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On the Web

Learn Financial Dilemmas of the Poor

A new game on the Web – Spent – is a compelling way to experience the impossible choices the poor must make every day about money.

Spent was created by Urban Ministries of Durham in North Carolina, which operates a food pantry, clothing closet, and homeless shelter; and a local advertising firm, McKinney.  The game gets its point across so well because McKinney interviewed the ministry’s clients and translated their real-world predicaments.

The challenge: players must get to the end of the month without depleting their small paychecks on routine bills and unexpected expenses.  So, your child is invited to a birthday party, but you cannot afford the $5 gift.  Do you send your child to the party without a gift, make her stay home, or buy the gift anyway – and risk running out of money?

Spent is preferable to the Reality TV trend of immersing celebrities in poverty for a few laughs.  I couldn’t put it any better than The Wall Street Journal, which labeled using the poor as Reality TV props “a cheap way to get ratings.”

Urban Ministries’ game is effective in raising empathy for the poor.   While some people might think, “You don’t spend the money if you don’t have it,” poverty creates difficult “moral dilemmas,” said staff member Kaaren Johanson.

For example, your pet is ill and you can either pay to have him treated or put him to sleep, which is less expensive.

What would you do?  Try Spent and find out.

View video about the making of Spent:


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