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!
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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.