The Oscar-winning Korean film Parasite was a mesmerizing film that took on the subject of class in a darkly comic manner. The games on this list – which is by no means exhaustive – approach the subject in different ways, and to varying degrees.
While they aren’t directly comparable to Parasite, some of these games did possess elements or depictions that reminded me of elements from that movie. And ultimately, each has something to say, or show, about class.
*In case you haven’t watched the movie, there are some mild Parasite spoilers here.
“It’s just stuff, until you don’t have it”. That’s the tagline that greets you before beginning Spent.
Spent is a browser game made back in 2011 by ad agency McKinney for non-profit organization Urban Ministries of Durham. It’s a game about poverty in America – you start off with no savings, no house, and only $1000. You have to find a job, and somehow make it through a month.
Before you begin your job, you have to choose your Affordable Care Act package. The Gold Plan costs $329 a month with $15 co-pay, while the cheapest option is to opt out with a $12 per month penalty. Given that you only have $1000, opting out seems like the sensible choice, doesn’t it?
“When the penalty for not buying insurance is so low compared to the cost of coverage, it’s no surprise that low-income workers like you are opting out altogether”, the game informs you when you opt out.
Next, you have to buy a house. Do you pick somewhere near your workplace, with higher rent but less transportation cost, or do the opposite?
Spent is a game about making the best possible choices, but don’t think that it’s easy. Things might be going relatively well until your mom needs $100 for vital medication. Or you might get car issues, with repairs costing $300.
You need a root canal, but you don’t have dental insurance and it costs $400 to fix it. You have a son who might need money to go on a trip or buy a present for his friend. Your boss discovers the plates you broke but blames your co-worker; do you confess?
I didn’t, but when the now-ex co-worker tells me that she has two children and no idea how to take care of them now, I regretted my choice.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the poverty rate in America in 2011 was 15%. This dropped to 11.8% in 2018, but that statistic still represented 38.1 million people. Spent is clearly still relevant.