Spent


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Rating: 4.1/5 (136 votes)
| Comments (71) | Views (1,162)

DoraSpentSpent is a harsh and often bleak simulation of a situation some people in America (and even the world at large) are facing every day. You've lost your job, you have a child, and you're down to your last thousand dollars... can you make it through thirty days? It might sound easy, but you'd be surprised at how hard finding a job can be, and how quickly all those little costs you don't ordinarily think about begin piling up. Think you wouldn't have to ask for help if you were in this situation?

Play is simple; click on the choice you want to make whenever the game presents you with a selection. The upper left corner of the screen shows how much money you have left, and the right side displays a calendar that shows your progress through the month. The bottom left side of the screen also has a series of icons you can click on if you get particularly desperate; you might never ordinarily consider it, but when you need groceries or your rent is raised without warning, there's a payday loan, the ability to donate plasma... or the meager funds in your child's piggy bank. Throughout the course of the game, you're also given the opportunity to ask a friend for help from time to time, which literally means posting to Facebook; you don't actually have to make the post, of course, since the game assumes you did and lets the choice count regardless, but could you actually go to a friend if this was reality? Would your pride let you say, "I can't make rent this month, and I need to borrow $200.", and more importantly... do you have anyone who would help?

Analysis: Spent is predictably a little heavy-handed in its message, something that's undoubtably going to hamper the immersion and overall, er, enjoyment for some players. The fact that it's a constant stream of financial hardships means it's a bit less of an accurate simulation and more of a string of choices with no real "right" or even very positive outcome. Having the game constantly bash you over the head with depressing facts about every little choice you make gets the point across, but I can't help but think the impact might have been so much stronger if it was more subtle. Spent managed to dredge up some not entirely pleasant childhood memories, but constantly having statistics blared at me meant I never really got lost in introspection the way I might otherwise have. Still, it did make me wonder how long I could reasonably have kept "living" in the game as loans mounted and accidents happened; reminds me a little of a particular episode of Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days.

Obviously, for a lot of people Spent's scenario is hardly typical, and if you're single, or childless, or any other number of factors then $1000 might indeed be more than enough for a month. The fact remains, however, that many people aren't that lucky; add in a child, a college loan, and a few other key expenses and things start to pile up. The only real reason to replay is to try to finish the month again with a higher "score" (more cash in your pocket), and a sort of "endless mode" that let you try to survive as long as you could might have made the whole thing feel more like a game and less like an interactive public service announcement. Of course, you might be one of the lucky people who don't have to worry about this sort of thing, or think about the people who do. But maybe, once in a while, we should all choose to.

Play Spent

71 Comments

Can you even beat that typing test? I got my current job by doing around 155 WPM, and I'm pretty sure that I didn't "fail" it... it's rigged, right?

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Is getting a job as a term even possible? I've typed exactly what is says twice and it says it's wrong.

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Turns out, you can do the typing test for an office temp but with no typos and under a certain time limit. The first time, I flubbed it because I hesitated.

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Cheery. Having a game that reconstructs the daily life experience of far too many people.

Please pardon me while I go hurl myself out this window.

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This game is awesome

It's thrown up some familiar scenarios
and can really give you some empathy
for those who are playing the game for real

My apologies to the 14 million Americans who are in this boat, its a similar story on this side of the pond and I can't afford to help wish I could and I hope there are people who can and will through playing this game

its getting a mega teacup rating from me

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God. This game made me cry about halfway through. This is exactly what my mother (a widow) had to live with as she raised my brother and I. Even still; I'm grown up, but my brother is just entering high school. She works so hard, but it's never enough to get her caught up.

Thanks for this link. I'll have to tell her about it.

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Some choices were hard to make because it needed some real-life insight. Also, I found the pet solutions a bit harsh.

Couldn't you just bring it to the animal shelter?

I think it's a bit unrealistic that you face a financial problem every day. But that's part of the game I guess. Also, the groceries part was a bit vague.
My symphaties for the people who have to worry about every penny, everday.

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Isa WP,
"I think it's a bit unrealistic that you face a financial problem every day."

Well, if you don't have a steady and regular income and huge savings, you soon reach the point where 95% of your daily choices is financial choices - even the ones you would never think of as such...

Sad, but true. Believe me, I was unemployed for long enough to realize this.

bio

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Played through several times and find most of it rather absurd. Essentially, you're playing the role of someone with no budgeting skills whatsoever who has been miraculously living beyond their means for an excessive amount of time. Surprise, you have a cell phone bill! And a sick dog! And a kid! And a high car payment! But if I'd known I couldn't afford it I wouldn't have gotten a cell/bought a dog/had a kid/bought an expensive car in the first place.
So the lesson I learn from this "game" is: People are idiots and do this to themselves.

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Hear, hear, bioLarzen. I had to laugh ruefully when I read this review. I'm sort of LIVING this game right now. I think I'll not play a simulation of my life, thanks...

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I really dislike how a lot of people use the word 'lucky' to describe someone without kids/pets/health problems and so on like it has nothing to do with good choices and everything to do with uncontrollable fate.

All this game does is say to the world "Poor people are poor because they make bad decision, and it's your responsibility to help them survive to continue to make bad decisions".

Every scenario in the game has a smarter alternative or method to get through it; every bill I've ever paid had a leniency period or a payment plan for people without the money to pay immediately. Medical bills in the US can be safely ignored almost forever or paid in very small sums over a long period of time, there are incredibly cheap cell-phones out there or, gasp, you could go without. Your landlord is the one responsible for making household repairs, such as replacing a broken window, and cannot raise your rent on a whim like the game shows. Why can you choose to live very close to your job and not choose to walk to work, or take the bus, or ride a bike, or any other option? Because you're playing a moron.

On the other hand the game is very obviously agenda-operated and really only exists to get the organization in question more money. After all, they need it to make these games to explain to the world why they need more money.

Also, just as an aside, the situation involving your child's shoes and the phrase "name brands are important" just pisses me right the Hell off and shows that the people making this game don't give a damn about anything except their agenda and their own pockets. If this game had any real merit it wouldn't make the assumption that poor people are poor because they're stupid, nor would it insult the intelligence of the player by forcing to play a stupid person and then beg for money.

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Did anyone else get to the "which bill will you pay" with enough budget left to pay both? Yet, you are still required to pick one OR the other.

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"Why can you choose to live very close to your job and not choose to walk to work, or take the bus, or ride a bike, or any other option? Because you're playing a moron."

Or you're someone who gets off work in the middle of the night in a crime-ridden part of town. Or public transportation doesn't allow you to get to work on time. Or you have to drive your kid to school in said crime-ridden area because the district says you live too close for buses. Oh yeah, that *never* happens. Get over yourself, Nimdok; unless you're a millionaire, you're one health care problem away from being in a hole. Particularly if you still *have* debts that you're paying minimum balances on.

For decades, internet communities have organized "pass-the-hat" drives which get total strangers back on their feet. The range of stories you hear are without end, and yes, these are educated people with good work histories. There *is* always someone out there who's willing to help, and no -- none of us are stupid enough to give money to scammers. Just FYI. It's not uncommon.

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I think this comes off as propaganda more than education. There are too many situations where the game just throws statistics at you, and too few where your choices have real consequences. I didn't feel anything for my strange, faceless child who is obsessed with name-brand shoes and won't eat bag lunches or stand in line for cheap meals. I didn't realize I had a dog until I could no longer afford it, so I didn't care about sending it to the pound.

In order to get the attention of people who don't know what it's like to live poor, the simulation needs to actually feel like living poor does. You don't get stressed out because a creditor calls you one day. It's that they call you every day in the middle of the night for weeks on end. You don't lose friends because you ask them for help with rent once or twice. You lose them because your every interaction with them turns into a discussion about money.

To be really effective, I think this would have had to paint a real picture of a three-dimensional person, and show you the consequences of that person's choices. Not just in whether you can make rent, but in your relationships with the people around you, who should also be three-dimensional people. As is, it's just too vague and abstract.

Basically, it should be like a real-life Choice of the Dragon in order to genuinely pull at the heartstrings. And it's not even close.

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I found this condescending at best, and silly the rest of the time.

There are plenty of better comments above which explain how I feel perfectly well so I'll just vote this down as I didn't enjoy or see the value of it

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In fact, Evergreen sums it up perfectly for me

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It's a shame some of the scenarios didn't give other real-life alternatives to educate people, even if it was after the choice in their bubble. For example, "student loans are due". The US Dept of Ed and student loan laws allow borrowers to petition for hardship deferments, which suspend payments or significantly lower them. My choice would be to get on the phone and apply for the deferment.

Credit card due: in the game I paid the minimum, but another alternative is to work out a more reasonable option with card companies. Companies would rather get something than eat a huge loss.

There was one about my kid and an option was apply for a scholarship but unstated was that option would cut my pay in half....seriously?! That's critical information I'd ask BEFORE choosing.

My kid's getting picked on for being on free lunch? I'd have a talk with my kid and keep the $60/month for needs.

So in all, I think the idea of the simulation is interesting, but there are some options that they could do a much better job educating people about better alternatives and options.

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I agree with most comments as a gamer, and I understand most design choices as an ex game programmer with some marketing insight.

What I really didn't like, however, were the Facebook-based options. I don't live in an English-speaking country, and if I used those options my real-life friends would have probably misinterpreted the FB message, thinking I was really in need.

And, more generally speaking, Facebook is not the center of the world. Designers, drop it already!

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I didn't have a problem with the typing test, but the whole thing about it trying to share it on Facebook was just annoying.

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BrosephStalin February 17, 2011 1:14 AM

950 bucks. Big pimmmpinnnnnn

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Interesting game, probably realistic. But.. lets be honest here, millions of people have had to life that lifestyle and have triumphed without getting any help whatsoever. Just read Outliers or think about the late 1800s early 1900s. Its a dog-eat-dog world out there.

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I found this game rather disturbing. It reminded me a bit of Ayiti: The Cost of Life, which was another no win sort of game with a moral message.

If you want to cheat at the typing test for the temp job copy and paste the following text into the available box. (I use control+v on my computer).

The mission of Urban Ministries of Durham is to provide food, clothing, shelter and supportive services to our neighbors in need.

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$123 and 3 problems left when I did what I would do

Just going for the money:

First time got booted from my job trying to join a union

Second time $1016 with 3 problems but life is terrible

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You can tell by the comments who has been there, and who has not.

Is it true that bad decisions lead people into the situation being simulated? Yes.

However, good, intelligent, hard-working people DO make bad decisions sometimes. Terrible decisions, even. But that's not the message, here.

Once that person has made those terrible decisions, does it make it any less awful and heartwrenching? For me, this game- though obviously, yes, propaganda- did pull on the heartstrings.

The terror of being caught in a traffic jam and burning gas and wondering if you'll make it through the week to GET to your temp job.

The terror of not having enough cash in your pocket to make it through the line, even though you've downgraded to the almost-inedible cheese, meat, and bread that you're eating three times a week.

The terror of not being able to feed someone or something that you made a commitment to provide for.

The terror of wondering how serious that eviction notice really is. The terror of cold fronts or heat waves because the power is off. The terror of being sick, and not only not having insurance, or money, or gas to get to the hospital, but your phone's cut off because you thought you'd squeak by this week so you can't even call someone.

It's really, really easy to judge people who are in that position because of their poor decisions. I daresay there's nothing even wrong with that judgement. But for me, at least, sympathy and compassion outweigh that.

"I've cut myself very badly and I'm bleeding!" "Well that was stupid, why weren't you wearing gloves, and why were you holding the knife that way, and why are you so bad at cutting?"

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@Jamus: Details like those are exactly what I felt was missing from the game. There was nothing that evocative. I never felt like anything of value was being taken from me, and I never felt afraid for a moment.

Maybe I was expecting too much from the game, but it seems like with better writing and more dynamic outcomes based on the hard choices the player has to make, this could have been so much more compelling.

I mean, it's starting good discussions in social circles that otherwise wouldn't be having them, and that's good. But it could be doing so much more by itself.

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You want a temp job? I can hook you up.

Just copy and paste this typo-free sentence below into the typing box and quickly press enter:

The mission of Urban Ministries of Durham is to provide food, clothing, shelter and supportive services to our neighbors in need.

If only I could copy/paste myself into a job for real.

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@JoeNobody, @Nimdok

The idea is, you weren't living beyond your means. You may have been an ENGINEER, TEACHER, BUSINESS OWNER making $20+ an hour, with a house, a child and a dog. A nice white picket fence in the suburbs.

But the company you worked for went under and, surprise, there isn't a big demand for engineers in this economy. Or teachers. Or small business owners.

People don't have to make bad decisions to end up in these situations. They don't, at all. It is becoming increasingly easier and easier to get knocked on your butt in this economy, repeatedly and hard.

At $20+ an hour, you could live within your means, AND sock money into savings! Yet, you were let go, downsized, fired, and... So you sit, and you wait, and you look for another job as an engineer/teacher/businessman.. You look for days, which turn into weeks, which turn into months... Three months later you're spending your child's college fund on groceries and being evicted from your white picket fence in the suburbs and..

Oh, all those BAD decisions... So BAD of me to have had a child seven years ago, so BAD of me to have married someone who died in a car accident five years ago, so BAD of me to have gotten a puppy 3 years ago, so BAD of me to have...

You get the idea. People don't start out here. They end up here, after being nickeled and dimed to (sometimes literally, for those who can't afford insurance) death.

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Hi

No matter what you do, you never change the ending text

This game is a propaganda

The only way to win is to not play it

(So I lost The Game)

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Ugh. It really sickens me when games favor people with an FB account who are willing to spam their friends with it. There should be laws against that sort of thing.

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I have a blocker on that stops pop-ups. I was able to choose the friend options without actually posting anything on Facebook. It doesn't check so it doesn't technically favour facebook users.

I agree with Evergreen's comments about the game. I just didn't find it evocative. There was no counter keeping track of anything other than my money. 30 days was such a short space of time. There was decision after decision thrown at you with no real positive ending in sight. It didn't matter if you chose the moral options, the ones to better your child's or your own future, nothing had any sort of impact on the end result.

Even something that tallied up various points at the end would have felt more real. I think Ayiti: Choice of Life does it better, Real Lives was better, even Alter Ego had more of an impact and it was mostly random scenarios where you'd one choice to make. If it had been more of a game, like Alter Ego, it could have been better.

It just seemed like it was trying to go for the emotional gut-punch with every single choice. The choices weren't all realistic.

Is there any way at all to get a healthy meal out of the shopping cart choices? I choose nothing and my family doesn't starve. I put in only the fresh fruit and healthy choices and it says I've not bought enough food. I put everything in and it says things about obesity and pure nutrition.

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cinder calhoun February 17, 2011 6:56 AM

I have agree with KaylaD here. Smart people who make good choice and live within their means CAN have strokes of bad luck and end up in bad financial situations. The people who've commented here about this game's theme hitting close to home... I really don't think they are all just making 'bad choices'.

This game may be propoganda/heavy-handed, which sucks, because it fails to help illustrate a point that clearly some people don't quite understand.

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The temp test is easy if you paste the text in instead of actually typing it.

Also, I'm a bit disappointed there was no option to turn to a life of crime or at least to panhandle. It could have upped the realism and lead to interesting choices and drama, a high risk high reward thing. Though it might have gone against the game's (silly) message.

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You know, I had more fun juggling the balls in the shopping cart than to actually play the game regularly...what does that say about me?

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>Raz:
Yes, there's a way. I always just put in spaghetti, bread, eggs, cheese and either tomatoes or peanut butter, and it's fine.

This game is highly unrealistic and kind of baffles me. I was raised in this situation, so a lot of the choices seemed obvious -- no, kid, sorry, we're not spending 60$ extra a month because you can't put your lunch in your bookbag. But, uh, a lot of the choices don't have intelligent options (let's have a dog in a pet-free apartment, instead of giving it away to a relative or friend or /choosing a place that allows pets/) and some just don't make any sense at all; why am I paying 375$ for medical insurance that doesn't cover dental and makes me pay 75$ for my prescription medication?

I don't know, it's an interesting game, but it seems like it was made by people who cared less about how life as a working class or otherwise broke individual actually works, and more about Making A Point.

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I would argue that this is quite a bad game simply for the fact mentioned by several above: nothing in this game causes you to empathize with the plight of the poor. If you have been poor, you understand, and if you haven't, then you don't--all you see is rather empty and pathetic grandstanding by the game's creators. No matter how you feel about welfare laws or basic personal fiscal responsibility, it is hard to argue that this game is good. The "game" aspects are rather limited, and the case that it tries to make for the plight of the poor is done so ineffectively that it only increases the divide on both sides of the argument.

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While a thought-provoking exercise in frugality and living in another's shoes, I found the choices too shallow, and I didn't care for being "forced" to pay for unnecessary items or services.

Having lived in straightened circumstances for much of my life, my family has always worked together and made it work. We've made most things from scratch, made our own gifts, cheerfully gone without, and have become rather adept at creative problem solving. For nearly every choice presented in the game, I had a better, cheaper (legal) idea, which wasn't available...

I couldn't help feeling that you weren't supposed to succeed.

A.G.

By the by... Though I've never commented before, I've really enjoyed Jay is Games for several years now. Thank you for all you folks do. :)

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Wait...what????? I don't believe in unionization so by walking on I'm "keeping quiet" so I don't lose my job? That's total BS! Also, I had plenty of money to pay all of my bills, and I could tutor my own damn child (who suddenly appeared halfway through the game). Not to mention IT'S ILLEGAL to raise the rent with no warning. This is an advergame? For who, the stupidest candidate for public office ever? I don't get it. I think this audience is smart enough to get through the month on a budget.

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@KaylaD

The premise of the game is that you lost your well-paying job and then kept living like you've been living all along until suddenly, (surprise!) you run out of money? Normal people can see this thing coming a mile away and adapt. Dump the cell phone, send the dog to the SPCA, cancel the cable, sell the house... Rational people respond to the realities of their new budget rather than blindly assuming it will all get better.

The problem with the "game" is that it undermines its own message by presenting a bunch of situations that only an idiot would have let themself get blindsided by. Instead it should focus on things they *didn't* have any control over and couldn't possibly have planned for. There are plenty of legitimate, heartbreaking reasons people end up in financial dire straits, through no fault of their own. This game should have focused on those.
A for intent. F for execution.

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Reading the comments I thought the game has a rather low rating - I was quite surprised to find it's 3.9 at the moment...

That's interesting. Based on the comments I would have guessed somewhere around 2.5-3.00...

I didn't play the game for a couple of reasons, so I dunno which is closer to reality though.

bio

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This is not realistic at all. All you have to do is use gov. entitlement programs for a monthly check, free healthcare and food cards. Then move in with your baby mama and hustle on the side (sell wedd, shoptlift, etc.) It's easy!

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I don't think it's right to call people who would be blind-sided by these situations idiots. I don't think it's right to make judgement calls on others lives, especially if you've not been there.

At the same time there's so many of the choices where I'd pick a third option, where the two options presented were just so shallow.

Not being in the US I've no idea how many of the choices and facts presented were true.

I actually read the facebook messages it wants to send and found them horrifying. It would be so easy to misinterpret them as the player wanting money and not about it being part of a game.

It's not even really a game. It's just some random choices that bear little reflection on life in order to make a point. One minute my child was failing maths, the next they were eligible for a scholarship. One minute I was too stupid to teach my child maths, the next I was paying back college loans, and the one after that I'd the chance to attend college again if I could just scrounge up the cash.

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All the comments about propaganda are troubling. Every single one of these things does happen to the poor, and for them it can feel like a never-ending daily barrage - like this game.

Drop the cell phone? And pray tell how they're supposed to keep contact with the outside world? They don't have Internet. Their job wants to be able to call them. There are no pay phones anymore. I really don't understand the attitude that the poor got there from stupidity, and then chastise them for NOT doing something stupid like dropping a telephone connection.

Experienced poor could possibly deal with $1k a month. Downsized poor, which this game seems to be emulating, are in transition. They still have the weight of previous obligations around their neck - credit card balances, car payments and the like - that are extremely difficult to deal with or transition out of. When you suddenly are making about $300 a month after rent like in this game (and it's not at all unlikely), it's hard to budget or plan a way to get rid of the car payment and into a cheap used car: your credit's gone downhill, so how will you finance it? The current car, after all, is upside down; you won't make money on a trade-in.

Obviously many of the "choices" in here are misrepresented: student loans can be deferred; food stamps can be gotten within 7 days in an emergency; there is help for the poor who need cell phones. However, so much of it is true, and many commenters aren't realizing that -

- Yes. landlords often can raise the rent anytime on month-to-month leases.
- Yes, health insurance IS that expensive and no, when you buy your own insurance it will NEVER cover dental or vision, and probably won't cover doctor's visits or prescriptions.
- Yes, the poor are constantly dealing with breaking down cars, traffic tickets, utility bills (should we have heat or lights this month?), health problems (that must be ignored because they can't afford to go to the doctor), workplace exploitation (if you complain they'll fire you), and more.

The game does itself a disservice by exaggerating some dangers. However, the average poor person probably won't realize things can be negotiated or changed. Remember, they're poor. They know, because they've been told, that they're bad, they've made terrible mistakes, they've done something to deserve this.

They aren't exactly in a position to be making self-empowered decisions in their financial interest like negotiate credit card rates. After all, they had to have done SOMETHING wrong to have everything go so wrong, right?

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ChibiFunzo Author Profile Page February 17, 2011 6:50 PM

No its not rigged But it is VERY HARD

Type it out Copy it then restart and paste it.

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Am i the only one who had to make a consciencce efort to lose at this game? I found it rather easy..most decisions simply are..well common sense to me..i dont like the fact the utility question came up..i had enough for both easily but it made me choose..

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Finished with $205 left and cell, dental, and gas bills.
Kind of a sad game...

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Finally beat it. It's message may be in the right place, but structurally sound the game is not. Evergreen hit the nail on the head: this is merely propaganda-pushing and not even entertaining edutainment. The moral choices need to have more gumption and nerve.

Even deciding what to do at the end of the text adventure The Warbler's Nest had me hesitating more in dread. Pass.

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My whole east/middle european country lives that kind of life for more than 10 years now... 1000$ is cca a bit less then average monthly payment here, but there's great number of people who have to deal with half the amount... I myself had experienced firsthand some half of the here depicted challenges (but I don't have a kid), but I'm doing okay now..
Don't worry, Americans, cynicly speaking - you get used to it; noncynicly - I think you won't have to get used to it, the economy is constantly getting better, and, as people here commented, if you keep you're wits about situation, there's always lots of options. The worst case scenario in the game is poorley depicted..
Ironically, usualy i play games to be as far away as possible from my life.. :-)

P.S jayisgamse, can you please change side banner commercial?! The kid from stray souls dollhouse is freakin me out wit his constant creepy stare!! :-)

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This game clearly is PROPAGANDA, as pointed out by other posters. I live in poverty and can testify that it is a very easy life. Here are some things this 'game' gets wrong:

1) No-one expects you to spend above your means. We certainly do not live in a society where consumer items are status symbols that others use to evaluate you. I have never been laughed at for forgoing what other people see as affordable necessities, such as new branded clothes, expensive coffees, or reliable transport.
2) You do not get bullied for being poor! Where I come from, others have an affectionate nickname for people that live in my trailer park - "white trash". I understand that white trash is recyclable and is actually a good thing (?). And none of my children have ever come home crying because of the treatment they get for being poor. (They do often come home saying that they 'fell down the stairs', but that is their own fault).
3) This game makes it look like you just 'have to' have children. What a lie! Having children is merely a budgetary concern and NO-ONE has them if they cannot afford them. I mean, look at nature. It's not like having kids is a biological or emotional imperative: all animals carefully plan their births to happen only when there is enough food. We're animals and we can be this sensible too. If you can't afford kids, don't have 'em - it's not like you'll feel you should have them due to some crazy idea of continuing your blood line and name.

Often, richer folks try to tell me that I can access help to get out of my 'situation'. They use 'facts' to convince me - 'facts' like that my life expectancy is shorter. Let me tell you, something might be a 'fact' but it's still PROPAGANDA if I don't believe it. Thanks to the people that have been correcting this 'facts' with the much more important truth that, "if you're rich, you're right"!

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@Beef:

I can't speak for everyone here, but calling the game "propaganda" doesn't mean that I think the designers are lying or making up the situations you encounter in the game. That's not what propaganda is.

The problem is that the game oversimplifies these issues to the point where they don't feel human or relatable. My choices in the game feel like they are engineered to produce a specific emotional response, not to paint a realistic picture of life under the poverty line. After playing through once, I felt manipulated rather than educated.

Propaganda doesn't have to be false. It can simply omit parts of a complex issue until there is only one point of view remaining.

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@Raz:
I don't seem to be making my point clear. There are countless situations people can't prepare for which do blindside them and ruin their lives (sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently) through no fault of their own. The problem is, this "game" utterly fails in its attempt to engender sympathy for the plight of such people. Rather than using such unavoidable events as the basis for the tragedy, it uses as a premise the result of a sequence of unfathomably stupid choices on the part of the game's protagonist.
I have no sympathy whatsoever for the game's protagonist, because he so obviously brought it on himself by being an idiot. Rational people don't continue to live beyond their means like that after losing their cushy jobs. They adapt. Fast.

@huh:
Ever heard of a land line? Radically cheaper than a cell. Keeping the cell is one of those "idiot" moves to which I'm referring.
Running up a credit card balance which you can't trivially cover with your emergency fund? Yup, that's another one. Underwater on your current car, so you can't sell it to get something cheap? Yup, that's another one. The rich (compared to 99% of the planet) guy who lives beyond his means then loses his job and fails to adapt until he essentially runs out of money? No sympathy.
The chronically poor, who we really should be sympathizing with, wouldn't be faced with most of the inane "decisions" this game presents (lots of other impossible decisions, yes... Too many of ones in this game are a joke, however).

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"Rational people don't continue to live beyond their means like that after losing their cushy jobs. They adapt. Fast."

Of course they adapt, because it is not at all difficult to accept that your social status cannot be kept up in the face of economic hardship. No-one would ever panic and take on more debt to keep the place in society they are used to, and eventually get into even worse trouble.

People just aren't that hung up on how others see them.

Also, no research has ever been done on this so let's just pontificate on what we think rational people would do in a situation we have not experienced.

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As everyone said, way too propaganda-y to be quite as effective as it could be.

Oh, and by the way, whenever you get an "ask a friend for help" option, it'll open a facebook "share this link" popup (as the icon below it suggests), but you can just not share the link and the game will still think you did, so... Kinda silly.

I lost the first time around (no idea what day), and easily beat it the second (though I still had a gas bill and a car registration renewal to do, but I also didn't break the piggy bank or take the $50 loan).

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@Beef: Nice strawman argument. Real convincing, that.

@JoeNobody: You hit the nail on the head. There are real problems poor people face, and it is terrible for them. However, this game tries to force you to think "this sucks" rather than making it realistic (and thus naturally causing you to realize it sucks).

Basically, it had the potential to make a good point, but undermined its own goal by trying to shove the message in your face at the expense of realism (or flow).

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Apparently nobody saved up enough to get their sarcasm detectors fixed.

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What a total advergame.
The intention is undermined by the way it puts the Ministry of Durham right in your face.

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I'm a bit upset with some of the comments.

The game does have flaws options that could be given weren't etc but I think if you have known hardship you recognise that sometimes you don't get all the information required to make a good choice or know that some choices exist.
and to Joenobody:

We had a comfortable life my partner had savings and a very good income and both of us felt secure in careers that were stable. Suddenly the company he worked for sold out to a foreign buyer which then shut down the UK branch in favour of a cheaper eastern European workforce. we had no notice and thought it would be ok as the benefit system in the UK supports millions who survive ok ...we had to give up the lifestyle we once had but we still had the kid and the dog....we can't all decide from the off I won't get a dog I might get poor or get sterilized just on the off chance we might be saddled with too much family!

As it turns out the UK benfit system is full of loop holes which means they won't pay out if they can help it. We had a rule back then when it was hardest....The kid ate, then the person who had worked hardest then if there was anything left over the dog got it....then one went hungry

This game is pretty true to life give or take a wrinkle .......and thats its point

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$1.023...Sadly, I got there, by turning down all my bills, getting IOUs, denying my kid what he/she wanted, and not getting healthcare. This game, to me, doesn't make sense. Do the developers want you to make stupid decisions to come out with a high scores? The fact that this game takes place in a month as well also encourages problems. If it was a whole year (and maybe each round is a week), then you might have follow up on your decisions. Your kid might fail in school, your friend might stop loaning money to you, etc.

The events here were also ridiculous and poorly thought out. There were little or no consequences and they didn't seem to influence each other. For example, the turn after I got fired because my car got repo'd, I was forced to go to 'work' on a sickday. WHAT? On top of this, there is no reason in this game to encourage living LIKE AN ACTUAL PERSON. I bought no groceries, and got nothing besides an admonishing note about how 20.000.000 Americans live without food.

Besides these gameplay issues, I agree that these problems face many people all the time. However, I think that the game's battering you with statistics and more and more random choices was not effective, either as propaganda or a tool for sympathy. I think this game would benefit from fewer decisions that had actual IMPACT, showing what it's like to decide between two things that are really important to you. We've all faced hard decisions in our lives, and this game makes it seem way too clear cut.

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I've lived in poverty all my life. Some of the comments about poor people being "stupid" are extremely ignorant. Everyone I know works hard -- harder than the entitled rich kids at my university living off Daddy's money. Yet we barely get by. All it takes is paying one emergency medical expense on credit that you can't pay to ruin you for years. I couldn't buy a car or a house now even if I made three times as much as I do. The rent around here is four times more expensive than a mortgage in a house three times as big, but nobody I know who needs $200-$300 of a mortgage versus $500-$800 of rent can qualify for a loan.

You eat fast food and cheap generics packed with nasty chemicals because you can't afford anything else. You get sick and go to work until you throw up on a coworker (true story, happened to me). You get lucky and get a job that will schedule you over 39 hours so they'll pay benefits, and then they close the office, or your boss sexually assaults you. You're fat, depressed, and you haven't had a vacation since you were a kid. You choose between shampoo and toilet paper. Your tags expire and you gamble as to how long you can avoid renewing them. You get a ticket at a red light and avoid answering the door or the phone for months. Your student loans are due, so you pay only the interest. Until they turn off your gas and it's really cold, so you pay that instead.

Look, I'm educated. I'm intelligent. I've been employed since the day I've turned 16. But my parents are poor, I'm poor, and for people without wealth to make more wealth, health insurance, and family connections, it's a good month when you have an extra $100 for a coat that'll keep you warm without making you look like a hobo. And you can't get a job if you look like a hobo.

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I think the comments section should be edited to:

1) A mention by a Dora that many posters are under the illusion that this game is 'propaganda'
2) Jennblaze's post, with a large flashing message that this is the truth of the matter, and why this game is valuable.

Please stop posting your conspiracy theories about how liberal games are making our children believe being poor is hard. Because being poor is hard, and when you are poor you are not in a place to 'do the right/rational/obvious thing'. You are in a place to do the desperate thing, and each time you do it you get more desperate.

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@Beef

One more time: Calling this game "progaganda" is not the same as saying poor people have it easy.

The question isn't whether or not there is a problem with poverty in the USA. There clearly is. There are far too many people here living in hopeless circumstances, considering that we are supposed to be a developed nation.

The question is whether or not Spent, the game, depicts the issue in a helpful way. By simplifying the main character's dilemma and failing to provide enough context and detail for his/her life, I think that Spent is going to distance many people from the problem, rather than making it seem more real. It's easy to project qualities like "stupid" onto the main character, because the game makes no argument against it.

Jennblaze's post is effective because it's an honest statement by a real person. The game is not, because it isn't. I find it off-putting, and honestly, I think it does more harm than good, except for its value in sparking discussion.

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"I find it off-putting, and honestly, I think it does more harm than good, except for its value in sparking discussion."

I am unable to understand your problem:
* Does it put you off wanting to be poor? Well, I guess that's sort of the point.
* Does it put you off wanting to help poor people? That would be a problem, but you'd have to be pretty unpleasant to feel like that.
* Does it put you off playing the game again? I don't think you really need to play it multiple times to get the point.

The point of this game is that you realise poor people need help, and so are prompted into being more considerate in future. If your knee-jerk response is "this is too heavy handed", then I suppose you are allowed to complain. But I recall when a friend of mine was raped, and afterwards had frank and sincere discussions with people about how unpleasant it was and how rape should be countered with charitable donations and changes to the law to make rapists more easily prosecuted. Perhaps I should have been more like you and responded with this: "You are being too heavy handed and putting me off thinking about rape. This is propaganda. I am not willing to help."

Because the problem with people in bad situations is, hey, I'm not in that situation, so why should I hear you whine? It's not like at any time in the future I might need to bend your ear about an unplanned catastrophic event that upsets the entire balance of my existence, because I'm goddamn invincible.

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First the temp job typing test is easy as crap if you fail it over and over you need to learn to use the freakin home keys and stop typing like a monkey.

This game has the opposite effect on me. It's so damn easy to end the month with 500+ dollar it makes me hate poor people. First where is the dudes wife? He has a kid, dog, and 7k in credit card debt. Why? Why does he have all this with no higher education to where all he can get is a 9 dollar an hour job? Seriously the American dream is only meant for the people responsible enough to achieve it...no one is entitled to it.

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"Seriously the American dream is only meant for the people responsible enough to achieve it...no one is entitled to it."

Yet people are born with all the entitlement necessary to succeed - the majority of money 'earned' in this world is made through inheritance!

Your way of thinking assumes that if you always treat failure with harsh disdain, you are being equal and fair. However, when one class of people are never in a situation to fail, you are actually just being an elitist.

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"You are being too heavy handed and putting me off thinking about rape. This is propaganda. I am not willing to help."

Once again, you're confusing testimony from an actual person with the contents of this game. It's not that the game is too heavy-handed. It's that it isn't emotionally affecting enough, period. It diminishes the suffering of actual people by reducing them to generalities. That's what I find off-putting.

That doesn't mean I'm callous toward poverty and homelessness in general. Just toward this game. I don't need to play it to realize that poor people need help. That's already crushingly obvious to anyone who ever reads the news or walks down an urban street.

But really look at the reactions that some people are having to this game. They're convinced--by the game itself--that poor people are stupid and make bad choices. You're right, some of that attitude is pre-existing elitism, but surely those are the people that the game is trying to convince, and it's failing miserably. It's reinforcing their prejudices. With more skillful writing and game design, it wouldn't be having that effect.

UMD's website, by the way, does a much better job than the game at convincing me that somebody at the organization has a clue about poverty. I suspect it was designed by entirely different people.

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Basileg1 March 13, 2011 3:00 AM

It's easier to be unemployed in Britian because the british government pay for you to go to hospital, I think it's called the National Health Service. And you get sick pay.

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anthony otte April 25, 2011 8:07 PM

you made it through the month by being a terrible father, bad pet owner, letting your teeth rot, driving the commute from hell, and just generally being a bad person. but you ended up with 1161 dollars, so at this rate my kids will hate me, my car and dog will both die, and ill be toothless. but ill end up making 161 dollars a month

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unemployed August 22, 2011 6:49 AM

I ended the month with 1437 dollars. That's almost 50 percent more than with what I started with. My kid's starving, though. There should've been an option to have the dying pet for dinner, I don't care about the pet. It just shows up dying. And the kid's gonna get the shoes next year.

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The temp job is actually really easy to get because all you have to do is write out exactly what the thing says including capital letters and punctuation in WORD and the copy and paste it

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Anonymous November 6, 2011 5:55 PM

actually there is another way to pass the typing test, except you're going to have to cheat. If you don't want to do it the honest way, you type it out first then copy and paste.

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"I really dislike how a lot of people use the word 'lucky' to describe someone without kids/pets/health problems and so on like it has nothing to do with good choices and everything to do with uncontrollable fate.

All this game does is say to the world "Poor people are poor because they make bad decision, and it's your responsibility to help them survive to continue to make bad decisions"."

Oh come on, Nimdok get over yourself! Many people that are poor are poor because they are less fortunate, not because they made bad choices. Sure, it somewhat has to do with good choices but it also has do do with luck. For example, a person who was born into a rich family has a better chance of being able to afford collage and get a job with better pay then a person who was born into a poor family. Plus once that person's rich family dies they often get their money. In the long run it's mostly just luck.

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Hopeternal64 Author Profile Page February 24, 2014 6:23 PM

Is it just me, or does this game deliberately screw you whenever you have a substantial amount of money?

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