Month: May 2018

Homelessness Is No Game

Bum Simulator
For those tired of flight simulator games, there’s a to-be-released game where you can play — I don’t make this stuff up — a homeless person.

WARNING: COARSE LANGUAGE

After having been through a few rough years trying to find full-time employment and stable housing, one would think hearing about a “bum simulator” would get me a little pissed off.

You would be correct on that assumption. It does irks me that someone is trying to make money off of perpetuating a stereotype that is not only inaccurate but does a disservice to those who, like myself, have lived in a shelter or slept on buses and therefore have some experience about this subject.

Released on August 26th, 2021, the features of this include….and I shit you not….

  • Discovering “your inner bum powers”
  • Taming “the infamous city pigeons”
  • Solving “the mystery of sewer rat people”
  • Learning “the secrets of Alcohol Alchemy”

Had this simulator tried at least to give an accurate portrayal about what it’s like to being homeless (and perhaps sent a part of the game sales made to fund men’s shelters), I would gladly support it.

Has anyone who works at Ragged Games or Playway S.A. ever spent time in a homeless shelter? Chances are they have not, which is why they would attempt to make such an insensitive game.

Before anyone jumps down my throat about referring it as insensitive, how many developers would consider making:

  • a rapist simulator
  • an addict simulator
  • a mass shooter simulator
  • a welfare recipient simulator

in the same comedic vein as a bum simulator?

Pretty close to zero. It would be considered outrageous, immoral, and yes, insensitive.

The homeless get a pass on that consideration. They’re considered by society a nuisance at best, comedically portrayed in books, movies, and television shows. According to some, the homeless deserve the violence, hardship and suffering they get because of an inaccurate belief that they are the manufacturers of their own misfortune. It’s more often that the homeless are victims of circumstances beyond their control (such as mental illness, poverty, unstable employment, sudden medical issues that come up, and lack of affordable housing).

It is this sort of callous attitude towards the homeless and other forms of poverty that explains our failure to resolve such social issues within a lifetime.

Homelessness is not a game. Those living such a life have no magical powers. There are no fantasy beasts to slay and dropped loot to take. Trust me when I say that there’s nothing fun — or even funny — about living on the streets or in a shelter.

What I can tell you is that half of people in Vancouver who were surveyed said lack of income and lack of affordable housing main reason for being homeless.

I can also tell you that in the Youth Homeless Report of 2018, available on the Homeless Hub website, more than 6,000 Canadian youths are homeless on any given night.

Moreover, I can tell you, again from experience, that homelessness does not just mean living in a shelter or sleeping on buses. It also includes living in precarious situations with friends or relatives on a temporary basis. Because they tend not to interact with the homelessness serving systems, this is referred to as “hidden” homelessness. Hidden homelessness deflates the reported homeless rate in major urban centres. The actual rate is considerably higher.

Quoting from a key statistics report in 2016, an estimated 235,000 people are homeless in Canada annually.

Finally,  as shown in a PIT count report done in 2016, substance abuse — a trait heavily promoted in this “bum simulator” as a game feature — is actually not the most common reason for homelessness.  For adults between the ages of 25 and 49, substance abuse only accounts for 24% of homelessness. For adults 50 years and older, the most common reason is actually eviction due to financial reasons.

If facts about homelessness are not enough to set the record straight, try taking a week off to live in the street or in a shelter without accessing the creature comforts you’ve grown accustomed to. By the end of this trial, and after a good hot shower, you’ll get a better understanding about homeless life, something this “simulator” will never teach you.

Thanks for reading!

David.

===========================================================================

UPDATE: Ragged Games posted their reply to my blog post. It reads as follows:

1. Homeless people want to change their situation and they need our help. We wouldn’t dare to make fun of them. However, our hero is nothing like that.

2. The title of the game is NOT Homeless Simulator. It’s Bum Simulator. The hero of the game is not a homeless person. He is a bum. It was his choice to lead this sort of life (and the player can affect that if he/she doesn’t like it). He even has a home, he just doesn’t want to live there.

3. The inspiration for the game comes from our own street observations and conversations. We met a lot of interesting people, many of them positive and even happy about their situation and life choices. You can be angry, but this sort of people simply exist. We just took their stories, exaggerated them and made a world which fits them.

4. Knowing that opinions like yours will appear, we still decided to work on this game. Why? Because it brings attention to a big problem. We’re happy that our game (even before the release!) pushed you to write an article which will (hopefully) make some people think. It’s a GOOD thing. Knowing that our game pushes people to action makes us even more happy to make it.

I’ve made my replies to these points on Steam, but will repeat them in blog.

  1. In response to 1., I find it interesting that they stated their hero is nothing like a homeless person, yet if you look at the screen capture it looks like the stereotypical caricature commonly used in media. They also use the word bum which I will address in the second point.
  2. In response to 2., I’m going to skip over the point “he has a home” point which seriously requires me to suspend my disbelief. A bum is urban slang for homeless person. So is the word vagrant. If they did not mean to associate the hero with actual homeless people, they should have used a different name like “Weirdo Simulator” or “Mentally Disturbed Person Simulator”. Ah, but if  they did that, they actually might get enough backlash to shelve the project. You don’t mess with mental illness, but homeless people? Sure, why not?
  3. In response to point 3., I find it remarkable that what they returned with from their discussions with street people is diametrically opposite to what anti-poverty agencies have returned with. Homelessness is not a choice. It’s about having no choice in obtaining stable housing. As for being happy about their situation, there’s nothing happy about not having shelter. A few people I’ve talked to who were (and some still are) in this situation were seriously considering death as a merciful release from homelessness.
  4. The final point is something I can see the logic of. As someone once said, “There’s no such thing as bad press”. Any sort of attention, even something controversial, sells. That however does not mean I agree with it.

Within Reach

Kelly Pocha
This sort of behaviour will get you fired. So can other examples not as so clear-cut

The video of Kelly Pocha, a now former Cranbrook Dodge dealership employee, has raised some points worth discussing.

Not about the foolishness from Toronto Star Race & Gender Columnist, Shree Paradkar, who likens the actions of one ignorant person as proof how racist Canada is. I’d like to know how one person can serve as the canary in a coal mine on the state of Canada’s race relations. I’d also like to know how someone so misinformed can hold down a job at a major Toronto newspaper.

For the record, Canada is doing just fine in that department. Moving on.

The subject of this blog post is about how much influence should a company have in dictating off-the-clock activities of their employees.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe the firing of Ms. Pocha was the right thing to do. I believe diversity and multiculturalism is a strength. Would I want to deal with a company that had employees with these sort of beliefs? How would they treat customers who were racially and culturally different? Wouldn’t that backfire on the company by tarnishing their brand name?

Having said this, the line of termination is not drawn in the same place in everyone’s minds. There are some out there who have strong religious, cultural, and idelogical beliefs that make the concept of what’s appropriate conduct become “what I feel is appropriate conduct”.

Would an employee wearing a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap in a photo found on social media by his Democratic boss have to worry about his future employment?

Would a member of the LGBT community need to carefully police his or her online activities  to the point of not getting their picture taken at a Pride Parade, lest the deeply conservative Christian (or Islamic) employer finds out?

What about a jobseeker who believes in diversity and equality, but disagrees with employment equity and cultural ghettoization of urban centres into no-go zones? Someone who thinks building a wall to keep immigrants out is daft, yet is keen on the idea of having a door with a lock to weed out troublemakers and freeloaders?

Does this mean I don’t get hired by someone who runs a business or at least has control of the application selection process for an open position, all because that person disagrees with me?

Since when does having a difference of opinion impact employment?

The degrees of separation from what Ms. Pocha believes in and what Mr. Gay believes in is disparate yet easily traversable, requiring only a suspension of common sense and adopting a “feels over facts” mentality to make the impossible leap doable. The fact that social media makes that all the more easier is not only worrisome, it can be tragic.

I’ve always believed what people do in their off-time (excluding examples like Ms. Pocha) has no bearing on the work they choose to do. In fact, I wrote a blog post about that, arguing in that piece a healthy work life balance depends on this compartmentalization being firmly in place.

The problem is, not everyone has the same opinion, and this difference can translate into a reach that goes well beyond the boundaries set by employment. That’s something no company, in my opinion, should really have. This position may be harder to stand up for as companies grow more in influence than nations, where HR policy becomes more relevant than a bill of rights.

Thanks for reading!

David.