“Can You Solve It?”

An interactive and educational game intended to engage players in a deeper analysis of the root causes of homelessness.

Too many conversations about homelessness are based on simplistic questions about whether or not to give out items that may or may not be helpful. “What should I give someone?” “Should you give money?” “Will they use it for drugs?” Can You Solve It? starts with game play at this simplistic level, giving the player a menu of items to choose from and people walking by who may or may not deserve help. What the player soon finds is that all the menu options, even a simple smile, prove helpful and generate a positive responses from all the people experiencing homelessness.

But the game does not advance.

Soon the player notices posters on the brick city wall that advertise a local campaign for affordable homes. When the box on these posters is checked (as if to cast a vote), the wall starts to break down. When clicked enough times, the wall crumbles to reveal affordable homes and the game is won. The game closes with a series of informational scenes and takes the player to the local affordable housing campaign website, encouraging their action to help end homelessness in their community.

The game was created with two intentions in mind. First, to move conversations from how to immediately respond to homelessness, to how we can solve it. Too many discussions of homelessness are stuck on simplistic questions about whether or not to give out items and whether they may or may not be helpful. “What should I give someone?” “Should I give money?” “Will they use it for drugs?” These questions don’t address the root causes or the long-term solutions, and they often leave the audience considering homelessness as an issue of personal choice rather than a matter of social, collective responsibility.

Second, the game is intended to provide a new tool for public education, activation, and movement building. Social media—more generally, technology as a whole—is changing local campaign strategies. Tools such as mail programs and phone banks are not as successful in engaging and educating voters as they once were. This game was sponsored independently to test a new method of voter engagement and education.

Created By

Jes Larson is a housing advocate in Portland, Oregon. She has worked for more than a decade on the front lines of the housing crisis with people experiencing homelessness and her community working to solve it. She directs Welcome Home, a coalition dedicated to public policies and solutions to ensure that all families have the right to housing and all communities have enough affordable homes.

James Moore is a software developer in Portland, Oregon working at Panic, Inc. In addition to creating Can You Solve It?, he has collaborated on the interactive fiction games Blackbar and Grayout.


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Press Release