CHANGE: A Homeless Survival Experience by Delve Interactive
Editor’s Note: Unlike our usual review process, this article is based IndieCade 2020’s online presentations about the game rather than a hands-on play-through.
At this year’s IndieCade, one game caught my attention in a different way. CHANGE: A Homeless Survival Experience by Delve Interactive is a game about being homeless. It gamifies the homeless experience, obviously not to the point where it’s super realistic, as you can gain perks to help you survive, but turning the experience into a game enough to make the experience of playing it challenging in a familiar way.
The idea of managing a character’s needs is commonplace. In this game, you must manage your hunger, happiness and cleanliness. Collecting enough money to possibly buy some food. Picking up things you can recycle to sell them for spare change. Finding shelter before night. Dealing with the randomized elements while following a desperate survival routine.
One of the game’s co-creators, Danny Hayes, stated that they wanted to draw a fine line between making it gratifying as a game but not an overwhelmingly depressing experience. He also mentioned how important it was to them to raise awareness about homelessness.
Since it turns homelessness into a game, some may look down upon it. They might say that it trivializes homelessness by not being more realistic about it. They might nitpick its mechanics and criticize its approach.
But I think it helps people perhaps understand a bit more how difficult being homeless can be. It takes core dilemmas like “How am I going to afford food?” or “What can I do to increase my mood?” and makes them part of the game. It also makes the topic more approachable to those wanting to learn more without firsthand experience.
Bonus Advocacy Mode Activated
It’s similar to watching an eye-opening documentary that makes us look at things from a different perspective.
Sifting through the Steam reviews, I can see that CHANGE has had an effect on people.
Steam user mwest555 said in their review “It’s not often that a game has such an impact on me; this one was so effective I have donated £100 to the charity shelter today, and will continue to give as much as I can each month.”
Steam user Sil3ntxr3qui3m stated “This game makes you feel so privileged to live in normal circumstances (a home, access to food and clean water, etc.)…I think this game did a wonderful job showing how tough it is to be homeless. I feel like there aren’t enough words to describe how tough it must be.”
Many people can learn through this game how difficult it can be. It can make them appreciate their situation more, thus hopefully opening their minds and hearts more to those that are less fortunate. And I think this is so important.
I’m reminded of the television show “What Would You Do?” It’s a hidden camera show that catches people reacting to certain situations. They use actors to act out a scene like a mother not being able to afford a toy for her son or someone harassing a homeless person on the street. It’s not the best show out there, but I think it does give us a small sample of how certain individuals can react in such situations.
And more times than not, the people who help out are the ones who’ve had firsthand experiences dealing with similar situations in their life, or they’re empathetic because they can put themselves in other’s shoes.
Empathy Mode Unlocked
Even though I feel like firsthand experiences have more of an impact, other types of experiences like the one found in CHANGE can still be effective in their own way.
Video games in particular have the unique case of being more immersive than other media, enabling them to deliver a more profound experience.
Ultimately, I feel like the more exposure we have to those who are struggling, the better off we’ll be, whether it’s firsthand experience or something presented to us via a game or film. I believe when we can sympathize with others, our hearts and minds will become more open. Stigmas and prejudices around the world can hopefully be lessened.
CHANGE: A Homeless Survival Experience is a step in the right direction when it comes to awareness. If we can make these experiences widely available, I think it can educate a lot of us on struggles we may not have directly experienced.
It not only helps us learn more about each other but hopefully makes us all more empathetic to one another, as well.
CHANGE: A Homeless Survival Experience is available via Steam.
Check out the official trailer for CHANGE: A Homeless Survival Experience below: