Spent - A sort of modern Oregon Trail

Imagine you’ve lost your job and have $1,000 and have to live for a month. This game is sort of an “Oregon Trail” type simulation where you have to make life and financial decisions and not go broke. It’s sort of a downer (you can tell the people that made it are proponents of workplace benefits and social programs) but reasonably realistic. If it asks you for Facebook info when you choose to “ask a friend for help”, you can skip logging in as far as I can tell.

A lot of times they don’t fully explain the situation before making you decide. For instance, if you must choose to pay gas or electric bill and you don’t pay the gas then the game says you can’t cook and have no heat. Well how did I know I had gas stove and furnace?

I made it out with $990. My kid got to buy school lunch and play afterschool sports, but I skipped most other luxuries and did a few morally questionable things when the $$$ were big enough. I played through again and it was a bit different, I only had $530 or so.

I played it through 3 times, and the end balances were wildly different (lost on day 8, end with over $600, end with about $120). It’s random, but even the time I had a “high” balance at the end, I think it got the point across: tough choices! The friend’s wedding never seemed to come up when I could pay for it, and I felt bad telling my hypothetical kid to keep doing free lunch (and getting laughed at for it) and so in the next round let them play sports when that came up instead!

It annoyed me that it didn’t have a sell the car option. I had to cheat on the typing test, too, which I never had to do with real life temp agencies.

Yeah, I came across this earlier today and that was something that bugged me too. I’ve been very broke in my life, and I sure as hell didn’t own a car. And a $75/cell phone plan? You’re renting, but you still have to hire a plumber to fix the sink?

Also, when I went ‘grocery shopping’ I bought apples, carrots, milk, bread, chicken, cheese, cereal, pasta, and toilet paper. It told me ‘you can see why obesity, diabetes, and heart disease have skyrocketed among low-income Americans’. What? I only spent $38 on food in a month - I’m pretty sure I’m not getting fat on that.

I get the point, but this has got to be the most star-crossed person on earth to have all that happen in a month.

Playing through this game struck a nerve for me, since I both grew up poor and was working poor for part of my early adult life. I know what it’s like to have to do without, or give things up, or suffer in the long run because you can’t afford the quick fix now.

That being said, the character in this game still has it better than a lot of people out there - s/he has a job (and healthcare!) even if a low-paying one, doesn’t have to catch the bus to work, and is renting a house/apartment big enough to let a friend pay to crash there.

This one straddles the line between Game Room material and MPSIMS, I think. Let me know if you want to move it over to the Game Room.

  • Gukumatz,
    Game Room Moderator

This reminds me of the first episode of that short-lived Morgan Spurlock show, 30 Days. He and his fiance spent 30 days living on minimum wage in Columbus, Ohio. He was a temp laborer and got an injury on the job, and she ended up getting a terrible UTI. They both got no-insurance ER bills and ended up in the hole at the end of the month. Shit happens, and it’s harder to deal with when you’re poor.