Awards Nominee Spotlight: Jenny Nicholson

With only a few short weeks left, we hope you’re as excited for the Games for Change Festival as we are!

Continuing the conversation with some of our Games for Change Awards nominees, today we speak with Jenny Nicholson from innovative design agency, McKinney. Their game SPENT is nominated for Most Significant Impact at this year’s awards. SPENT challenges players to make it through a month with little money and tough decisions. The game is funded by Urban Ministries of Durham and McKinney.

Games for Change: Thanks for joining us, Jenny. What were some of the influences for you and McKinney in developing SPENT?

Jenny Nicholson: SPENT as a concept was heavily influenced by Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed.” She did in real life what we challenge people to do in our game. The visual design was influenced by Frank Chimero, Ian Coyle and Nicholas Felton. We purposely kept it sparse and let players fill in each scenario with their own mental pictures of themselves and their loved ones.

G4C: That’s powerful, putting players in that situation. Is making a powerful impact important to McKinney when developing games?

JN: Games help us connect in a way nothing else can. By playing a game, we’re tacitly agreeing to step inside someone else’s reality for a little while. When you’re trying to help people understand what someone else’s life is really like, a game is the most powerful way to do that.

G4C: So what was the audience you had in mind when you developed SPENT?

JN: Our audience is anyone who doesn’t know what it’s like to be poor. What makes SPENT powerful is that it resonates with such a wide spectrum of people. It has triggered debate among hard-core gamers, on stay-at-home-mom forums and in political circles. People in almost 200 countries have played SPENT.

G4C: Ok, final question. What’s the one game in history you wish you had designed?

JN: Oregon Trail. It was so simple but so powerful. And 30 years later, you can say, “You died of dysentery!” and most people know exactly what you’re talking about.

G4C: Exactly! We loved that game, too. Thanks again, Jenny.


We’re getting so close to the 9th Annual Games for Change Festival and tickets are going fast, so don’t get sold out!

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One Comment

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