The Conversation: Homeless Simulation Game

In online game, you make the tough choices that can lead to homelessness.

Feb. 16, 2011— -- "Farmville" and "Angry Birds" are fun distractions from everyday life, but a new Web games hopes to make you think hard about the world around you.

"Spent" is a simulation game that forces players to make the tough decisions that can lead to homelessness. Created by Urban Ministries of Durham and the North Carolina-based ad firm McKinney, the game is intended to create awareness and empathy for the homeless.

Visit to try the game yourself.

"McKinney brought the idea to us," said Patrice Nelson, the executive director of Urban Ministries of Durham. "They said, 'Actually, we want to be able to tell your story in a very new way.'"

Thousands of people have played the game already, which forces users to see if they can live for a month with the income from a low-paying job. The expenses rack up as users make choices on everything from housing to healthcare to unforeseen life circumstances like broken down cars and sick pets.

"One of the key challenges to the game is broaden our understanding of who the people are who are homeless ... and how easy it is for people who may even be working or recently laid off but not chronically homeless to fall into this situation," said Nelson, who spoke with ABC's Sharyn Alfonsi in today's Conversation.

The questions in the game were based on real-life experiences of people served by UMD, which maintains a homeless shelter that has housed over 1,000 people in the last year. The organization hopes the game will help it raise funds to support its efforts.

"If what we do is to help more people understand the homeless, that will be a wonderful success," Nelson said.

We hope you'll watch today's Conversation for more on the game.

Click here to watch more Conversation videos.