Online Game Challenges Player to Live in Poverty

Could you live on $1,000 for one month? A new online game challenges people to do just that and already has been played 1.7 million times

SPENT, a quick, online game about surviving poverty and homelessness, challenges players to live on $1,000 for one month.  

Launched earlier this year by ad agency McKinney for Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD), the goal was to help people around the world reconsider how easy it is to find oneself living in poverty. The game takes an average of 9 minutes to play, and includes a series of multiple-choice questions, such as if your car breaks down, do you stay home from work, take the bus, or ask a friend for a ride.  Your choices affect your “Balance” meter on the side of the screen.

“When we launched SPENT, we believed a game could be a powerful tool that would lead to a new understanding for how difficult and painful it is to live on the edge of losing everything,” said Jonathan Cude, McKinney Chief Creative Officer. “I have to say we were thrilled and even surprised at the game’s ability to get people talking about and sharing their personal experiences and beliefs about homelessness. We’ve heard from hundreds of people and organizations all over the world, each having a unique story or point of view to offer. The one thing everyone agrees upon: Poverty and homelessness can happen to anyone.”

However, not all who have played SPENT agree with its tactics.  The game was addressed in a blog article on The New York Times, and several commenters pointed out its flaws: there is no choice of whether or not to have a child – the character in the game is a single parent with one child.  Additionally, low-income families oftentimes have more than one child, another comment said. 

Meanwhile, others said it succeeds at getting the point across – living off of $1,000/month is not an easy task.

The game can be played at