The Bleak Despair Of Abject Poverty In Video Game Form

You've lost your job, your house, and your savings are completely gone. Can you survive for a month on $1,000? That's the challenge put forth in the game Spent. Are you up to it?

For many of us, poverty is something that happens to other people. We have comfortable jobs, reliable transportation, good health insurance, and get our bills paid on time. We believe that even if we lost our job tomorrow, we'd work something out, and everything would be okay.

But what if it isn't okay? What if you find yourself homeless and jobless, trying to support yourself and a child on a mere $1,000? Could you recover?

It's harder than it seems.

Created by McKinney for non-profit charity organization Urban Ministries of Durham, North Carolina, Spent is a text-heavy flash game that places players in a desperate situation.

As the game begins the player is given $1,000 and tasked with finding a place to live and a job to pay the bills. The players has to weigh the distance from work with the amount of gas it will take to drive back and forth. The car is the only luxury afforded the player, and even that can be taken away.

Three job opportunities are presented: Waiter, shipping company warehouse worker, and office temp. The most cushy of the three, becoming an office temp requires a typing test, which I failed in my initial play through. Instead, I took a job at the warehouse.

With about $1,200 coming in per month and rent of only $780, things were looking up. Then life happened.

Do I want to opt-in for health insurance at the ridiculous family rate, or just hope I stay healthy? When my child's grades start failing, do I purchase a tutor, or let him struggle? When my car registration comes up, do I pay it, or chance being pulled over? When my cat gets sick, do I pay the vet $200 to fix it, $50 to put it down, or simply let it suffer?

As the month progresses, the twisting feeling in your gut grows more pronounced. This is a game you cannot win. Not without making big sacrifices.

Or turning to your friends.

Spent includes Facebook ties, so players can make a pleas to their friends for help. You can ask them to help store things from your house that won't fit in your small apartment, or help teaching your child how to handle math better. The feature tries to communicate the humble feeling of having to reach out to others for help.

I was too proud, and at the end of the month I had $600 left, and my rent was due.

I feel horrible after playing spent. I've been in similar situations in the past, having to choose electricity over gas (electricity, of course, for the gaming), or having a sick animal that I couldn't afford to get proper care for. These are heart-wrenching situations.

And millions of Americans deal with them every day.


The point of Spent is to make people aware, not only of the issues facing poverty-stricken Americans, but how difficult it is to ask for help when you find yourself in such a situation. Maybe knowing how hard it is to ask will make it easier to give.

For some, this is a bleak reminder of a place we never want to be again.

Hit up the link below to see how you fare.

Play Spent [Urban Ministries of Durham - Thanks, JungleToad]