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Develop an interactive game about poverty

Project objective

This computer science semester project aims to sensitize learners to the material conditions and financial constraints people face when on welfare or minimum wage, as well as the impact of these. A collaboration between dentistry and computer sciences at Mcgill, the project entails the development of an interactive computer program focused on the detail of the budgeting challenges for different categories of people (single able-bodied, single parent, couple etc) and how these affect spending patterns and prioritization (food, lodging, child care, health etc.. ). To be more specific, we imagine such a game would describe initial case scenarios (e.g., a young single able bodied woman living in Montreal is presently on welfare and receives 575$ a month) in which the person (embodied by the learner) must decide on their living situation (e.g., a room at 300$ a month vs a 1 and half appt. at 400$ a month in Hochelaga versus …etc); The player enters the lodging choice and its cost is automatically computed within a monthly budget; next, some other fixed expenditure is computed, electricity and phone bill for example, to be paid in the first week of the month. And so on and so forth for food and other necessaries. At week 2, something occurs: a friend asks you to go out to dinner with them and you choose between several options for each of which there are consequences that would pop up on screen (e.g., declining the invitation may lead to social isolation over time). Another example of an occurrence could be the refrigerator breaks down.. At any point, a person may rethink their lodging situation (or any other choice) and try another option that the program would automatically compute. There would be some questions related to dental health and care, a filling falling off for example. The end goal at which the player should arrive is a balanced budget. The main pedagogical goal is to have the player gain awareness of the budgeting puzzle people in poverty face when simply trying to afford the basics of material survival, and the impact of this on various dimensions of their lives. The game could comprise 2 or 3 initial scenarios that become the players’ identities, or even just one.

*in order to determine the concrete rules of the game, the CS student will work in close collaboration with the dentistry project coordinator and a representative of the Québec Coalition for the Elimination of Poverty *possible implementation platforms include Adobe Flash or Java applets, but the student is basically free to choose any implementation platform as long as it is possible to play the game through a standard internet browser such as Firefox.

If interested, please contact Martine Levesque, project coordinator, at 514-398-5330 or write to

This project is a component of the ‘Listening to Others’ research project in dentistry, Division of Oral Health and Society, under the direction of Dr. Christophe Bedos. The project aims to develop an online course for oral health professionals (dentists, dental hygienists) and graduating students aimed at increasing their knowledge and skills for interacting with and caring for people living in poverty. The course format will include theoretical data presented using screen caption software (Camtasia), brief video testimonies and interactive pedagogical tools. It will be integrated into a Mcgill web CT platform linked to a website that we are developing on poverty and oral health.