In New York City, no one has the pulse of a neighborhood quite the same way a bodega store owner does.

— Bloomberg

Game Background

Syclus partnered with Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) on a semester-long project ("FiPlay") to create BodegaBudget™, a web-based game with the transformational goal of empowering Black youth from urban, low-to-moderate-income communities to learn how to own and manage their financial futures.

BodegaBudget™ is an allegory revolving around New York City's (NYC's) famous bodegas, inclusive of playful interactions that engage Black youth to invest in themselves by further exploring the basics of budgeting, credit, debt, investing, and business, while boosting their confidence (aka: trust) in financial institutions that have not traditionally served their community well.

BodegaBudget™ is set in the storied and culturally-rich neighborhood of Harlem, NY. The game plunges the student into the management of a classic NYC bodega. As the player manages their store, they learn critical financial, career, and life skills through different stories and dialogues in a fun and culturally relevant way, and are awakened to the stirring tradition of real-world entrepreneurship.

Over the course of the game, the player follows the stories of colorful characters who pass through their store, aiding them in their money troubles, and developing the bodega into a pillar of the community. Story-based immersion enhances the management gameplay and helps students connect with the product on an emotional level. In particular, the dialogue fosters both inspirational and aspirational vibes that resonate with the players by making them believe they can confidently control their financial futures and achieve their life goals.

During gameplay, players receive reward feedback, providing them with satisfaction and consequences for their actions. In addition, the players have the option to play as a boy or girl, as well as to choose the background music.
(sidenote: we mistakenly did not include a gender neutral option, but we will definitely provide options for players to fully represent all aspects of their identity in future versions.)

BodegaBudget™ is a free, in-browser game that is open to everyone, but was purposefully designed for Black youth from underfunded communities who want to learn how to manage their money to prepare for the real-world. Since the gaming market is big business and the majority of young people are gaming, Syclus is confident that BodegaBudget™ will get players more comfortable with money and finance by using gaming as an effective and relevant vehicle.

The Bodega Experience




  1. (in the US) a small, independent or family-owned corner store, usually located in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods of large, urban cities.

In New York City, bodegas are everything. They serve many roles within their respective communities. They are a little shop, usually located on the corner, where you can pick up groceries and small items such as over-the-counter meds, some Utz chips or a soda, a deli or chopped cheese sandwich, or even to play the numbers and chat it up with the store employees. What's more, bodegas are more convenient than a supermarket or grocery store, oftentimes open 24/7. If you need a few quick items, the bodega is the spot!

Bodegas are literally a culturally experience, a pillar that New Yorkers can't imagine life without. Specifically, within BodegaBudget™ the bodega is a metaphor for the modern corner bank that is the center of your daily lives.

Market Opportunity

The video game industry is booming, with video gaming trends experiencing a massive surge in players and revenue recently. The global market size of the video game industry in 2021 is expected to exceed
$175 billion, an amount that is larger than the movie and music industry combined. The scary part? With over two (2) billion gamers globally, which represents 26% of the world's population, it is only going to get BIG BIG BIGGER - to the tune of $314 billion by 2026.

U.S. Snapshot

Key stats include:

  • In 2020, the U.S. video game industry grew 27% to $56.9 billion in revenue; and the industry is expected to hit $65.5 billion in 2021, approximately 37% of the global market size. (NPD; Statista)

  • Gaming is the favorite media and entertainment activity for Generation Z, people born between 1997 and 2006.

      • 87% of Gen Z (14-24-year-olds) play video games on smartphones, gaming consoles, and computers at least weekly if not daily; the majority of young consumers took to gaming for entertainment during the Covid-19 pandemic, saying it helped them stay connected to other people and get through difficult times; and 61% of Gen Z prefer video game entertainment over watching TV and movies. (Ypulse Gaming Research & December 2020 Report; Deloitte)

  • Video game and other gaming-related platforms that doubled as social spaces, like Roblox, Among Us, Fortnite, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, took up a decent size of Gen Z's distribution of wealth.

      • Video games make up 9% of teens' wallet size (vs. 8% last year) (Piper Sandler Taking Stock With Teens Survey, Spring 2021)

Industry Outlook

The future of the video game industry looks very promising and is on track to give traditional media and entertainment companies (i.e. streaming media) a run for their money. With gaming-happy young people leading the way, analysts predict that the gaming industry will pull in $196 billion in revenue (sales) by 2022. Further, Newzoo, the leading global provider of games and esports analytics, projects that the industry is on track to top $200 billion by 2023. With these ridiculous numbers signaling that the stakes are high, and since Gen Z and Millennials are the most diverse generations in history - with half of these groups identifying as BIPOC - there is a huge opportunity for gaming companies and brands to connect with the cultural influencers and stay in the conversation.


FiPlay is an ETC project aiming to create a transformational game to teach financial literacy to underprivileged high school students.


Team FiPlay

Team FiPlay is a cohort of five (5) ETC graduate students across various disciplines tasked with designing and building out the game. The rock stars included programmers, producers, game designers, and a UI/UX designer. Team FiPlay also included two (2) distinguished faculty advisors who oversaw the project and provided expert guidance.

OG Team FiPlay:

  1. Haoran Liang - Programmer

  2. Huixin Luo - Co-Producer/Game Designer

  3. Guimin Ren - Programmer

  4. Thomas Wrabetz - Programmer Lead

  5. Qianhui Zhi - Co-Producer/UI UX Designer