SPENT, the online game about surviving poverty and homelessness, reaches its millionth play and invites Congress to accept the challenge - McKinney

SPENT, the online game about surviving poverty and homelessness, reaches its millionth play and invites Congress to accept the challenge

August 31, 2011

More than 1 million gamers and nongamers alike have tried surviving on $1,000 a month; now McKinney and Urban Ministries of Durham invite Congress to accept the challenge and quickly see that poverty and homelessness can happen to anyone

SPENT, the innovative online game about surviving poverty and homelessness, has now been played more than 1 million times in every country in the world.

Launched earlier this year by ad agency McKinney for Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD), the totally immersive brand experience has helped people all over the globe reconsider how easy it is to fall out of hope and into poverty and homelessness. Visitors to the game at http://www.playspent.org spend an average of 9 minutes on the site as they accept the challenge to make difficult, real-life decisions about money and resources, the very same ones that affect families and individuals trying to survive every day.

“When we launched SPENT, we believed a game could be a powerful tool that would lead to a new understanding for how difficult and painful it is to live on the edge of losing everything,” said McKinney Chief Creative Officer Jonathan Cude. “I have to say we were thrilled and even surprised at the game’s ability to get people talking about and sharing their personal experiences and beliefs about homelessness. We’ve heard from hundreds of people and organizations all over the world, each having a unique story or point of view to offer. The one thing everyone agrees upon: Poverty and homelessness can happen to anyone.”

“SPENT has been a wonderful resource for Urban Ministries of Durham,” said UMD Executive Director Patrice Nelson. “It provides a new way to educate our community about homelessness and poverty, and we enjoy hearing from people all over the country who have found it useful for them as well. Raising financial support is always challenging, and the funds donated in income from the game are helping cover the operating costs of our shelter this year.”

Just in time for Labor Day, McKinney and UMD are also launching a petition to the U.S. Congress in light of the historic economic hardships facing average Americans. “People all over the country are fighting to keep their lights on, to keep their children fed and clothed, and to keep their dignity,” said Jenny Nicholson, copywriter at McKinney. “Our petition asks the men and women of Congress to take 10 minutes from their debating to experience for themselves the challenges that more than 14 million Americans are facing. We hope that by playing SPENT, they’ll know what it’s like to live on the edge of poverty and homelessness and perhaps seek quicker solutions that get Americans the jobs and services they so desperately need.”

Play SPENT at http://playspent.org and see if you could survive living on the edge of poverty.

How to play SPENT: • Navigate to http://www.playspent.org. • Your savings are gone. You’ve lost your house. Accept the challenge to see if you can make it through the month on your last $1,000, learning quickly how changes in employment, housing, medical costs and other expenses can create an unexpected shortfall. • Play through a series of difficult challenges that require tough choices about work, where you live and what you can provide for your family, seeing all too soon how decisions lead to unimagined consequences. Learn important facts about the condition of homelessness and the many services UMD provides. Share the game on your personal social pages where you and your friends can help raise awareness of homelessness and how UMD helps. • Whether you quit or get to the end with no dollars or one, click “Donate to UMD” or “Get involved” and view the many ways players can contribute time and/or money via PayPal. Or play again hoping for a different outcome.

“With every play, and people have come back again and again, we hope to continue building a real appreciation for how easy it is to end up SPENT both literally and emotionally,” Cude added. “At the end of the game, you can ‘win’ with money left over, but how many times did you feel compromised to shortchange your family members or your values? It’s a painful cycle made all too real by today’s headlines. But that’s the game’s intention. One million times over.”