No one ever wants to survive on only $1 a day, to not be able to visit the doctor when you are ill, or to refuse to send your child for tutoring when needed just because of the money you don’t have. No one wants to live a life in poverty. If you had to live under these conditions, how would you be able to survive? What would you give up? Where would you go? Would you ask for help?
The mission of the Urban Ministries of Durham in North Carolina is to provide food, clothing, shelter and supportive services to neighbors in need. With the McKinney Advertising Agencies, they created an online game called SPENT to show the hardships of living in poverty and homelessness.
The approach of the game is to realize how difficult it is to live under these circumstances and to pick wisely when spending. On the front page of the game, it prompts participants with a striking question: “Urban Miniseries of Durham serves over 6,000 people every year. But you’d never need help, right?” The game begins immediately following this, and has served as a wake up call for the 1.7 million people who have already played it.
The game begins when the player is given $1,000 to survive on for a month. The challenge is not as nearly as simple as it seems, and the various conflicts that the game throws at the player is a portrayal of reality. This includes losing a job, not being able to find employment, lack of food and water, and unfortunate health concerns. Paying bills, for your child’s education, and getting education is also a necessity, and serves as a consistent financial drain throughout the game.
While this is a virtual game, the obstacles and challenges that lead to and perpetuate poverty are a reality to billions of people in the world. Through challenging long-held beliefs about poverty through ways such as SPENT, participants from around the world can come to better understand why and how poverty happens and how to stop it.
– Jada Chin