New online game SPENT asks people to see what poverty is really like

The Urban Ministries of Durham has a new online game. And their goal is to challenge the way you think about poverty and homelessness.

From their site:

Work hard. Do the right thing. Homelessness is something that will never happen to me. Sometimes, all it takes is one life-changing experience to land you on the streets: a job loss, death of a loved one, divorce, natural disaster, or serious illness. Next thing you know, a chain of events sends things spiraling out of control…

How would you cope? Where would you go? What would you do? Figure something out, right? We invite you to take the challenge… Play SPENT

The goal of game is to place you in the position of having lost your job, your savings and being down to your last $1000 dollars.

Then you have to try and make it through one month. This is reality for many people in the US right now, and for those whom it’s not, the game is a challenge, a call to awareness and understanding. Play the game. See how long you last.

Join the Conversation

  • Sarah

    Wow. I consider myself to be reasonably knowledgeable about poverty – at least enough to understand that the reasons behind poverty are horribly misunderstood and that on any give day that could easily be me. But I still have the privilege of going about my daily life without having to think about all of the decisions that this game brings up. I have the privilege of only having to think about poverty when it’s convenient for me. And this game totally shattered that in a way that I deeply appreciate. I hope that it’s effect is as profound on others as it was for me and that it gets other people to own up to their privilege in such a tangible way.

    • sarah

      This game forced me to think about my life in such a way that often try to ignore. It is scary being a student and having to think about what the future holds and how this game could easily reflect my life in a few years. It’s also difficult to face the reality that people with even less than $1000 are struggling to take care of families and themselves while there are people throwing money away on things they do not need. I also hope that other people will be affected by the way this game portrays poverty and appreciate the things we do have.

  • Jenny

    I don’t have to play this game. I’m living it, unfortunately. Luckily, I have a network of family and friends who can help me so I know I don’t ever have to be homeless. But asking for help when you need it is acknowledging that you can’t stand on your own two feet. It’s one of the hardest things to ask: “What would I do without you?” Well, I’d probably go hungry and/or be homeless. It’s a very painful reality to acknowledge. In addition to that, I’ve had to deal with MANY of the questions asked in this game frequently.

    Should I pay 50 bucks to see a therapist or should I try to figure it out myself?
    Should I pay the money to get a dental check-up or should I hope for the best?
    Should I buy enough groceries or should I try to acclimate to less food?
    Should I pay the pet deposit or should I risk the fees and keep the cats in secret?

    And further, as a student, should I stop going to school(and stop putting myself further into debt) and try to pay my loans back with my $10/hour part time job or should I continue investing in my education and hope I can get a job that can realistically and reliably pay the loans back every month?

    I’m glad this game exists.

  • Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

    The goal of game is to place you in the position of having lost your job, your savings and being down to your last $1000 dollars.

    Then you have to try and make it through one month.

    Hey, I play that game all the time! Though I count myself lucky when I consider how many around the world have a much much harder version. So, there’s an online version now?

  • Emily

    I don’t consider myself living in poverty and yet I consistently have under $1,000. I work a 9a-5p job M-F and pay bills including a car payment and rent. I don’t consider that poverty. I lost two jobs within 3 months of each other and fought tooth and nail to get another. I have been without income before. The solution to people in my situation is to live below your means. I need electricity in my house, but do I really need cable? I need a telephone to have communication, but do I really need one with internet on it? Carpool, eat out less, keep credit card debt to a minimum, and save. I don’t have anyone relying on my income except for me. This is me living below my means. Maybe someday I will have larger means, but I will always live below it. I don’t consider that poverty even though I don’t have a large bank account.

  • Brent Benedict

    This project was particularly interesting to me because its primary objective was to challenge our conceptions about poverty and homelessness. I don’t have much experience with either of these issues so it was interesting to learn about how they addressed stereotypes and cultural attitudes in this game, which was centered around making personal financial decisions based on a low budget. I think what is so intriguing about this is the shared expectation that we all have that none of us will ever end up homeless despite circumstances in our lives that we cannot control. Where does this expectation come from? I think it differs from optimism in that we all have negative connotations of homeless people in making judgments and assumptions about where they failed to get to where they are today. I think it’s important to reflect on this cultural attitude that is perhaps uniquely American, because it reflects our shortcomings as a society in terms of our policies and treatment of the homeless and poor. I think many of the social programs we have in place today fail as a result of this lack of understanding. While some people suffer tragedies and misfortunes in their lives, which knock them down, there are also other people who abuse the system. The problem is how to differentiate between the two groups of people. Since our society seems to be increasingly pessimistic with new information technology and the mass media, we have the tendency to group everyone into the latter group. This is unfortunate for the people who really need aid and are unable to get it. I think an important issue this “game” brought up was the fact that for these people in their situations, this could happen to any of us, especially in these trying economic times. Also being able to prepare for that situation ahead of time in terms of budget planning, etc. could be a very useful skill. Many people who suffer from poverty lack the education they need to be able to make better financial decisions to avoid sinking further into debt. Most importantly this game shows that a goal in fighting poverty and homelessness should be to advance educational opportunities in terms of personal finance and savings and make them available to everyone.