PING (Poverty Is Not a Game) is a 3rd person plot based game that was developed for schools to show the complex problems of poverty in todays society.
Below is a detailed analysis of this game roughly following Brian Winn's1 Design/Play/Experience framework, including:
PING tries to teach many different elements of poverty and about life, such as:
- Showing to the player how one survives in the world (the steps to sucess)
- How the player is never alone and how there are always people to help. Between friends and all the organizations; even poverty a person is not alone.
- Demonstrating how quickly one can loose money and what the steps are to getting a job.
- How important it is to get medical help if there are problems and even if there are problems, it is not the end of the world.
- Also it shows how life is full of surprises. Some are good and some are bad. Either way life goes on and there is always hope.
Overall the game teaches how to deal with poverty with a positive and successful outlook.
The game's story starts off with which charater the player wants to be (they have a choice of either Jim or Sophia). Im my case I chose Jim. Once the player choses, the game tells the story of how the character ended up without a job, home, and education. In the case of Jim; he had a fight with his parents and decided sicne he is 18, he can live on his own and be 'free'.
The player starts out in 'PING City' takling to his best friend Diego who wants to meet up with you to offer you a place to stay for a couple of days. From this point and on in the story, Diego, your other female friend (Sophia), and other characters in the game give you advice and guide you to get a job, a place to live, health care, and eventually romance.
At first glance the game seems to be very open ended and much like a sandbox game. There is a city to wander around, places to enter, people to talk to, items to buy, and money to spend. But after a little while you realize that besides the players ability to wander freely and spend some money, everything else is just scripted.
The game actually adds some in game dialougue choices for a range of freedom. These are pretty well done and add to the realism factor as well as making the game more interactive and thus fun. However, these choices do not change the game in any drastic measure. The player can be blatantly rude and idiotic when talking to people and the worse that happens is the player has to restart the quest. This teaches the player that acting this way is bad, but gives them an unrealistic perspective of how real life scenarious would react to this behavior.
The game is well balanced in showing how dire it is to get a job and a place to live, but does not go through with what would happen to the player if he does not get a job or a place to live and that is a major downfall of the game.
The user experience is one of the strongest part of the game. Right as soon as the game starts the give detailed instructions on the simple and intuitve controls. The most commmon problem with 3D enviroments that the player has to move around in is the camera angle and this game does it greatly. On top of this the game allows for limited instant traveling services with the 'Bus Lines'. This allows for quicker travel and thus less time spent dealing with a 3rd person camera.
The controls are simple and only includes the mouse and its two buttons. Also the interface is clean and very unobtrusive and thus does not interfeer with playing the game.
PING is developed with Unity's Web Player and over all is the best choice. Unity is one of the most stable and versatile engines out there for a game this advance. The only downside is in order to play it in a web browser, the user must first download Unity's addon. However, they offer a downloadable version of the game as well.
The overall assessment of PING has been widely accepted as a great serious game. The game was created with support of the King Baudouin Foundation and IBBT and was launched at a European convention which got it a lot of attention of the media.
I agree with most of the critics with online reviews. This serious game is very fun to play and teaches many things and is all in all one of the best serious games I have seenAs far as suggestions on how to make it better; make the players decisions matter. A serious game should show the player the positive and the negative, but PING told the player about the negative things and never had them experience it. This is combined with the fact that the players decisions did not overall affect the game play.
- Winn, Brian. The Design, Play and Experience Framework. In R. Ferdig (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Effective Electronic Gaming in Education. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2009, pp. 388-401.