Video games have been fingered for spurring violence, glorifying crime and now, for brainwashing kids into seeing how tough is it to pass a budget in the Knesset.

“Where’s the Money?,” a video game produced by the Finance Ministry, allows students to step into the shoes of the finance minister and attempt to pass a state budget.

But many parents, having seen their kids nearly always fail in the game to present a budget acceptable to the majority of Knesset members, believe the developers have a hidden agenda: attempting to evoke sympathy for complexities of the finance minister’s task, Maariv reported. Parents also worry that the game teaches about financial considerations in terms of narrow political benefits.

Players are shown animated ministers from defense, industry, transportation, health and social services. Clicking on each minister opens a box that shows the amount of budgetary funds the minister requests (for example, NIS 2.5 billion for defense) and an explanation of how the money would be used. Users move the icon determining how much money will be budgeted, and the minister’s face covers the emotional range from angry to happy depending on the final amount.

A very happy minister of transportation promises to name a train station after the finance minister (photo credit: screen shot, www.kids.gov.il)

A very happy minister of transportation promises to name a train station after the finance minister (photo credit: screen shot, www.kids.gov.il)

At the bottom of the box, the “minister” responds to the budget, expressing displeasure or pleasure.

Once the user has a balanced budget to propose, it goes before the Knesset for the vote, almost always failing to pass. Alongside the vote tally is a graph indicating how popular (or more likely, unpopular) the finance minister.

According to Maariv, the game was introduced to schools as part of an educational program jointly produced by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar. Rather than improving students’ economic understanding, many parents told Maariv that the game educates the children to a specific way of thinking. These parents said that the game teaches that failure to pass a budget is the natural way of the world.

Prof. Yossi Yonah of the Department of Education at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba told the newspaper that while education about financial responsibility is indeed important, this video game seems to foster empathy for a government that is facing conflicting demands from different parties, all of which threaten to bring down the coalition if their demands are not met.

The Knesset vote and corresponding low approval rating for the finance minister (photo credit: screen shot, www.kids.gov.il)

The Knesset vote and corresponding low approval rating for the finance minister (photo credit: screenshot, www.kids.gov.il)

The Finance Ministry claimed that it was unable to include political considerations in a game for such young children, and so it did not include sectarian demands or the considerations of the prime minister. The ministry did not offer an explanation as to why all ministers other than that of finance are depicted in a negative manner.

The Education Ministry did not respond.