Release Date: 2011

Developer: McKinney, Urban Ministries of Durham

Sometimes homelessness is just one decision away.



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Work hard. Do the right thing. Homelessness is something that will never happen to me. Sometimes, all it takes is one life-changing experience to land you on the streets: a job loss, death of a loved one, divorce, natural disaster, or serious illness.

Next thing you know, a chain of events sends things spiraling out of control…

How would you cope? Where would you go? What would you do? Figure something out, right?

Urban Ministries of Durham



Contact Urban Ministries of Durham here.
McKinney Press – janet.northen@mckinney.com


  1. 9
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    This game is a great real world comparison of living on the edge of financial break. It simulates the decisions that you have to make, in an attempt to make ends meet. It simulates the things that you have to give up, to try to make money. It illustrates the reality of low-income families, struggling with debt, homelessness, and living paycheck to paycheck. Great game. 9/10

  2. 10
    Total Game Reviews: 3

    The tagline is absolutely correct: "Sometimes homelessness is just one decision away". Spent really makes you realize that when you don’t have a lot of money to start with, a ‘simple’ decision can have terrible effects.

    My bad decisions were actually attempts to protect myself! I chose the warehouse job, so with a physical job I knew health insurance was a good idea, and it made visits cost $100 instead of $400. The problem was, I couldn’t even afford the $100 visits, so it was a complete waste. Then I had to choose between hourly or per-piece wages. I thought I was being safe by going hourly, but it resulted in my hours being cut in half! Having your paycheck suddenly cut in half is almost a death sentence. Granted, in real life having hours cut means you search for another job somewhere else, but if you just can’t find one then this becomes an inescapable reality.

    As someone whose family has always had insurance (parents are state employees) I am used to $15-20 copays for medication and visits, and the cost of the medical procedures without any were astounding. By the end I had smashed my child’s piggy bank and donated Plasma, but still had to rely on my friends for much of it.

    When you imagine yourself in a situation where funds are tight, you always think of ways to get around it, and how your work or friends will be able to help you. Spent puts you in positions you don’t think about, like your car breaking while taking your child to school, your child being bullied due to getting free lunches, or your work suddenly enacting a simple sounding rule that completely throws your world upside down.

  3. 8
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    Spent is a text-based game that challenges the player(s) to make it through 30 days financially. There are three job options to choose from and once a player picks one, it’s game on. Situations are presented in the format of a question with multiple choice answers (decisions).

    The game gives a solid glimpse into how easy it can be to slip into poverty. My favorite part was the shopping section (it was the most interactive). Since I chose the cheapest foods without regard to variety (only cost), I think a follow up with factoids on nutrition and wellness would be useful.

    I had subtle hints of anxiety that I would make it to Day 30. Some of the incidents were sad. The situations the player has to address are general and can be applied to any adult (particularly those with kids). Spent is a game worth trying out at least once.

  4. 9
    Total Game Reviews: 2

    Thought provoking game due to its realism, visual cues and scenarios. In addition, the messaging that provided context to the scenarios were helpful as well. For example, deciding to purchase fast food due to its inexpensive price, and then having a message pop up that lower income people are more likely to be overweight, was a great way to drive the point home. The only improvement I have is to provide more of a human element via images/photos. People need to see the faces of lower income people and understand that they could be the co-worker you sit next to at work.

  5. 9
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    I enjoyed the realism of the game. It is very well thought out and although it is challenging (and makes you think a lot! ) it still is managable. This game has made me come back time and time again. I wish there was an extended version where you would have to make it through two or more months. Never the less it is a fantastic game that really makes one think about the implications and hardships of poverty.

  6. 9
    Total Game Reviews: 2

    I gave this game a 9 because it made a huge impact on my life and I’m sure the lives of other people. It was very effective getting its word out to game players about unemployment and how scary it is. The game is challenging by trying to keep you from going in debt. It really makes you think about how you want to spend your money. I overall think the interaction with this game gave me a closer connection to people who do not have jobs and made me want to donate to homeless people.

  7. 9
    Total Game Reviews: 2

    This was a great and educational game, definitely can be helpful to someone who is learning how to manage their money.

  8. 9
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    I felt the game could be pretty true to life. It was pretty challenging to get through. It felt a lot like I just couldn’t catch a break and things kept coming up left and right, but life is like that. It’s unpredictable.

  9. 10
    Total Game Reviews: 2

    I really enjoyed this game. Poverty is a serious matter and can happen anytime to anyone. It was interesting to experience trying to live on $1000 for the month. The decisions that are made and the scarifies are realistic for some people which made me more invested in the game.

  10. 10
    Total Game Reviews: 2

    This game was amazing. It really makes you use your survival skills and raises the awareness of the current wages and the struggles lower income people experience. It also provides you with facts and the emotional and health risks associated with health care neglect and health care costs while also providing your child with basic needs and obtaining friendships. I very much enjoyed this game. It was overall effective and raised the awareness faster than any documentary I have seen and completely engaged me.

  11. 10
    Total Game Reviews: 4

    Wonderful poverty simulation game. Very accurate and descriptive. I really like how it puts the player in the shoes of someone who is low income in a way that they can feel what it’s like. As someone who was raised below the poverty line and still lives there, I am good at this game, but I wish more folks in the upper and middle class played it a few times through to get the point more ingrained in their minds.

  12. 0
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    Why do I have a student loan? Was I unaware of the Pell Grant? Was I not good enough for scholarships? Did I refuse to live with my parents until graduation?

    Where did this child come from? I’m not married, and I don’t seem to be getting child support. I can’t fathom why I apparently have this kid.

    Why do I HAVE to have a car? Why is my cell phone so expensive? Why is my landlord above the law? Why am I not just living in Section 8 housing?

    And why is my weekly paycheck not the amount advertised at the start after taxes? Am I really being double taxed?

    This game is absolutely ridiculous, and all it showed me was that the average person is trying to leave beyond their actual means.

  13. 10
    Total Game Reviews: 2

    This is a great game which shows how people who live at or below the poverty line have to live day to day. Each event gives you an option of how you are to handle it, and some even give you statistics on it the choice you made. This is a great game to play to understand other people in other living conditions.

  14. 10
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    I think Spent is an absolutely brilliant game. I recently played Spent as a group activity in my social work masters program. This game is a great tool for generating conversation about difficult topics. Spent is a great way for students to discuss the topics of poverty and homelessness, it’s a great tool for practitioners to potentially use with clients in order to discuss decision-making. This game is merely a simulation, but it does shed light on difficult topics that real people face in our nation.

  15. 9
    Total Game Reviews: 1

    This game was amazing! I would love for it to have more levels!

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