clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The hunger games: how interactive 'games' can teach about poverty

"Games" are being used to raise awareness of global poverty, whether online or in the classroom.
"Games" are being used to raise awareness of global poverty, whether online or in the classroom.
Chepko Danil, Getty Images/iStockphoto

It's a similar question that Australian bioethics rinceton University's professor Peter Singer asks his always packed class on practical ethics.

Would you save a drowning child? Of course. What if the child was on the other side of the globe? What could be done to help?

Singer's methods, at times defined as "controversial," exemplify the innovate ways educators and companies are striving to get through to students and clients about the global issue of poverty.

"Singer puts a uniquely practical spin on how he gets his students to stretch their thinking. This semester, each discussion group in his course of almost 400 students was given $100 to donate to one of four organizations: the Future of Humanity Institute, the Fistula Foundation, GiveDirectly and Princeton University," according to an article in The Atlantic.

The goal of this "game" is to prompt students to consider their level of selfishness.

"Singer is not asking his students to play this giving game just to make things interesting," The Atlantic reported." Singer wants them to consider why Americans and other privileged citizens of affluent countries show so little generosity towards those who have so much less. Why we don’t we give more? What gets in our way, and what would it take for us to overcome that?"

According to The Atlantic, in one of his books, Singer debunks the theory that America is one of the most charitable.

"Singer cites OECD figures that show that the United States is 'at or near the bottom of the list of industrialized countries in terms of the proportion of national income given as foreign aid,'" the article reports. "Though many Americans consider themselves charitable, and as a people we give 2 percent of gross domestic product to charity, we overestimate the amount of money we spend on helping those who are far away; in fact, the amount of foreign aid we give as a percentage of gross national income has fallen."

As part of his curriculum, Singer teaches that by failing to help those in need, students are falling short of a "morally good life."

A collaboration between McKinney and and Urban Ministries of Durham produced an interactive online game, Spent, that asks the player to survive as a single parent on their last $1,000 for month.

The tag line reads: "Urban Ministries of Durham serves over 6,000 people every year. But you'd never need help, right?," then asks the site visitors to enter the game and "prove it."

The game takes players day by day for a month dealing with financial setbacks, simulating living in virtual poverty.

The purpose of the game is to "(raise) awareness of the complex issues involved with poverty and homelessness and (galvanize) the support needed to address those issues, are important components of our work," according to the Urban Ministries of Durham's website.

It's designed to change the way players think about poverty, the website reports:

"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."


Twitter: emmiliewhitlock