Meal Or No Meal: Spent

The slider should continue all the way to 60 miles with a little picture of a banjo.

Can you survive for one month on one thousand dollars? Spoiler! You probably can’t. Browser game Spent is a collaboration between advertising agency McKinney and US charity organisation Urban Ministries of Durham designed to both entertain and raise awareness of homelessness. Or rather, how easy it is to become homeless in the USA. Each day the game asks you a taxing multiple-choice question, which by the end of the game all add up to the WORST MONTH A HUMAN COULD EVER EXPERIENCE, but you get the idea. Reminds me most of mortifying climate change strategy game Fate of the World (of which you can read my impressions here). More of this sort of thing! Education through consternation, that’s my motto. Go play, or there’s a video of the UMoD talking about the game after the jump.

I wasn’t even lying.


  1. wastelanderone says:

    I played this a little while back and managed to last just under a month and a half. Made me think I should save more, too.

  2. Bennus says:

    I lost all my money before I started.

    oh wait…

  3. bwion says:

    I played the Real Life Special Edition of this game a few years back.

    It kind of sucked.

    • Matzerath says:

      Yup. It’s the worst LARP ever.

    • simonh says:

      I don’t get it, $1000 a month is about how much I’m spending right now and I’m living comfortably and content. I make about three times as much, but I’m just saving it right now, with no particular plan for it.

      Of course I’ve got rent control, no need of a car and no kids, otherwise it would definitely be different.

  4. Theory says:

    Most of my money went on cars and healthcare. God bless buses and the NHS…

  5. Alexander Norris says:

    Sadly, this will hardly convince the people who believe the poor are poor by choice and deserve what they get to change their world view. Too bad. :(

    • mkultra says:

      I’m way below the poverty line and I’m most definitely there by choice. If I chose to work the 30 hours a week I spend gaming, it would be different. But I’ve set priorities, and window shopping is for assholes.

      EDIT: I also pirate Crysis 2 to save money.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      @mkultra: That’s the spirit!

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      No, anyone with any sense will see that this game means shit, – “you broke something in a box” – Pay 25$ to cover the item, hide the evidence wtf, ok I have broken more than my share of shit when moving etc packing, Just coz I broke it doesn’t mean shit to me, oh no, I broke my old Xbox which doesn’t work anymore or I broke all my plates and cups (which has happened once) fuck for 25$ I can buy Plastic gear to last me through a month, And I don’t even have to clean any. Also who needs cellphones.

      And on the subject of the OP (I got quite distracted) – Most people are below the poverty line, even in supposedly developed countries, and a good quote I picked up “All the countries wealth in 10% of the population” sure it doesn’t apply to many of the western countries, But someone living off 400-500$ a week is bullshit imo. And It’s only getting worse, but what is being done about it?

  6. Cugel says:

    I ran out on day 30 due to a bank charge for my account being under 50 bucks!
    I really liked this, well constructed and clear in its message.

  7. olemars says:

    Flash games are for poor people.

  8. Alex Bakke says:

    “Daddy, where’s my birthday money that auntie dorris said she’d pay me?”



    • Kryopsis says:

      “Auntie Dorris is a liar. Make sure to tell her that next time you see her. Which might be never. Also, if you keep whining about that dog again, you’ll go without ramen until the end of the week!”

  9. Josh Brandt says:

    Ha, $390 at the end of the month, although of course my car isn’t legal and my phone was disconnected. Cell phones are for rich jerks anyway.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      I wasn’t going to write a review, but I have to now,

      Yeah, I just let my coworker get fired, let my pet suffer, stole from my kid, put up with toothache, drove a stolen car, and never paid fines/fees – fuck ’em.

      Seriously how is tihs eevn a gmae anyway, all you do is push one butten! There are no qeutss and all you can upgrade is stranth! this isn’t even an RPG anyway !

  10. TCM says:

    $319 with gum disease and no car.

  11. Tyshalle says:

    Easy game. Just steal money from your kids and strangers, let your pet suffer in agony, and ignore all your phone calls, and you can get by easily.

  12. Kanamit says:

    I would have made it if I wasn’t fired for talking to a union organizer. I knew that was going to happen, but I wanted dental.

    I’m still awaiting my induction to the great American lower class (read: I’m a student that doesn’t have to pay off my mountains of debt quite yet), so I think I’ll send a donation their way.

    • Rich says:

      “fired for talking to a union organizer”
      Good grief! What kind of nightmarish place is this United States?

    • sinister agent says:

      The land of freedom to die hungry, sick and miserable wherever you want.

  13. Torgen says:

    This made me sad, when at the end of the game they ask for donations, I see how much good it could do, and we don’t have the money to spare ourselves. :(

    In the game, I killed the cell phone right off. Just me and the kid, no friends. Made it to the end of the month with $406, but couldn’t make the next month’s rent.

  14. Jhesam says:

    Eat the poor.

    • Kollega says:

      No, EAT THE RICH.

    • triple omega says:

      I agree with Kollega. Who wants a malnourished poor guy? Give me a fat rich bloke, he’ll last longer.

  15. Tacroy says:

    It’s funny because the people who are most likely to need to hear this message are also the sort of people who don’t play video games.

    Edit: also Jesus Christ, where can you get $15 for donating blood plasma? I would be in on that so hard it’s not even funny, but most places just give you like ice cream vouchers or something like that.

    • Torgen says:

      I once spent days looking for a place that would pay for blood, and came up empty myself. I quit giving blood for free at Florida Blood Services when I found out the CEO made $600,000 a year with $25,000 a year in benefits, and was selling the donated blood at a profit.

    • arccos says:

      I don’t have a problem with a company making a profit on it, personally, if they’re still more efficient than the non-profits or the only operation available.

      It seems like almost every charity has an agenda of some kind, profit companies just have the agenda of “moor mooney”.

    • ShawnClapper says:

      Donating plasma is different than blood in the fact that you get your blood back when they are done. You can do it twice a week even!
      I used to donate when I was in college and I think it was around $15 a shot.

  16. Airemacar says:

    I definitely approve of raising awareness of poverty and homelessness, but keep in mind that this game has a large number of fixed assumptions in the scenario. In my eyes, the costs for various things like rent and transportation may not give a good general picture, though they do make a point. It makes sense for them to make the simulation severe, given their priorities, but I’m not sure forcing you to pay ~2/3 your income in rent for a place that is “too small for your stuff” is accurate. It also provides a limited number of money-centric options: when you’re depressed you can pay for pills, pay for a therapist, or do nothing, when in reality there are often free hotlines, meetup groups, churches/temples, or just friends and family to go to.

    One of the forgotten things about poverty is that lack of knowledge is just as important as lack of money. The problem many homeless and impoverished people face is that they don’t know what support is already out there for them even if they qualify. I like the simulation in theory, but it is too agenda driven for me to recommend it to people – it is an interactive poster or PSA more focused on saying “look how bad it is for people” than “this is a realistic choice people in this situation have to make”. My personal belief is that overly agenda’d materials can do more harm than good by presenting situations detached from reality and, despite good intentions, misleading people who may then feel that either nothing can be done, that it is too much for them to deal with, or that this can’t be true and the whole problem is overblown. In reality, people don’t need as much money as is often implied, but they do need more support than they get.

    So you think I’m not BS’ing: I live at the poverty level as part of a government sponsored program, making $998 per month after taxes are taken out (plus food stamps of $200/mo) in Boston, one of the most expensive cities in the US, particularly for housing. But with some effort, you can find several housing options for under $600/mo with access to public transit, which is unlimited for $59/mo – both much cheaper than the simulation. I have lived at under $1000 a month without food stamps for 3 months, and with them for 4 and have managed to stay barely in the black. It isn’t easy, and I have a number of advantages, particularly a network of people in similar situations with tips on how to get by.

    • Torgen says:

      Yay for being healthy and single in a place with decent public transportation and assistance to the poor. Not everyone is so lucky.

    • Airemacar says:

      Indeed, not everyone is so lucky, and not everyone in poverty is so unlucky as well. I don’t mean to say I represent every poor person in a country of 310million, only that the game itself has a strong agenda and forces you into its own unrepresentative situation because of it.

    • Torgen says:

      I hear ya, the game just got me depressed about real-life inability to get a job when I blew their typing test and had to take the warehouse job I physically can’t do.
      My wife was laid off after 11 years at her job, while qualifying to join AARP at the same time, so thing’s ain’t rosy, and i just heard from friends in Chicago who are about to lose their cell phones and electricity (so I’ll be losing contact with them,) and I don’t have money to help them.

    • Airemacar says:

      I’m sorry to hear that, Torgen. It sounds like a lot to be going through all at once and I hope you have people in your life to help support you as you find your way through it.

    • Torgen says:

      Thanks, and I thank God every day for my wife, who is the most loving and supportive spouse I could ever wish for. (I’d have left myself years ago! ;) )

      I’m hoping the economy is recovering some, so I can get back to turning my brain into a paycheck. I’m trying to convert my skills and some of our savings into an income stream before the money runs out.

    • Vinraith says:


      My thoughts pretty much exactly. It’s a well intentioned, interesting thing but ultimately some of its underlying assumptions only serve to reinforce the position of the “it’s their own fault” brigade. I’d love to see a version of this done without those assumptions.


      I’m very sorry to hear about your situation, and hope things improve for you.

  17. Shazbut says:

    This is scarier to me than Amnesia by a long way

    • Shazbut says:

      Actually, I’ve changed my mind a bit now that I replayed and finished with $1387

  18. haircute says:

    Ugh. I don’t need this. Everyone one I know in this ridiculous country is experiencing this right now. I hate this place :/

  19. MattM says:

    This game was terrible. Many of the decisions presented a false dichotomy between two stupid choices. Others failed to take into account my previous decisions. So my gas got stolen. So what? I picked the place right next to where I work. Also many of the problems seemed to be the result of a couple of years of bad decisions.

    • Airemacar says:

      I agree with this – the simulation tries to make one very specific month representative of a diverse and widespread issue and ends up trivializing it. This person has years of credit card debt and yet also owns too much stuff to fit into a small apartment. That furthers the “the poor are poor because of their own mistakes” argument when in fact many people are poor for things entirely outside their control.

    • multiname says:

      Agreed. It sucks. I had enough money to pay for electricity and gas, it forced me to have one get cut off. I live next to work – I get fired because I lose my car (which I would have actually sold) despite being in walking distance. Any message it’s trying to send is overridden by “It’s broken”.
      And I would never have had the kid…

      edit: and I assumed the “deal with it” prompt regarding the asshole housemate meant throw him out, not suck it up.

  20. Shagittarius says:

    This and the climate change game are excellent examples of games used as propaganda. This type of thing should be completely avoided.

    • Mattressi says:

      Yeah, I’ve got to agree. It seems to almost be scaremongering: presenting a scenario which you don’t exactly ‘fall into’ with a limited set of options entirely unrepresentative of those in real life.

      For example, where was my choice to not have a kid and a pet in the first place? If I don’t have the money to support myself, why the hell would I choose to bring a child into my crappy world?? If I previously was well off and something drastic happened (like going from working at a decent job to being unemployed and not being able to get a similar job), where the hell is my money from before? And why do I have a big credit debt if I had enough money previously to believe I could support a child?

      I’m sorry, but by forcing me to have a child, a pet and a credit debt, it really is enforcing the idea that poor people are poor because of their own bad judgement (plus some honest mistakes and bad luck along the way). I know that this isn’t always the case (some people are extremely unlucky or have had life-altering events that break them), but that is what the game is telling me.

    • Harlander says:

      Quickly now, Shaggitarius:

      What’s the difference between education and propaganda?

    • Temple to Tei says:

      Trick question? Education is propaganda.

  21. Tyshalle says:

    I’m not saying the game isn’t revealing or anything, but you have to admit, that is kind of an abnormal month of hell. There are like 4 major health issues that all occur within one month. Your car breaks down, your house gets vandalized, you break random shit and have to pay for it, you get enormous ass parking tickets even if you live right next to your work (what’s the point of living close to your job if you have to speed to get there anyway?). And all of this shit costs more money than it seems to IRL unless you live in New York or Chicago or something. I live in Raleigh, NC, got a ticket for going 15 MPH over the speed limit, and I’m pretty sure I paid less than $150 to get it taken care of. It cost something like $250 in the game. And I’ve gone to health clinics where you had to pay up front when I didn’t have health insurance, and even with a whole bunch of tests the cost of that was somewhere between $85 and $200, but in the game wanting to get heart pain checked out costs like $350 or something.

    At any rate, I’ve lived on my own with $10 an hour jobs and was just fine. Sure, maybe that’s anecdotal, but I can fairly easily live off of $1000 a month IRL because I’ve chosen not to have kids, and not to rack up idiotic credit card debts. Anyone who has a minimum credit card balance of $250 a month got there by being an idiot, not by being screwed by the system.

    Again, I’m not trying to play this off as if poor people got there because they deserved it. I just think this game goes to some lengths to try and make its point. It reminded me a bit of that Super Size Me guy’s TV show, where he also tried to prove this point by living as a poor person for 30 days, and after a few weeks of making smart choices and not being an idiot it was pretty obvious that he was easily going to make it the whole month, at which point he and his wife both conjured up health issues that required them to go to the hyper-expensive emergency room for. It just rang a little bullshitty, even if there was a good point beneath it.

    • sinister agent says:

      It appears to actually be random. I had only one health scare, and ignored it. I got no parking tickets, and didn’t have many real disasters – just regular bills and that.

      I do get your point, though – even with that considered, it’s a little extreme. But I think that’s kind of the point – months like this actually do happen, quite often. You’ve perhaps even been through a crap month like that yourself, but may have not already been at the point financially (or emotionally, physically, etc) where a straw could break your back.

      Obviously I don’t intend to make any assumptions about you or your experiences or anything, but I think that a month from hell isn’t that implausible at all. It never rains but it pours, and all that.

    • Torgen says:

      Yeah, the worst health things I got was my back hurting and my tooth hurting. Got my gas siphoned but no breakdowns or tickets. It must be random.

      Also, it says in the article:

      Each day the game asks you a taxing multiple-choice question, which by the end of the game all add up to the WORST MONTH A HUMAN COULD EVER EXPERIENCE, but you get the idea.

      so yeah, not meant to be an average month, just one that could topple you from being ok to being homeless.

  22. Starayo says:


    Most of the choices in this thing wouldn’t even be an issue over here.

    “Name brands are important”? Seriously? Jesus Christ. Anyone on their last thousand that thinks that deserves to be homeless.

    • sinister agent says:

      It actually says that?

      That is indeed pretty ridiculous.

    • JFS says:

      It says that. It also scorns you for your unhealthy groceries, saying that many low-income Americans are obese, when all I bought was fruit, vegetables, cereal, milk, orange juice and butter (which were cheaper than meat and cigarettes anyway). I thought it was Australia were everything was upside-down.

    • sinister agent says:

      Yeah, I got scolded for my pretty balanced, cheap food shopping, too. The worst thing I bought was the butter and peanut butter, and I figured I’d need those to cook and give the kid something to snack on now and then. Kids run around and stuff, right? Peanut butter is fuel for all that.

    • Bret says:

      I didn’t get criticized when my meals consisted entirely of beer and toast.

    • sinister agent says:

      Well, why would you?

    • Theory says:

      I’m just amused that you can buy ready-made toast.

    • Temple to Tei says:

      Well how else do you get toast?

    • sinister agent says:

      Seriously. Check out Mr. Nature over there. Yeah, let’s all get down the pit and mine our own toast!

      I mean, honestly.

  23. Mut says:

    I was doing fine until they threw a Facebook pop-up at me. It’s everywhere. Everywhere!

  24. mowglie83 says:

    The game isn’t filling me with pity. Why am I down to my last $1,000 before I start taking my financial situation seriously – particularly with kids? I understand that it’s US-centric, but why am I still driving to work even though I live less than two miles away?

    Sure, a collaboration between an advertising agency and a homeless charity is going to be biased, but come on?

    I agree with Airemacar that the game’s agenda spoils its effect.

    (Although, it does make me glad for the NHS!)

    • sinister agent says:

      There are a significant number of people for whom a “last $1,000” has not happened, because they’ve never had that much money to begin with.

    • bleeters says:

      Somehow, I don’t expect “Last a month on *insert your desired financial status here*” would’ve worked quite as well.

    • fatchap says:

      @Sinister Agent: There are but why would they have significant credit card debt, a pet and a car?

      Seems to me the message is pretty clear, live within your means at all times, no matter whether those means expand or contract. When they contract suck it up and KBO.

    • sinister agent says:

      @Sinister Agent: There are but why would they have significant credit card debt, a pet and a car?

      Well, that’s a good point. That oversight does weaken the game’s impact quite a bit.

  25. starclaws says:

    Spoiler alert… Its not just you. It’s you and a kid. It’s you and a job that nearly always ends up getting you less than 10 hours a week. Oh and by the way your car isn’t street legal for registration. Oh and you have to pay court fees on a lawsuit that you are forced into when it should be your landlord filing for the court.

    Just soo much fake shit that either doesn’t give you the proper option in the situation or has forced you into a situation that you shouldn’t even be in.

    • LoveIsGood says:

      It’s not really fake, this stuff happens a lot. Every one of these scenarios ends up being a big ouchie to someone barely making it. If two of them happen to you in the same month, god have mercy upon you. You are so screwed when you’re poor like this in the real world so stop whining its not realistic because eventually you do get a medical problem somewhere and you get hosed on it. You’re so screwed if you aren’t one of the lucky ones in a chair complaining ‘It ain’t that bad’ or ‘Why do I now decide after 1000?!’

  26. skinlo says:

    I made it with $36 left, still owning a car, paid all my bills, my son went to the birthday party with a present, my mums medical bills got paid for, paid for health insurance. Don’t see the problem?

  27. Metonymy says:

    Haha, I’ve been living on about 800 bucks a month for the past 20 years! Learn to save money and you wont be poor little you-know-whats.

    Seriously, nothing has made me happier than this article in a long time. To know that other people are rightfully suffering because they choose to live beyond their means. This is what you have always deserved, from the moment that you began to compromise and live selfishly. If I had some means to extend these problems indefinitely worldwide, I would. Why?

    We’ll never reach the stars as long as we trifle away our intellect and our efforts on biotech and fancier toys. You can always breed new children, it’s not economical to cure every disease, especially since most diseases originate from human error. It’s not a good use of human effort to strive toward greater comfort, since comfort is the very thing that makes us complacent and less effective. We’ll have to increase the industrial output of this planet by orders of magnitude before we can even think about building interstellar colony ships, or achieving effective levels of research into physics, ship construction, indefinitely sustainable life support, etc.

    It’s your short-sightedness that it so remarkable. I understand so clearly why the greatest leaders have always been cruel, offering no excuses or explanations.

    • Torgen says:

      Speaking as someone with a body full of tumors, I can only wish the same for you and your shortsightedness and lack of empathy for your fellow humans. Please come back when you have a serious injury or illness so we can take our turn at deriding you in exchange.

    • Mr Labbes says:

      If you think that money is made by curing diseases, you are sadly mistaken. Money is either made by complicated surgeries that are mostly superfluous, medicine that everybody wants, but which is simply not effective (cancer treatments) or scaremongering (flu).
      I’m not sure if you have been trolling, but I needed to get that off my chest.

      Also, interesting game. Over-dramaticising, of course, but I didn’t expect any less.

    • Torgen says:

      THAT is a blatant troll, or you’re so ignorant of the real world it’s breath-taking.

    • Metonymy says:

      My asthma was so bad until I was 20 that I was barely able to leave the bed/steam tent for months at a time. I also did regularly did heavy manual labor, in the outdoors and on construction sites instead of going to school, in spite of the fact that this made my sickness worse. This is just a small piece of what I’ve survived and beaten, without anyone’s help, without doctors, without parental empathy, and it is almost certainly the reason why I don’t take anyone else’s whining seriously.

    • steggieav says:

      You are a worthless sack of shit, and I hope you die alone behind a dumpster.

    • Torgen says:

      @ Metonymy: Unsocialized, and unloved by your parents as a child (which still scars you, else you wouldn’t have mentioned it.) That answers so many things about you.

    • bleeters says:

      It’s personally reassuring to know how every single medical condition can be overcome by sheer force of will. I’ll certainly sleep more soundly tonight.

      In my absurdly comfortable bed, which the entirety of human effort is being directed into perfecting, of course.

    • Thants says:

      @Metonymy: Shouldn’t you be out captaining industry or something instead of bickering on a video-game forum? You grand ubermensch, you.

    • Ayn Rand says:

      Who cleans Galt’s john?

    • Lilliput King says:

      “you’re so ignorant of the real world it’s breath-taking.”

      “My asthma was so bad”


    • Froibo says:

      “especially since most diseases originate from human error.”


      @Lilliput King: Well done sir

    • iggypopbarker says:

      Atlas ‘Sperged

    • IAmCzarAndYouAreNot says:

      I am Andrew Ryan, and I’m here to ask you a question: “Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?”
      “No,” says the man in Washington, “It belongs to the poor!”
      “No,” says the man in the Vatican, “It belongs to God!”
      “No,” says the man in Moscow, “It belongs to everyone!”
      I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose something different… I chose the impossible… I chose…
      A city where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, where the great would not be constrained by the small! And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well.

      This is essentially Ayn Rand’s vision in modern words. Just be glad that the only place she’s under are the daisies.

    • Theory says:

      Just realised from where I recognised Metonymy’s attitude: Charles Dickens.

  28. Ertard says:

    I’m glad I don’t live in America, as my teeth would apparently start dying, I’d have an expensive shitty car that broke down all the time when I don’t even need it, where I can buy supercheap groceries (compared to Sweden anyway) but still don’t have enough to eat even though I have more cash and where everyone around me including me seem to be kind of dying all the time.

    I get the point, it’s just that it’s entirely unrealistic with all the horrible shit that happens.

  29. Anonymous Coward Person says:

    Ack, I’ve lived on less than 1000$ a month, but then again, social support is better in Europe.

    The only thing slightly bugging me is that the month the game depicts really is a month from hell – I summed up the “reasonable” payments (no frills like school field trips, presents & ice cream) and got about 2800 $. For reference, Wikipedia states that the overall median personal income for all individuals over the age of 25 in the US was 2678 $ per month.

    I suppose this is the sort of bad luck that causes people to become homeless, though.

    • mowglie83 says:

      Only if you already lost all your savings… ^.^

    • Torgen says:

      “Only if you already lost all your savings… ^.^”

      All it takes is one major operation in America, even with health insurance.

    • Bhazor says:

      Yes the median income is $2678 but that includes a few thousand multimillionaires. The actual minimum wage in many states, such as Baltimore, is around half a living wage.

    • Vinraith says:

      Torgen raises an excellent point. You can be a very fiscally responsible person, save scrupulously, live within your means, work a good job for a good wage, have health insurance, and still be completely wiped out by the costs of medical care if you have the misfortune to get sick with the wrong thing.

      The state of health care in this country really is unforgivable.

    • Jezebeau says:

      @Bhazor: Median is not average, and accounts for those multimillionaires. If you lined up every person’s income, from smallest to largest, and took the one in the middle, that would be the median. It’s a statistic that controls for outliers, though it’s not generally applied to a total population.

    • IAmCzarAndYouAreNot says:

      OH NO! Creepy European socialism! Thankfully over here in AMERICA, we have all these BENEVOLENT CORPORATIONS providing Health Care and Insurance and not some BIG GOVERNMENT! We LOOOOOVE denying that lack of government oversight and safety nets hurt the country!
      HEIL RAND!
      HEIL BECK!
      Once we have a Republican Tea Party President, we shall PURGE the world of welfare parasites in Europe and Canada!

    • Alaric says:

      Let me guess. You are a college student, majoring in something like “Women and Gender Studies” or “Comparative Literature,” going to school courtesy of taxpayers, had a job or two maybe, but never earned enough money to actually pay taxes yourself?

  30. nayon says:

    Here’s a ridiculous success story:

    A close friend of mine was ridiculously poor (living in a friend’s house, no job, no income, nothing). He had a passion for the card game Magic: The Gathering. He couldn’t really afford to buy too many cards, but what little he had, he traded up aggressively to make some profits. And then he was well-known enough to get a job at the local comic book store and become an event organizer. He kept trading aggressively, and then started selling cards in bulk to online dealers. He also started a podcast about the game, and now he makes a lot of money off of trades, is one of the most famous people in the community, and is considered kind of an authority, thus he receives free plane rides (but he doesn’t like flying, so he turns them into bus tickets) to tournaments all over the country, with his hotel fees being paid and such. He had nothing, now he is quite well known and has a bit of money. He was gifted a cell phone that a fan keeps paying for, he lives with a friend who he pays in cards.

    It’s a completely ridiculous story, I know, but his drive got him to places. I don’t know what might happen in the future, but he’s been managing pretty well for a year now.

    I’m not saying this to invalidate the point of the game or anything, just wanted to share this weird story.

    Myself, I’m a researcher working at a well known university which also pays for my education, so I’m not one to talk too much about stuff like this. But I wouldn’t have been able to afford the university by myself, I worked hard to get into here, and I work hard every day to keep this.

  31. Merelia says:

    I ended with 650~. Had no telephone and slight(?) back problems but did all I could do for the kid. Had to get rid of the pet though by the car was legal since I lived a bit away from the city. Didn’t use the options such had donating blood (I forgot about them)

    “Can you survive for one month on one thousand dollars?”
    Apparently you can, this isn’t really helping them I suppose. :<

  32. CMaster says:

    I spend less than $1000/month most months living in a country which is much more expensive to live in than the US. I’m pretty sure I could make it less than that every month if I needed to, although I’d have a lot less fun. That said, I don’t have any dependants and I still receive my “pay” whether I show up at “work” or not. Also the NHS means I don’t have to worry about sudden illness costing me more than £100 or so.

  33. Froibo says:

    I made it through the month in this game but I’d still say its harder than real life working on at my $10 an hour job. Probably because I didn’t have to get anti-depressants, a root canal, a car crash, fear of a heart attack, $7000 credit card bill, be a single parent, wait for food stamps next month even though iv’e been unemployed. All in the same month.

    • Bhazor says:

      We all have bad months.
      Like when my dad had a stroke and was forced into early retirement a week after buying my sister an £800 car and a few days before their boiler broke costing another £2000.

      That was unfortunate.

  34. Brumisator says:

    What is this worst case scenario game?
    I’ve lived on less than 1000 USD a month in a very expensive country, and I did just fine!
    Granted, I’m a bachelor, but still!

    BAH! Not only is it overly dramatic, but the game is rigged to make you feel miserable! At one point, it tells me I can’t afford to pay all of my bills, although my bank statement says otherwise.

  35. Nikolaj says:

    I did just fine on my first try. This verifies my theory that poor people are just lazy (not really).

  36. Alaric says:

    Some people are losers.

    Wow, I never knew…

    So glad there is now a game where I could learn this fact from.

    • Ayn Rand says:

      For twelve years you’ve been asking “Who is John Galt?” This is John Galt speaking. I’m the man who’s taken away your victims and thus destroyed your world. You’ve heard it said that this is an age of moral crisis and that Man’s sins are destroying the world. But your chief virtue has been sacrifice, and you’ve demanded more sacrifices at every disaster. You’ve sacrificed justice to mercy and happiness to duty. So why should you be afraid of the world around you?

      Your world is only the product of your sacrifices. While you were dragging the men who made your happiness possible to your sacrificial altars, I beat you to it. I reached them first and told them about the game you were playing and where it would take them. I explained the consequences of your ‘brother-love’ morality, which they had been too innocently generous to understand. You won’t find them now, when you need them more than ever.

      We’re on strike against your creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties. If you want to know how I made them quit, I told them exactly what I’m telling you tonight. I taught them the morality of Reason — that it was right to pursue one’s own happiness as one’s principal goal in life. I don’t consider the pleasure of others my goal in life, nor do I consider my pleasure the goal of anyone else’s life.

      I am a trader. I earn what I get in trade for what I produce. I ask for nothing more or nothing less than what I earn. That is justice. I don’t force anyone to trade with me; I only trade for mutual benefit. Force is the great evil that has no place in a rational world. One may never force another human to act against his/her judgment. If you deny a man’s right to Reason, you must also deny your right to your own judgment. Yet you have allowed your world to be run by means of force, by men who claim that fear and joy are equal incentives, but that fear and force are more practical.

      You’ve allowed such men to occupy positions of power in your world by preaching that all men are evil from the moment they’re born. When men believe this, they see nothing wrong in acting in any way they please. The name of this absurdity is ‘original sin’. That’s inmpossible. That which is outside the possibility of choice is also outside the province of morality. To call sin that which is outside man’s choice is a mockery of justice. To say that men are born with a free will but with a tendency toward evil is ridiculous. If the tendency is one of choice, it doesn’t come at birth. If it is not a tendency of choice, then man’s will is not free.

      And then there’s your ‘brother-love’ morality. Why is it moral to serve others, but not yourself? If enjoyment is a value, why is it moral when experienced by others, but not by you? Why is it immoral to produce something of value and keep it for yourself, when it is moral for others who haven’t earned it to accept it? If it’s virtuous to give, isn’t it then selfish to take?

      Your acceptance of the code of selflessness has made you fear the man who has a dollar less than you because it makes you feel that that dollar is rightfully his. You hate the man with a dollar more than you because the dollar he’s keeping is rightfully yours. Your code has made it impossible to know when to give and when to grab.

      You know that you can’t give away everything and starve yourself. You’ve forced yourselves to live with undeserved, irrational guilt. Is it ever proper to help another man? No, if he demands it as his right or as a duty that you owe him. Yes, if it’s your own free choice based on your judgment of the value of that person and his struggle. This country wasn’t built by men who sought handouts. In its brilliant youth, this country showed the rest of the world what greatness was possible to Man and what happiness is possible on Earth.

      Then it began apologizing for its greatness and began giving away its wealth, feeling guilty for having produced more than ikts neighbors. Twelve years ago, I saw what was wrong with the world and where the battle for Life had to be fought. I saw that the enemy was an inverted morality and that my acceptance of that morality was its only power. I was the first of the men who refused to give up the pursuit of his own happiness in order to serve others.

      To those of you who retain some remnant of dignity and the will to live your lives for yourselves, you have the chance to make the same choice. Examine your values and understand that you must choose one side or the other. Any compromise between good and evil only hurts the good and helps the evil.

      If you’ve understood what I’ve said, stop supporting your destroyers. Don’t accept their philosophy. Your destroyers hold you by means of your endurance, your generosity, your innocence, and your love. Don’t exhaust yourself to help build the kind of world that you see around you now. In the name of the best within you, don’t sacrifice the world to those who will take away your happiness for it.

      The world will change when you are ready to pronounce this oath:
      I swear by my Life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man,
      nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine.

    • Kaira- says:

      Sweet, I was wondering when someone would drag Ayn Rand into discussion.

    • Bhazor says:

      And who says Ayn Rand was a terrible author? Honestly, it takes an author of true skill to weave a complex political message seamlessly into a piece of fiction. To make a story that isn’t just a thinly veiled wrapping paper around a 200,000 word essay.
      So well done there Treacle Tits.

    • Harlander says:

      And who says Ayn Rand was a terrible author?

      You go on to answer your own question.

      Honestly, it takes an author of true skill […] to make a story that isn’t just a thinly veiled wrapping paper around a 200,000 word essay.

      That’s right. It takes an author of true skill to not write Atlas Shrugged.

    • Bhazor says:

      Spotting sarcasm isn’t your greatest strength is it?

    • IAmCzarAndYouAreNot says:

      You’re the reason Bioshock exists, Ayn Rand. That’s the only reason you, or your book should exist.
      I, for one, find it satisfying to help others. All you do is try to candy coat selfishness!

    • IAmCzarAndYouAreNot says:

      I am Andrew Ryan, and I’m here to ask you a question: “Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?”
      “No,” says the man in Washington, “It belongs to the poor!”
      “No,” says the man in the Vatican, “It belongs to God!”
      “No,” says the man in Moscow, “It belongs to everyone!”
      I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose something different… I chose the impossible… I chose…
      A city where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, where the great would not be constrained by the small! And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well.

  37. Bhazor says:

    Won with $30, an IT certificate, gum disease, an unsafe car, no gas, around a $900 MOT bill, addicted to ciggies and at high risk of adult onset diabetes. I pwned that shit!

  38. frenz0rz says:

    $9 left. Well that was depressing.

  39. JFS says:

    Got through with 160$ and no problems except my child couldn’t wear brand sneakers and I missed my grandfathers funeral. I think that is acceptable. Not necessarily nice.

  40. sinister agent says:

    Fourteen dollar!

    Not far off where I was when my real life was like this, actually. Lucky my landlord didn’t catch on that I hadn’t paid rent for a month, and that I could steal food from work. Also I hope I wasn’t the only one who read that I had a kid and wondered how much I could flog it for.

  41. Out Reach says:

    Speaking of fate of the world, it was supposed to be released yesterday, but they threw back the release date to the end of the month. The devs have also been pretty silent. Rock Paper Shotgun, Can you use your super powers to make them say words about fate of the world!

    I want to know more but they say nothing :(

  42. CoyoteTheClever says:

    The game does fill me with pity, really it does. But on the other hand, a lot of the moral of the story here is don’t have a kid. Oh, and bike to work if you can rather than waste money on gas.

    If Americans made these two changes to their lifestyles (Using condoms and buying a bike as a long term investment), I think you’d see a lot less poor and a lot less unhealthy in America.

  43. patstew says:

    When did the poverty line rise above people who own a car and spend £50/month on their phone?

  44. plasticsaint says:

    Really? You think that’s hard? I made it through the month with $250 left over… now try having to pay court costs, probation fees, and for drug tests because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then add college tuition, $900/semester for books, a more realistic wage (if you’re unskilled, you’re probably not getting $9/hr… more like minimum wage), 3-4 defaulted credit cards harassing you all hours of the day.

    The game does an OK job of showing how hard it is to be poor in America, but, it isn’t perfect.

  45. insectecutor says:

    I get that life is hard, but not this hard. Within my first month I had my windows smashed, my boss halved my wages, my grandad died and my kid turned out to be a prodigy that needed cash for specialist tutoring.


    If you want to raise awareness about this sort of thing, perhaps making it a little more realistic might help.

    • Mattressi says:

      I find that every month I have my windows smashed, my petrol syphoned out of the car, need a root canal, need to pay $300 to replace a broken part in my car, have to pay for my mother’s medication so she can live, have to pay for my large credit debt, lose my ability to drive even half-decently well and smash into a parked car and nearly break my back at work. Of course, I never save up any money when everything’s going well in case these things happen either; instead, I rack up a massive debt on credit cards so that I can buy an excessive amount of crap that can’t even fit into a reasonably sized (going by the price) apartment.

  46. Kaira- says:

    One month with thousand dollars? I would be overjoyed, my current monthly budget is 650 dollars a month. Thanks to the state for supporting my studies, I guess.

  47. GHudston says:

    I loved the premise, but it had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face and had some quite mixed messages.

    I think that the issue that I have with this is that it doesn’t give you all of the information required to make a good decision. There were far too many times where I clicked a button and the game told me that I had spent $x; if it were me I would know the cost of something before I made the decision. That’s quite important information. I would also be aware of things like upcoming payments on my car long before the day that they were due.

    There are times when it gives you a couple of bills and tells you that you cannot afford both of them, giving you the choice to pay one or the other or take an IOU from a friend. It tells you this even if you have more than enough money to pay both bills.

    One problem in particular that irked me was the point where it spontaneously told me that I had to pay off a big credit card debt that I wasn’t aware that I had. I hadn’t spent that money, it was predetermined that I owed it before I started to play. It was like stepping into the shoes of someone who had been incredibly irresponsible beforehand and being told to clean up the mess. That sort of thing gives the impression that I was poor because I was an idiot, not because I was down on my luck, which is very much the wrong message; which is odd because I’m pretty sure that the game was trying to portray the opposite message, that poverty can happen to basically anyone. As it is now, it sort of shoehorns you into a problem that you could easily get around under normal circumstances and then goes: “SEE! TOLD YOU IT WAS HARD TO BE POOR!!!”

    The sort of issues that get thrown at you in this game happen to everyone, we all have to deal with them and it’s usually not that difficult to do if you’re sensible about it. It’s just that the game rarely gives you a sensible option.

    Certain problems, such as when my child wasn’t doing well at school (after I had been told he was gifted, no less.), gave you two bad choices like “Hire a tutor $50” or “Let your child fail!”. How about “Help him yourself”? It’s free and better for the kid so why don’t I have the option to be a good parent here?

    I also found it particularly condescending in places, especially when it started going on about how I was more likely to be obese because I’m poor after only giving me a choice between a $6 salad and a $1 burger.

    As I said, I love the game and I applaud the message it’s trying to show but I’m not sure that it really got it quite right. I would have liked to see a bit more depth, with choices that mattered down the line (i.e. not taking health insurance means that you end up in debt later when you injure yourself at work). Have them mean something so that that your decisions have some weight; right now the game is just a case of picking the option that doesn’t have a cost attached to it. If they got that right then this game would really raise awareness, as it is I don’t think it’ll change anyones mind, sadly.

    • cjlr says:

      I was going to say something, but then you saved me the effort by being spot on! Thanks, GHudston!

    • Quintin Smith says:

      You realise it’s slightly randomised? I didn’t take health insurance and ended up falling ill and losing a bomb. Agree with you on almost everything else, though it’s clearly more focused on delivering a powerful message than a well-rounded game.

    • GHudston says:

      I noticed that it was randomised; but I played through it 5 or 6 times deliberately looking for something like that and it didn’t happen so I just assumed that it wasn’t in the game; obviously I was just lucky so ignore that part of my post!

      I agree that this is obviously supposed to be more message than game, but I’d argue that the game could have been used to convey the message a little better. Even so, I’m just nitpicking for the sake of debate really; it is a great little find overall, there’s just a couple of slightly questionable bits that warranted a mention.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      The $1 burger vs $6 salad is pretty much how the economics of food works though. It’s much more expensive to eat healthy food since the costs of real food constantly increases while junk food has stayed pretty constant for about 20 years now.

  48. horsemedic says:

    Did anyone else just sell the kid?

  49. laddyman says:

    Interesting, though it did send me on a massive guilt trip.

    I made it through with $42…
    but likely to go broke the next day.

  50. Snuffy the Evil says:

    Ended with roughly $400, but I would’ve ended with a lot more if my SHIT DIDN’T KEEP BREAKING.