Affordable Housing, Community Development, Fact Sheets

Rent Roulette Is a Cool Game. And It’s Also Reality.

 

Susan Campbell is the Communications/Development Director at the Partnership for Strong Communities.

In a 2010 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talk, Jane McGonigal, author of “Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,” talked about using video games as a teaching tool. The folks who brought us World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto 1 Through 500 could also make us something better than we are, according to McGonigal.

We agree. The Partnership recently launched Rent Roulette, a video game that explores the state’s lack of affordable housing, mentioned here and here. In Rent Roulette, you’re assigned a job, an income, and a Connecticut county in which you must find housing you can afford. And good luck with that.

The game is the creation of Ed Hogan, a Manchester Community College professor of media arts, who took our idea, added his own imprint, pulled us back when we got too starry-eyed, and delivered the game for free. Who does things for free? Ed, that’s who.

Rent Roulette uses real-time numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, National Low Income Housing Coalition, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And every time I hit the spin tab, I am reminded that this is no game for many Connecticut families. From our upcoming report, HousingInCT 2013, we know that two out of five Connecticut households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. What does that mean? It means that some Connecticut families are skimping on food. Or they’re not going to the doctor, while their sicknesses blossom into disease. Or their kids aren’t going on school field trips because they can’t afford them.

So the game is engaging (thanks, Ed). And it’s becoming popular, but we should never forget that for so many, it’s also reality.

Susan Campbell is the Communications/Development Director at the Partnership for Strong Communities.

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