There were a lot of neat games to go through this week, but with all the talk about social games and meaningful mechanics going on around here, I'd be remiss if I didn't spend one post pointing everyone toward Spent, a serious game with social-network tie-ins.
Durham advertising agency McKinney designed and donated Spent to the Urban Ministries of Durham, a nonprofit serving the poor and underprivileged in Durham, NC. Spent is intended to educate players on the precarious financial positions not of the homeless and unemployed, but of the millions of folks living on the edge and trying to stay afloat.
Spent puts players in the position of a recently unemployed family breadwinner. The challenge is to get a job, pick a place to live, and survive for 30 days without running out of money. If you skip cut the right corners, get lucky enough to avoid disasters and emergencies, and if you're a fast enough typist to get the temp gig, you should be able to make it. But it's certainly not easy, and often feels unfair. But you can often choose to ask a friend for help—meaning posting about your virtual struggles on Facebook or Twitter.
But that's the point, isn't it? Life doesn't feel unfair when you're struggling to stay solvent, and sometimes you do need to get by with a little help from your friends. But living in the NC Triangle means different financial realities than living in other places. Costs of living vary, and there are certainly cheaper (and more expensive) places to live. Certainly many would find life much harder or easier at that income level if they lived in New York City or Arkansas.
Talking Points: Do you think this is a reasonable portrayal of walking the poverty-line tightrope? Is it effective, or just a cheap shot at your emotions? Do you feel dirty when you choose to ask for help on Facebook? Does it seem like it would be annoying to get these help requests all over your Twitter feeds? Beyond the general struggle of the situation, are there more focused points being made here about certain especially difficult aspects of living at that income level?