Video game challenges players to live on $8 an hour

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, September 26, 2011 15:56 EDT
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A new game developed by an advertising agency copywriter has captured the experience of being poor in a way no other game to come before it has even hoped to do.

Called “Spent,” the flash-based, mostly text-driven game challenges players to make it through one month as a single parent who’s lost their job, their house and their savings. It begins by forcing players to pick an $8 an hour job and make the math work.

Players have to pick their residence, pay bills, cope with unexpected expenses and still have enough in the bank at month’s end to make the rent. Challenges presented are along the lines of what to buy at the grocery store, whether to let a pet die or take it to the vet, and how to pay for those medical bills once the inevitable occurs, among others.

The game was created by 32-year-old Jenny Nicholson, an ad copywriter with Durham, North Carolina-based McKinney.

Intended to benefit Durham-based Urban Ministries, a non-profit that helps provide food, clothing and shelter to the city’s homeless population, “Spent” has begun to accrue a following. There’s even a petition asking members of Congress to try their hand at surviving on the edge of poverty.

“Social sharing is integrated into the game,” explains Nicholson, appearing on a promotional video. “There are some challenges where you lose a day of work and lose a day of pay, half to pay a lot of money, or you can ask your friend for help, which forces you to kind of experience what it means to ask other people for help, but it also serves to get word of the game out and get other people to be curious enough to try it out and see for themselves what it’s actually like.”

Users with a broadband Internet connection and modern web browser can try the game here.

The video below is from YouTube.

(H/T: Marketwatch.)

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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