The video game that lets you try your hand at selling a Big Issue-style street paper is slated for a full release in January after a year of fine tuning.
CHANGE: A Homeless Survival Experience launched under PC store Steam’s Early Access banner last October, promising to show players some of the realities of homelessness.
We spoke to developers Delve Interactive’s co-founder Danny Hayes about how his own brush with homelessness inspired the video game and how one of the career paths on offer features The Daily Issue – a wink and a nod to a certain UK street paper.
Players are tasked with surviving as a rough sleeper on the streets in the game, which involves managing basic health and hunger needs as well as trying to earn the cash and job opportunities that will offer a route out of homelessness.
The game is slated to leave Early Access – an initiative where developers can release games before they are finished to get players’ feedback to improve the finished product – at the start of next year.
Hayes and the small team behind the game spent last weekend showcasing their progress at the UK’s biggest game convention EGX, where he told The Big Issue that the video game had been well-received in the 12 months it has been available to play.
“It’s gone really well since launch and we’ve been able to add new features to the game,” said Hayes. “The responses have been very positive and we’ve still got a 90 per cent rating (from Steam reviews) so we’re very proud.
“We’ve still got a lot of features to add but we’re feeling like it’s almost there now.
“We want to add things like stories and interactions with other homeless people, syndication which is grouping together with other homeless people to survive and also for companionship and we would also like to some gender-based aspects too to reflect the female side of homelessness.”
There are currently around 2,000 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
If the team hit their January release date goal, it will also be a post-Christmas boost for homelessness charity Crisis.
Delve have pledged to donate 20 per cent of the profits from sales of the game to the charity, which Hayes hopes will be “several grand” once the game is fully released.
He was also pleased about the ability to shed light on homelessness for gamers. The subject is rarely covered in great depth in video games and that is why Hayes was also pleased with the prominent position that the game was given at EGX in London’s ExCel Centre.
“I think a lot of the misconceptions about homelessness comes around the background and how you fall into that situation, whether it be through care or mental illness and so on,” he said. “People always assume addiction and while that is a significant amount of cases, it is not the majority. I think it’s important for people to know that and I hope that’s a message that I can spread through the game.
“I think it is important to be at a show like EGX because, obviously it’s a very niche game, but to show CHANGE to a larger audience and touch a few hearts is vital.”