The Project

Spare Change is a game project for well, change! Through this project we want to get people to reach out to beggars instead of the other way around – instead of parting with the coins in your pocket, we want to give you the platform to give change to a life that needs it.

The project has grown and changed considerably from where it had started – a concept for a text rpg to be played on the Mxit platform – to a semi alternate reality game. Ideas are still changing a lot, but here I will try to give you the most up to date concept of the project as we have it.

The project/game consists of 3 phases:
1 – Mini (quick, short, adrenalin pumping) game  to be played on cellphones (future plan) and PC.
2 – Real life missions taking the player to his/her local non-profits and charity organisation to lend a hand and gain some in game items and points.
3 – The alternate reality game played by the poor and the homeless themselves to help them become the person they want to be.

The first phase of the game consists of A LOT of mini games that puts the player in the shoes of a homeless person or that of a volunteer worker. These games are quick and mostly score driven, but each one will bring across a strong lesson to be learned. From the perspective of a homeless character the players will learn how to deal with life on the streets, addiction, feeling unsafe, the police and his/her peers (to name but a few). From the perspective of a volunteer worker the player will see what he/she might experience in a real volunteering situation, for example what skills will be beneficial.

The mini games are structured around Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs – This means the level one mini games will focus on getting food and shelter, for example, while level two will focus on security and health. As the player learns how to deal with these ‘levels’ they will be rewarded with printable cards showing institutions that can help homeless people in the nearby areas or shelter/meal coupons. These should be handed out to beggars so that they can also level up on Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs 😉
A fun suggestion was to have the mini games work in a ‘choose your own adventure’ style meaning once the player finishes one, three new mini games will be unlocked, creating many different paths for any player to go into.
Apart from the mini games the player will have an inventory which makes it possible for items to be carried between mini games – this is how easter eggs will be unlocked!

This phase will already start in the first half of phase one (they will overlap) and is the phase of real life missions! As the player completes mini games he/she will unlock ‘real life missions’. They will start of easy like asking the player to read a short article or look at an infographic, but later it will challenge the player to go out and partake in volunteer work at non-profit organisations! Spare Change wants the charities to sign up with us so that we can send them nice swag like in game items and points to award to the brave and the bold either through a cellphone app or QR codes.

This part of the plan might be a bit ambitious, but if it works it can work wonders. For this is where the homeless starts to play =D I once heard a homeless man say that homelessness is like running a marathon without a finish line. Why carry on right? To work your way up once life has beaten you down that much is a colossal task, but we believe by breaking this task into manageable bits – by providing many wonderful dopamine inducing short distance finish lines 😉 – any person that is willing, can reach the end goal.
The plan is to get a psychologist to sit with a homeless person and draw up a personalised map outlining that person’s unique needs, wants and end goal to be completed in a set order. Some end goals might be to get rehabilitated, get a stable job, rejoin with their families. Some people might even have a mental illness and just need that little bit of support to take their meds every morning. But here’s the best part: The don’t have to do it alone =D The original mini game players (now turned pro-volunteers) will now be able to help the homeless with these quests! We would like to facilitate this by having job boards at the partaking non-profits where people can post what they need help with – be it to fill in some form, offer a lift to the doctors, teach someone to read, teach a skill or simply play some soccer – and the mini game players will get in game scores and items for accepting and completing these jobs.
No one deserves to sleep on the sidewalk. If we all work together, no one has to 🙂

The Spare Change project is a volunteer project, which means we appreciate any help we can get. Be it art, coding mini games or databases or websites, design, overall game mechanics, critique, test plays – anything you can think of! If you have worked at relevant charity organisations, then just telling us about your experiences will also help a lot!
Thank you for reading!

“be excellent to each other”


Here’s a presentation of the original game concept (it changed a lot, it was originally a text based RPG for Mxit! Had to follow the contest rules >.<) for the Play4Real contest. It received third place 🙂


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