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Need a Break from Real Rental Nightmares? Try This Game

An all-too-real web game takes you through the renting challenge, and ways to fight back.

Christopher Cheung 21 Jan 2020TheTyee.ca

Christopher Cheung reports on urban issues for The Tyee. Follow him on Twitter at @bychrischeung or email him here.

If your own search for a place to rent hasn’t exhausted your stamina bar, you can give this online housing game a try.

The game is called doma.play, created by two architects and a software engineer. It was released last fall as part of a touring exhibition called Designs for Different Futures, which premiered in October at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“Wealth is concentrating in the city of Philadelphia,” the game tells you in its Star Wars-like opening. “A small group of landlords are expanding their ownership of the city. More and more people are facing a lifetime of rent as the city becomes increasingly unaffordable.”

For Vancouver residents, the computer game will feel all too familiar.

In the first act... you get evicted! Your landlord wants to raise rent by 70 per cent. You can’t afford it, so you must scour a map of rental listings to find a new home.

A cheap fixer upper, perhaps? A room in a shared apartment? Even if you find a place you like, be prepared for the landlord to choose someone else in the hot market.

Take care not to blow all your monthly income, though the game’s creators seem to have made it impossible to find anything that costs less than 30 per cent of your earnings.

You will come across corporate landlords with intimidating names like the Blackwater Group and Havelstein Properties. If you’re lucky, you’ll happen upon an elusive listing owned by a local resident.

For some reason my character Gavin, after blowing 90 per cent of his monthly income on rent, decided to have not one but two beers. This was out of my control. What’s wrong with you, Gavin!

In act two, you have the chance to fight back.

Choose to petition legislators, raise hell with a rent strike, or buy shares in DOMA, a co-op that purchases real estate and allows members to live in its units, with dues reinvested into its housing. (This is a scheme that the game’s creators have launched in real life.)

If your housing stress is under control, or if you wish to feel the thrill of challenging the capitalist housing system, click here to have a go.  [Tyee]

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