Video games have been popular for decades. In fact, 60% of people in the United States play video games every day. It’s an industry that has adapted with technology over the years to maintain its popularity. But, most people don’t often associate video games with social issues or making a positive difference in the world.
In fact, there is often a lot of negative feedback associated with video games. People who play them frequently can be stereotyped as lazy, nerdy, and reclusive. Video games have also been in the news many times over the years when it comes to how violent some of them can be.
But, video games can absolutely be used for good, and some gaming producers have started to incorporate social issues into their work. One of those prominent social issues is homelessness. The question must be asked, though: can a video game really combat this problem in the country?
Homelessness in America
Before we get into how video games are raising awareness for homelessness, it’s important to understand the bigger picture. Homelessness is a huge problem in this country. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that in 2018, around 553,000 people were considered homeless in America. While it’s easy to think about some of the more obvious issues homeless individuals face, such as lack of food, water, and shelter, there are even more serious threats they have to deal with on a regular basis.
The first is mental illness. Nearly one third of homeless individuals in the United States deal with some kind of mental illness. Far too often, these mental health issues go untreated. Because these people aren’t receiving the treatment they need, the mental illnesses can become worse, which can make it harder for them to get back on their feet or find a job. It’s a vicious cycle that makes it nearly impossible for homeless people with mental health issues to get off the streets.
The second big problem is general healthcare. It’s important to understand that there are different homeless populations across the country, and stereotyping them into one large group isn’t helpful for anyone.
“These at-risk populations across the country — the working poor, elderly, homeless, racial and ethnic minorities, and uninsured – are at an increased risk of developing severe medical problems due to substandard healthcare, poor health literacy, and a higher rate of communicable diseases,” states the Duquesne University School of Nursing.
Recognizing that homelessness isn’t always someone’s fault, but rather an unfortunate circumstance, is essential if we want to change the way we view this population. For example, veterans face a huge struggle when they come home from the military and aren’t able to find work. Thankfully, many organizations have started to help veterans by providing them with job resources and teaching them skills they can use in the average workplace. If resources like these could be used to help the entire homeless population, it may not be such a widespread epidemic in this country. More needs to be done to shine a light on this issue.
How Are Video Games Helping the Homeless?
You might not immediately associate video games with social issues, but because of their popularity, they’re a perfect platform to bring awareness to important causes like homelessness, environmental impact, etc. Video games have tackled homelessness in a variety of different ways, from player experiences to giving back to these vulnerable populations in the country.
Roleplaying and first-person games are popular within the gaming community. But, the experience goes to a whole new level when you play a game like “Change: A Homeless Survival Experience.” The game was developed by Delve Interactive, and puts you in the life of a homeless individual. You get to choose your background in the beginning, and you have to survive on the streets, making your way each day as any other homeless individual might. How do you win the game? The goal is to find a part-time job, and eventually have enough money to rent an apartment.
While playing a game can give you an idea of the picture of homelessness, it’s not all the industry is doing to raise awareness and make a difference. Video games have been found to help struggling veterans cope with things like PTSD, which can help to get them back on their feet so they can find employment. Video games can also be a welcomed distraction for people who are struggling with mental health issues or people forced to live on the street.
Giving Back to the Homeless Population
While video games are starting to do a great job in raising awareness for homelessness, they’re also giving back. Codename Entertainment recently raised funds for a home-building campaign. Gaming marathons are being held for charitable causes. Even companies like Stack-Up allow gamers to donate their gently used games to veterans and active duty military members.
Even though avid gamers may get an undeserved reputation for being lazy, video games can do a lot of good for this world. It seems like more developers are starting to realize that and are using their platform to raise awareness to some of our country’s most serious social issues.
Be sure to check out some of these games for yourself. They might change the way you feel about the homeless population and motivate you to make a difference, too.