of my life and upbringing. More specifically, they taught me how to dream, how to understand the world, and how to act in tough situations. When I was younger, I spent countless hours optimizing production lines in Factorio. This included automating all the stages of product development, from sourcing and processing raw materials to conducting long chains of technological research and creating the best environments to manufacture product in the most efficient manner. In a way, it sort of makes sense that I ended up being a software engineer.

In the same vein, Civilization and Sim City taught me how the world works in a simplified but highly understandable and controlled manner. In these games, I quickly understood that the key to success is to consolidate long and short term goals together, and this is how we approach product build-out and design at Archimedes.

Overall, games have helped me become more prepared for the real world, and also made me more daring to take on difficult and long-term projects. They made me believe in myself and allowed me to navigate the problem space with confidence.

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I’ve been learning by playing games from a young age. In elementary school, I learned how to type by playing UltraKey, competing with friends for the fastest typing times, and the highest score. Playing on KidPix helped cultivate my creative side. There was also the satisfaction of blowing up your art with dynamite. At home, it was games like Zoombinis and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego that taught me math, geography, and research skills as I was completing puzzles and solving mysteries.

It was a game in my high school economics class that sparked my passion for finance and investing. We would go to the computer lab once or twice a week to play with a stock market simulator, where we each had a million dollars to buy and sell stocks. The person who had the most money at the end of the year got extra credit. I became engrossed in doing research on stocks to buy, using different strategies. Getting the extra credit at the end was pretty good too.

When I became a teacher, I knew that games would be a hit in the classroom, while lectures cause eyes to glaze over. We were in our quadratics unit and I found an online activity called Polygraph on Desmos, which is just like an old favorite game of mine (and apparently most of my students), Guess Who?. In this game, one person chooses a parabola and their partner asks yes/no questions in order to narrow a field of suspects down to one. My students were excited to compete with each other to see who could ask the fewest questions to narrow down the graph. By the end of the period, they were fluently using the relevant vocabulary, correcting each other when someone made a mistake, and collaborating to come up with an effective strategy. Most importantly, I did very little direct instruction with most of the thinking and reasoning coming from the students themselves.

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There’s a photo of me from when I was barely four, sitting in front of a computer game. The computer mouse was way too big for my hand, and I must have had no idea what I was doing. But it didn’t matter, because I was having all the fun in the world! That’s when my life-long appreciation for games began.

My dad has always encouraged me to play strategic games, and that’s how I ended up playing Age of Empires and Starcraft while the other kids were playing with toy cars and dolls. The really cool thing I remember about Starcraft was that when I selected a group of units, I could tell the health of each individual unit based on their unique coloring instead of the clutter of health bars I have seen in other games. I love those small details, and I suppose that’s why I am a designer today!

Recently, my dad told me that he’s convinced that getting good at these games helped me learn how to think and solve abstract problems. I’d definitely agree. 😃

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I can recall three very vivid examples of how I learned through gaming growing up.

When I first moved to the States from China, my ESL teacher had us play a computer game where we were frogs and we had to eat the flies carrying words in a certain order to teach us sentence construction and syntax. Sometimes when I am writing late at night, that funny visual still comes up.

The second example was a few years later in the third grade. I loved Math Blaster! I spent many hours playing that game and it eventually allowed me to skip two grades in math early on—only to find out that while I was good at math, it was definitely not my favorite subject.

The last example was in college. After passing a grueling memorization class in immunology (pass rate was set at 20% to weed out the future doctors), I found myself in medical immunology taught by Dr. Sears. Much to my surprise, the entire semester ended up being a game. Each week, we would be presented with a fixed amount of funds and rising symptoms from a new epidemic. As a class, we could use any resources available to us and spend the fund granted however we wanted, e.g. hire experts for help, order clinical tests, etc. The student to diagnose the disease correctly with the most amount of money left received the highest grade for the week. To this day, I still can list off what an Ebola outbreak looks like.

Thank you for reading all the way down to here. We’re very bullish on the future of investment literacy and we need your help! We want to be able to make learning accessible to everyone. If there’s anything you think we could be doing better, we’d love to hear from you.

I look forward to seeing you in-game!

-Simon

Archimedes Blog

Become a better investor

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