Playing SPENT

This week I played an online game called Spent, (shout out to Norma for recommending this game) which was created by the Urban Ministries of Durham. I entered the site and immediately noticed how dark the layout was. It gave me an ominous feeling. The first words I see say “Urban Ministries of Durham serves over 6,000 people every year. But you’d never need help, right? Prove it.” I was nervous.

I accepted the challenge and was given $1,000 to live on for one month. I then had the options of choosing between minimum wage jobs that peaked at $9 an hour. I was immediately overwhelmed by the hard decisions I had to make. The one that particularly affected me was deciding what money I could use on my child. I felt that it was unfair to take away experiences for them because of my financial state. For example, they received a birthday card with $10 and I chose to keep the money because I only had $48 left and I was barely halfway through the month. They also had an opportunity to go the museum with their class, but it would’ve cost me $15, so I decided that they would stay at school for the day. One thing that I did pay for was a sports uniform so that they could participate in an after-school sports league. Growing up, sports were very important to me, so I thought this one luxury would be beneficial. Other situations arose during the game like making the decision if I should live closer to work for a higher rent or farther with a lower rent but higher transportation costs. The bill collector called and I chose to hang up on them and my landlord raised rent without a written notice 30 days in advance, which is an illegal practice, so I had to leave.

Bad situations came up one after another and I was calling the shots. However, I appreciated the facts and stats that accompanied most decisions I made. Even though this was a game, it really brought me back down to Earth and reminded me that this is real life. People are going through this every day and they don’t have the luxury of leaving this online game after the 30 days are up. It was easy for me to have the mindset that this is just a game and I don’t have to think too much about it. However, I knew that if I thought this way, it would undermine the purpose of the game which strives to raise awareness about the issues of poverty, homelessness, criminalization, and many more. I feel that this game should be played by everyone because it is a simple way to “put yourself in the shoes” of the less fortunate and to begin to understand the problems they face everyday.

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