Urban Ministries of Durham and McKinney ad agency invite you to try and do so by playing their web-based game called Spent.
Based in Durham, North Carolina; the Urban Ministries of Durham strives to combat issues such as poverty and homelessness by providing for food, clothing and shelter as well as resources for those affected by these issues.
The game itself is designed to create awareness about these core issues in today’s society. Through this game, they hoped to reach millions of people already interested in gaming. By integrating social media, they hoped to reach an even greater amount of people who are otherwise clueless about these growing issues.
The name of the game, “Spent”, is a double entendre; while it represents the player losing their money in trying to survive, it also represents the emotions that are behind most of the decisions made in the game.
Once the challenge is accepted, the player is moved to the main screen. On the left, there are four options: breaking your kid’s piggy bank (+$15), donating plasma (+$25), getting a Payday loan (+$50) or simply choosing “I can’t do this.” At the top left corner, there is a balance counter, which records the amount still in pocket and any loans that need to be paid off. To the right, there is a counter from Day 1 all the way to Day 1 of the next month. The goal is to make it to the next month with some money left. In the center is where the most important thing happens – making decisions. After accepting the challenge, the player must decide whether or not they want to take a job, and if so – what kind.
Each decision comes with a set of risks and rewards. It is up to you the player to weigh the pros and cons and decide which is worth the risk. Though the game feels like an interactive game, keep in mind that this is what people have to go through on a daily basis. To emphasize this, after making a decision, a circle pops up with the repercussions of that decision supplemented with some real life information. For example, if the player decides to not purchase health insurance, the result circle pops up and informs him or her that many low-income workers also opt out of insurance for its high premiums.
The creators of the game added a social media element to the game as well. For certain decisions, the player is allowed to use Facebook to ask friends for help, much like people would do in real life. By clicking on “IOU”, players are linked to Facebook, where they are prompted to send a message to friends asking for help.
The game is over once your balance hits $0. Players often don’t make it to the next month, which begs the question: how do people normally make it month to month in real life with such low wages and difficult decisions?
The game offers a way to donate $5 in order to give a meal to someone living the game.
If you’ve previously not thought about how much we take for granted, play this game and I assure you that you will find that life is not all too easy for those stuck in this seemingly hopeless situation.