Friday, April 8, 2011

Play Spent

Obviously, I am all about the online games.  I found this one in an online search about homelessness for a project I was doing for another class.  It's called Spent, and it takes you through what a month might look like as an unemployed member of the modern day extreme lower class.  You start out with a budget of $1000 and navigate the month of bills, food, and surprise expenses.

I started out knowing that I'd make it through.  I was a smart kid, I get by on my loan-burdened college kid budget, so I should be able to handle this.  And I did.  I ended the month with around $300 dollars.  But the situations that Spent put in my way definitely made me reconsider the kind of person I was or what I would do to stay afloat.

In one situation, I had surprise medical bill that sapped a chunk of my finances and was struggling to get toward payday.  With a few days left to go and more groceries to by, I got a popup that said that one of my children got a birthday card in the mail from his Grandma that contained $10.  The game asked me if I would keep the money, or let him hold on to it.  I thought it out-- sure I could let him keep it, but he'd probably just buy a toy or something.  I was the adult, right?  I had to make the best decision for everyone, right?  I knew that I'd be back on my feet at some point, and I could always just pay him back later.  So I kept the $10 and used it to buy groceries.

In another scenario, our family pet got ill.  A vet visit would have been around $1000, euthanasia about $50.  The third option was to let it suffer.  I wanted to do something, but pay day was still a long way off and I had to think about food.  So I let it suffer.

After playing this game, I actually had to sit back for a few minutes and sort myself out.  It was amazing how personal it got, how it forced you into some pretty unthinkable life situations that seem unreal but are actually very present in the lives of thousands of Americans every day.  Spent definitely got to me.  I'll be honest-- being at Colby can be overwhelming, and I definitely get jealous of some of the beachside vacations and luxury clothes that my family doesn't really have access to.  But this game put it all in perspective for me.

It also tuned me in to some things I didn't really connect with or understand about the Grapes of Wrath.  The big thing was the driving force of food.  The whole focus of the novel was centered around feeding the family, on reaching a land of abundant fruit and work.  I guess it didn't make sense to be because I've never actually experienced not having enough money for food.  It's not that I didn't believe that they truly were struggling to feed themselves, I just couldn't connect with the idea of that level of poverty. 

I won't claim now to know exactly what it's like to be struggling to that degree, but Spent definitely gave me some perspective for The Grapes of Wrath and for my own life.  I would totally recommend it, I feel like a lot of the Colby would totally benefit from reading a thing like this.

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