HU designs United Way game to raise poverty awareness

Harrisburg University has partnered with the United Way of Pennsylvania to develop an online game that raises poverty awareness.

Found on the United Way of Pennsylvania’s website, ALICE, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained Employed people and families, the game gives players  insight into the daily life of someone who is at or above the poverty line but still has trouble paying for basic living expenses.

The United Way of Pennsylvania collects data on the working poor in our state. And their mission is to engage lawmakers and the public with the data. To do this, the United Way of Pennsylvania asked HU to create awareness and empathy for ALICE, which Professors, Dr. Melanie Stegman, Anthony Ortega, and Justin Sabo did via an online experience game.

ALICE: The Experience is a web-based game that presents data, released in the United Way ALICE Report, in a problem-based format.

Users choose an avatar and try to stay out of debt as long as possible, while unexpected bills and difficulties require real-time decision making. Balancing the budget while attempting to maintain some happiness in the emotional account is a challenge that forces players to pay attention to the cost of rent, the size of the paycheck and the personal goals of the individuals. Each turn at the experience takes only 5 minutes and ends with a statement “You survived for X days at Y% Happiness.” This encourages users to report their attempt in social media and to try again with either the same ALICE household or to experience a different

Even though ALICE is employed and not homeless, their living expenses preclude saving any money. ALICE households are distributed widely in rural, urban and suburban areas of Pennsylvania and are racially and culturally diverse.

ALICE has real-life problems like sick kids and car payments, but also aspirations and dreams, like finishing a certificate program or spending a week on vacation as a family.

To access the game, follow this Link.

About Harrisburg University

Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Harrisburg University is a private non-profit university offering bachelor and graduate degree programs in science, technology, and math fields to a diverse student body. For more information on the University’s affordable demand-driven undergraduate and graduate programs, call 717.901.5146 or email,