Hobo: Tough Life
Homelessness is a subject that is rarely explored in video games. And sadly, the irony is that the common person out there is usually affected by homelessness in some form or fashion, whether directly or indirectly (i.e. seeing homeless people around their areas, being asked for change, etc.).
Whereas, with most video games that guys play, the avatars they play as are typically some super-heroic or augmented people whom they can’t really identify or relate to—I guess it’s more fun to play out power fantasies at the expense of experiences they can sympathize with and learn from.
There have only been two games (that I know of at least) in recent years that deal with the issue of homelessness. One is called CHANGE: A Homeless Survival Experience, by Delve Interactive; and the other is Hobo: Tough Life, by Perun Creative. Interestingly, although homelessness in the United States is extremely pervasive, there aren’t any video games about homelessness developed by U.S. studios— CHANGE: A Homeless Survival Experience and Hobo: Tough Life, which are set in the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic, respectively.
While CHANGE is a side-scroller, Hobo is a first-person experience for up to four players (both great games in their own right).
Here’s Hobo: Tough Life’s Steam description:
Welcome to Praslav, a cold Central European city that grows even colder with the coming winter. Praslav is recovering from the political turmoil that followed the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Communist regime, which held the country in its iron grip for decades.
While most people eagerly awaited the coming of democracy and capitalism, some were unable to adapt to the new socio-economic climate. Soon they found themselves on the streets with nowhere to go.
You are one of those people.
Praslav is a fictional Central European city and instead of just playing as some random homeless person wandering around all on your own, you’re still part of a loose-knit society (which is many times the case in reality). I love the concept here because instead of playing as some “normal person” walking by random homeless NPCs, you’re actually one of the homeless folks who often go on ignored.
One of the larger issues at work here is that this game touches on the fundamental matters of assumptions and perception. In most cases, people are quick to judge and conclude that homeless people have only themselves to blame for being in the position that they’re in (and in some cases, that’s true). And in others, the public thinks that homeless folks actually enjoy being homeless.
Instead of assuming anything, Hobo: Tough Life lets players live by their own life principles and motivations, and thus, carve out their own moral codes (or lack thereof). These elements, combined with the wide array of situational happenings that transpire during a typical play session, make this gaming experience highly replayable.
For instance, I was playing with a few other people and each of us took a different approach to how we acquired the basic needs of food, clothes, and shelter (and cleanliness). One guy had a rather passive approach and would sit around quietly and wait for handouts. Another took a more aggressive approach and actively begged people for money on the city streets, or scavenged through all sorts of containers (trash cans and otherwise), in the hopes of finding even a stale piece of moldy something-or-other.
These facets make Hobo: Tough Life tailor-made for role-playing. The aforementioned aggressive chap I mentioned really got into his character and as his physical condition of living it rough began to take its toll, he began drinking heavily (when he wasn’t pickpocketing the public at large), and when confronted with any sort of adversity, would lash out with his bare fists. We finally had a talk with him and it had a positive effect—he began to turn his life around and throw his wild energy into doing more productive things.
Hobo: Tough Life is a superlative project and a real eye-opener. It lets you see through the grimy lens of homelessness and realize that homeless folks are just human beings just like you and me. In the end, it’s a thought-provoking and oft-times, touching gaming experience that I hope spurs more developers to make games about the subject (yes Americans, I’m calling you out).
Hobo: Tough Life has some great graphics so you’ll need a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. Therefore, you may just want to invest in a superior gaming rig:
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