Harrisburg University creates video game to raise poverty awareness

Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Harrisburg University partnered with the United Way of Pennsylvania to create an online game that hopes to raise poverty awareness.

The game gives players insight into the daily life of the 1.2 million Pennsylvania households that are either at or above the poverty line but still have trouble paying for basic needs. 

It’s Sims meets Monopoly, testing your ability to survive on limited resources. The game is called ALICE: The Experience, and it puts you to the test with real-time decisions.

ALICE stands for asset limited, income constrained, employed people and families,

“We wanted the game to go quickly and easily, get you thinking about how much is rent in this county and how much is it in that county so that you can start dealing with the numbers quickly,” said Melanie Stegman, assistant professor at Harrisburg University.

Players are able to choose between eight avatars. Students playing today were playing as if they were a single mother. The goal of the game is to stay out of debt, while unexpected bills and difficulties require quick decisions. Students only made it 162 days in the game until they ran out of money. 

“You think you’ve got it under control and then suddenly you wreck your car and now you have to pay a bill, and you either have to pay to get your car fixed or it’s game over,” Stegman said. 

Not only do the avatars have problems and payments but dreams and aspirations like buying a home or going on family vacations. 

“It’s hard. It’s stressful constantly trying to balance your budget, trying to make sensible decisions for your children, for yourself,” Stegman said. 

The game is based on data collected by United Way of Pennsylvania about the working poor in the state. If you’re interested, you can play the game here.

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