Gaming For Change: The Beggar

By Alec Meer on July 31st, 2009 at 10:20 pm.

Vignette art-game, social commentary or satire upon the coin-collection stereotype of so many olden platformers? All of the above, most likely. The Beggar is a free browser game about a hungry hobo. He might look like a cute comedy pixel-art tramp, but in fact he’s a tragic wee thing.

To earn money, he begs. Some people will give, others will be annoyed – but regardless, you end up asking the same people again and again. Shame seems a secondary concern to survival. He can spend that money on getting back into the cosy castle he’s been kicked out of, or on balloons to befriend the locals with.

Trouble is, he also needs food, or he wastes away horrifyingly quickly. Food, of course, costs money. It thus becomes this sad oroborous loop of begging to afford food to have the energy to beg to afford food to have the energy to beg… On top of that, if the roaming police catch you begging, they’ll haul you off to jai and confiscate a sizeable proportion of your earnings before letting you go. The charming graphics belie the terrible futility of the thing (though there is an ending – four in fact).

Super-basic and perhaps a little too vague, but oddly compelling – and, much like Passage (though it’s not even slightly as moving as that), more about evoking a mood than being a great game, per se.

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31 Comments »

  1. Heliocentric says:

    There should be an option once you have about 50 coins to start selling the big issue and then the police leave you alone, but you get into territorial conflicts with other big issue sellers.

  2. mpk says:

    People ignore you more easily if you’re selling the Big Issue.

  3. Stromko says:

    Instead of hunger being the primary concern, you should be forced to spend the majority of your money on meth or ‘ice’ to support your habit.

    If you go too long without a hit, you become a mugger and start beating the crap out of civilians for money, until one of them dies and you go to prison for murder and manslaughter.

  4. Stromko says:

    Or I guess European beggars aren’t the same as the ones we in the northwest U.S. :P

  5. Railick says:

    The endings are pretty meaningless to me .

  6. fucrate says:

    “The endings are pretty meaningless to me .”

    I dunno, I got in a boat. That was pretty fulfilling.

  7. a says:

    I sat in a boat and that is when I realized true happiness comes not from wealth, but from boats.

  8. Railick says:

    Exactly, what happens after you get in the boat, do you just sit there? O.o Is it possible to save the dude starving on the peer?

  9. Pags says:

    I would hope that for the most part this is less social commentary and more meta deconstruction of the coin-collecting syndrome present in a lot of games, just because if it is social commentary then it’s a little simplistic – tramps have a hard time getting back on their feet because they have no money and they are punished occassionally by society for something that is no fault of theirs, my mind is blown – and it’s hard to recommend a game intended as social commentary when the commentary it’s offering is so basic. That could just be the problem with games as a medium for presenting these ideas though.

  10. Railick says:

    Should be noted that if you beg other people enough they’ll lose their social status and even steal food from you if you get all their money. Just goes to show socialist society that rewards failure destroys itself in the end.

  11. M_the_C says:

    Nice game to play for a short while.

    I particularly liked the touch where your diminishing health increases the power of making friends. Makes letting go of the balloon that little bit harder.

  12. SteveHatesYou says:

    Is this the beginning of the Survival Hobo genre?

  13. Günter says:

    Haven’t seen a Shockwave game in a while. Didn’t even have the plugin installed.

  14. Polysynchronicity says:

    The Mac version doesn’t work. :S

  15. dayeight says:

    Set it in Baltimore and make the main character Bubbles…

  16. Adam says:

    @dayeight +10 for The Wire.

  17. Deacon Lowdown says:

    ‘Related Stories: Oh, To Be An American’

    What exactly are you suggesting, Mr. Meer?

    Anyway, yeah. There actually is a surprising amount of depth in this game, with different types of gameplay, and having to balance food and…balloons. Still, I’m not totally sure it’s communicating all that it wants to. Beingthe king and taxing everyone while they are running away from you seems to be a bit of a morally simplistic take on things, though.

  18. x25killa says:

    I feel sorry for the fisherman. He gets nothing :(

  19. Psychopomp says:

    “Should be noted that if you beg other people enough they’ll lose their social status and even steal food from you if you get all their money. Just goes to show socialist society that rewards failure destroys itself in the end.”

    Yo’ dawg, I heard you didn’t understand socialism, so I put a strawman in your strawman, so you can misunderstand while you misunderstand.

    @Steve

    We can only hope.

  20. Scundoo says:

    Should be noted that if you beg other people enough they’ll lose their social status and even steal food from you if you get all their money. Just goes to show socialist society that rewards failure destroys itself in the end.

    Holy Cow. Reagan has come back from the dead, and is using the Internet. We are all doomed.

  21. Scundoo says:

    BRING BACK THE EDIT FUNCTION YOU DOZY GITS!

  22. TeeJay says:

    “Just goes to show socialist society that rewards failure destroys itself in the end.”

    lol

    which ending did you get in the end then?

    …this game is deep…

    :D

  23. Jim Rossignol says:

    Dozy gits? You’re the one who can’t HTML…

  24. An Innocuous Coin says:

    I’ve gotten three of four endings…I suspect the last one involves the balloons, but no dice yet. :/

  25. Mark O'Brien says:

    Hobo Tycoon released at last!

    When can we expect to see Grandma Shooter II?

  26. Tei says:

    I have become king! :-)

  27. Sajmn says:

    In a world where everyone looks the same, becoming the king is as easy as stealing a man’s robes.

    But I didn’t get the friends thing. They get these hearts in their eyes, then forget about you in a few seconds.

  28. Berzee says:

    I started getting arrested on purpose so they would feed me in jail. ^_^ (I’m not sure if this restores as much health as a fish, but if you are desperate or the fish-a-man already died, nothing beats bugging people until the coppers drag you away to a warm bed and a square meal).

  29. Schwerpunk says:

    I like it. Short enough that its limited breadth doesn’t begin to unnerve.

    I /especially/ like how you begin to fade away when you lose health. The first time I noticed this I was filled with a sense of unease that I can’t fully explain. Needless to say, I did not want to perish in this horrific way.

    Disappearing. *shudder*

  30. Serondal says:

    No worries I’m not the ghost of Ronald Reagen reborn into the internets. I was just riffing together some random crap I heards on Rush Limbaugh to make it sound like I knew what I was talking about I wasn’t being serious : PIf there is a straw man it’s me.

  31. Lucky Main Street says:

    I really like the mechanics, but I do feel like the commentary is wanting. You finally get enough money to get into the castle and you use your newfound access to jump off a cliff?!

    I’m really intrigued by the role of the fisherman in this. There doesn’t seem to be anything you can do to save him, so I made it my goal to befriend him; grabbing a balloon and barely making it back to him before both he and I fade away. As he disappears his tombstone somberly states “Gold: 0, Friends: 1″. I’d like to think this was ending #5. I grabbed the fish he left behind, reviving myself, and took his boat, abandoning a life of begging to fish for myself.