We are passionate about game based learning at BLP. We’ve read the research – and conducted some of our own – and seen both with client projects and the case studies of others that it is a powerful tool for learning. We even launched Knowledge Guru, our very own learning game engine, at DevLearn last week in Las Vegas. So yeah, games are a big deal to us… and we think they are good for so much more than just a good time.

And as we have mentioned over the past couple of months on this blog, we are also big believers in Games For Change. A movement inspired by visionary game designers like Jane McGonigal, we are finding that games are not just fun — they can make a better world.

With that issue in mind, we embarked on our first “game for change” project, a learning game about homelessness. It’s called A Paycheck Away, and it’s being played this Friday, November 9th at the Spirit and Place Festival in Indianapolis.

I had planned to post about the game this week in an effort to promote the game and raise awareness, but here’s the thing… the event is already full! 140 game players have already signed up! We would say the event is sold out… but the tickets were free.

…If you are still hoping to attend but haven’t registered, never fear. We expect some attendees to drop out this week, so there should be a few spots for walk-ups.

We see statistics all the time about homelessness. We know it’s an issue and we see signs of it almost everywhere, but how often do we really FEEL the problem? How does it become immediate and emotional for us? Most importantly, what will it take for our society to end homelessness, and is this even possible?

A Paycheck Away is a learning game with a heart…. And a purpose. We want to change the conversation surrounding homelessness from hopeless to hopeful. On November 9th at the Spirit and Place festival, that’s what we’ll do. Mindblowing. Heartbreaking. Real life. Inspiring. These are all words play testers have used to describe A Paycheck Away.

The board game that puts you in the shoes of a real homeless person or family. Players experience the difficult problems a homeless family faces and start to see homelessness as a symptom – not a cause. Do I buy new school uniforms for my kids or feed my family? Do I take a job and pay for childcare and fail to break even or stay home with my kids? The game helps you see how these situations are not black and white… and seldom the result of one bad choice.

We are starting a new conversation about homelessness – avoiding the stereotypes and “there’s nothing we can do” mindset that many of us have. Together, we’ll come up with new perspectives and solutions to address the issue and get people involved.

And for all of our friends and colleagues in the field of game based learning, we’ll be looking at this whole experience as a case study. What outcomes will we see from players? Will this game really make an impact? What kind of feedback will we receive? We can’t wait to find out… and share it all with you.

For now, we just want to share our excited for this event. After multiple play tests and iterations, we are ready to share the finished product with a room full of players. Check back soon to find out how it went.