Spotlight Exclusives

A Game That Shows Us Why Struggling to Make Ends Meet Is No Game

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SPENTisa new online game that allows playersto pretend they are unemployed. It starts as a challenge. You are asked tothink about the possibility that someday you might need help just to make endsmeet. If you are thinking you are immune to this all-too-common reality, thegame taunts you to “PROVE IT.”


Onceyou take the challenge, the facts and the game scenario unfold. You learn thatover 14 million Americans are unemployed and not only are you one of them butyou lost your home and are down to your last $1,000. The question is whetheryou can find a way to get through the next month.


Theplayer makes choices and the computer calculates the pocketbook implications. Tostart, the player picks between finding a job and quitting the game altogether.Those who chose to go job hunting are given three options: restaurant server,warehouse worker, and temp. (To find out what happens if you quit the game goto the site!) Sometimes the computer tells you what it thinks of your choice. “Let۪shope you get some good tips” pops up if you pick restaurant server. That۪sbecause it۪s quite clear that you would have a tough time surviving on the averagewages (as posted on the screen), particularly when you learn you۪re required tobuy a uniform and that you۪ll need to pay for health insurance you probablycan۪t afford.


Thegame was developed by the North Carolina advertising firm McKinneyfor the Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD) and could help UMD raise needed funds.But McKinney staffer Jonathon Cude notes that an overarching goal of the gameis to build a better understanding of homelessness and poverty: “A player cansurvive the month with money left but is emotionally spent۪ because ofdecisions made that compromised family and integrity; or a player can try tomake it to the end of the game but run out of money days before the month isover. In all instances, players are encouraged to share the game on theirpersonal social media pages where they can help raise awareness of homelessness.” 


ToOOTS, the game is serious business. That۪s because a shared understanding ofwhat it means to struggle to make ends meet is essential to move solutionsforward. So, we encourage you to get SPENT out. Forward it on not just tofriends and family but also to those who might be skepticsuntil they discoverthat in reality this is no game.


Posted by Jodie


Hereat Out of the Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest newsand information essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From keypolitical appointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn’talways make the evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for ourtake on the twists and turns of the latest political developments and theirimpact on poverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact or

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