Candidates might tell you in no uncertain terms about their situations: “I can’t afford food for my kids,” or “I can’t pay the rent again this month.”

This kind of thing is easy to overlook, especially when every other headline you read tells you the same thing. But a unique collaboration by Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD) and its marketing agency McKinney has produced SPENT, an online game where you get to be the unfortunate person who is running out of money fast.

The SPENT challenge: You’ve lost your job and your house; you’re down to your last $1,000. See if you can make it through one month without going broke. The usual parameters apply – food, rent, kids, etc.

“Play through a series of difficult challenges that require tough choices about work, where you live and what you can provide your family, seeing all too soon how decisions lead to unimagined consequences,” says the press release about SPENT.

The first thing that SPENT requires you to do is get a job.

“You’re running out of money fast,” SPENT advises you. “ It’s time to get a job – any job. Here’s what available. Click to apply.”

Your choices for work include restaurant server, warehouse worker or temp.

When I tried to become a temp, it gave me a typing test first. I had to type 55 words per minute, or else find a different job. I became a warehouse worker.

Throughout the whole month, though, be assured that the game will throw in lots of life’s common ups and downs. Your car can break down. Your landlord can raise the rent. Health insurance is pretty much out of the question.

One time I actually made it through the month with $110 left, by going without a lot of stuff and by asking for a lot of free help. I was informed that I had made it through… but the rent was due tomorrow.

SPENT is especially fitting in a recession, where UMD says conversations frequently center on assumptions: “I’ll never be in that situation,” or “If I were struggling, I’d figure out something.”

You might, and you might. But as SPENT shows, getting by will probably be much harder than you think, unless maybe a good temp job comes along.

This is why your staffing job is so important. You literally could be saving lives!

Tags: Technology, Online Recruiting, Gaming Charities, McKinney, Online Games, SPENT, Staffing Recruit, Tech Gaming, Urban Ministries Durham